Ever Heard of Him?

One of the delights about visiting someplace new is learning bits of local history, things you don’t read in history books. I, for example, had never heard of Saint Arbogast. Had you?

Walking through Dottingen one afternoon, I visited St. Arbogast’s Chapel on the spur of the moment. I’d seen the tower from a distance the past few years and had mentally noted that I should check it out.

From a distance I had expected a church, but when I walked up the street I found a much smaller structure, a chapel, that was first mentioned in official documents in 1025. Which means they don’t know when the place was actually built, but it is at least 995 years old.

I will freely admit I had never heard heard of St. Arbogast. There are so many Catholic saints, I have never bothered to learn all their names. Probably no Roman Catholic does either. St. Arbogast doesn’t rank up there with St. Patrick or St. Andrew.

Turns out St. Arbogast was local, more or less, Bishop of Strasbourg in the seventh century. Today Strasbourg is an hour’s drive; back then it would have been a three-day walk – but I guess the guy was famous.

Arbogast was an Irishmen who came to this area in the seventh century – less than 200 years after Saint Patrick first brought Christianity to Ireland. He wasn’t the only Irish missionary in this area at that time (more on that in a future post), but is credited with being the first to bring Christianity to the Alsace region.

As a child I was taught to respect missionaries. I tended to put them on a pedestal, super-spiritual creatures who were closer to God than the rest of us.

As an adult I know better. While some missionaries may indeed be closer to God than the rest of us, most are not superman or superwoman. They are ordinary people who have heard God’s call – and obeyed.

I think the obedience part is much harder than hearing the call. God can speak pretty plainly at times, but how do you respond when what is being asked for is outside your comfort zone? Most of us, myself included, would respectfully suggest God call someone else.

This area of Germany seems pretty much off the beaten path in the 21st century. I can only imagine how remote it was 1400 years ago when St. Arbogast came through.

He heard God’s call and answered, though it must not have been easy. No wonder the Roman Catholic Church elevated him to sainthood.

What is God calling you to do today? Are you willing to answer that call?

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