May 24, 2017

St. Bede the Venerable, "The Father of English History"

Saint Bede the Venerable

There is very little that we know about this medieval scholar and saint. What information we have comes from the very end of the work for which he is best known, the Ecclesiastical History of the English People.  In its closing paragraphs he notes that, at the age of seven, his family gave him into the care of the Benedictine monastery at Jarrow, England, where he remained for virtually the rest of his life. There, with “great delight,” he lived the life of one of the most extraordinary and devout scholars of his day.

Though the study of Scripture was his priority, he also chronicled a history of Christianity in England from its beginnings until his own time.  Not only is his history an important ecclesiastical work, it is also highly prized by prized by scholars of many disciplines, as it is the foundation for much of our knowledge of that period of English history.

Bede was also quite well versed in all the sciences of his day, including what was then referred to as natural philosophy, astronomy, arithmetic, grammar and the philosophical principles of Aristotle. Fr. Pius Parsch writes: “True Benedictine that he was, his life revolved around prayer and work. On the vigil of the Ascension he felt death approaching and asked to be fortified with the last sacraments. After reciting the Magnificat antiphon of the feast's second Vespers, he embraced his brethren, had himself placed upon a coarse penitential garment on the earth, and breathed forth his soul while saying softly: ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.’”

St. Bede died in 735 at the age of 62. Pope Leo XIII declared him a Doctor of the Church, and his name was added to the General Roman Calendar in 1899. His feast day is May 25th. He is the patron saint of scholars, historians and lectors. Among his many accomplishments, the Venerable St. Bede is widely, credited for bridging the gap in scholarship between patristic and medieval times. Almighty God, who brings light to your Church through the learning of the Priest Saint Bede, mercifully grant that we your servants may always be enlightened by his wisdom and helped by his merits. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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