May 24, 2016

May 25th: Optional Memorial of Saint Bede

St. Bede
Saint Bede was born in Wearmouth-Jarrow, England in 735 AD. He was sent to St. Peter and St. Paul Benedictine monastery when he was three and educated by Abbots Benedict Biscop and Ceolfrid. He became a monk, was ordained at thirty, and except for a few brief visits elsewhere, spent his entire life at the monastery, devoting himself to the study of Scripture and to teaching and writing. Bede was one of the most learned men of his time whose influence on English literature continues today. His enduring work, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People garnered him the title "The Father of English History". His writings were so revered for their sound doctrine that he was called "Venerable" while still alive.

In 1899, St. Bede was made a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII; he is the only native of Great Britain to be so designated. As a skilled linguist and translator, Bede's work made the Latin and Greek writings of the Church Fathers much more accessible to his fellow Anglo-Saxons, contributing immeasurably to the development of English Christianity. His legacy is celebrated with the annual Jarrow Lecture, held at St. Paul's Church, Jarrow, since 1958.

Click to learn more about the Benedictine Order.

The Life of St. Bede

Bede occupies an important niche in Church history by bridging the gap between patristic and early medieval times, the era when the Germanic nations had just been Christianized. Through him Christian tradition and Roman culture came to the Middle Ages. He is also honored as the "father of English history." His writings were read publicly in churches while he was still alive; but since he could not be called "Saint," the title of Venerable was attached to his name, a usage which continued down through the centuries.

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."

How St. Bede loved the Bible! Anyone who intends to live with the Church must keep the Scriptures near — day in, day out. St. Bede explained the Bible to others. At times you too will have this privilege. Use it.

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

Patron: Lectors; historians.

Symbols: Pitcher of water and light from Heaven; scroll; pen and inkhorn; volume of ecclesiastical history.

Often portrayed as: Monk writing at a desk; old monk dying amidst his community; old monk with a book and pen; old monk with a jug.

Collect Prayer

O God, who bring light to your Church through the learning of the Priest Saint Bede, mercifully grant that 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 in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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