A Scholarly Monk To Inspire Us

Saint Bede

Feast Day: 25th May

Even before he died Bede was venerated as a saint. It was said that he spent so much time in prayer that people wondered how he found the time for writing, teaching and copying of books. And during his lifetime a Church Council decreed that some of his works were to be read publicly in the churches.

Born in 672 in the North East of England, his schooling was entrusted to the abbot of the monastery of St. Paul in Jarrow. He absorbed all he learned and those formative years of monastic living moulded him into a man of deep piety and profound learning. He studied the Fathers and the Scriptures in great depth and could preach and write on these subjects prolifically. He also had a great knowledge of both natural philosophy and the philosophical principles of Aristotle, astronomy, arithmetic, ecclesiastical history and the lives of the saints.

At the age of 19 he was ordained a deacon and 11 years later a priest. It was his duty only to say the conventual Mass every day but Bede helped the other monks to gather the harvest, give milk to the lambs and calves, and work in the bake house, garden and kitchen.

However, because of his talents, he would devote more of his time to prayer, studying and writing. In his early years he spent much time copying books but after his ordination wrote his own - 45 in total, 30 of them Bible commentaries. The work for which he is most remembered is his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

People would have loved him to travel and share his knowledge but Bede was content to remain in his monastery. Even Pope Sergius invited him to Rome to share his insights into so many things, but Bede managed to refuse his offer! He left his monastery only once and that was to teach for some months in the school of the archbishop of York.

Knowing he had not long to live he dictated his translation of the Gospel of St. John to the day he died but sadly none of that work remains today. He died in 735, aged 62, after reciting Vespers on the eve of the Ascension. His last words of “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit” were his favourite prayer. His death marked the end of a golden age.

Knowing what God asked of him he tried to live his life to the full. Today we could ask Saint Bede to help us to live our vocation with enthusiasm. Whenever we recite his favourite prayer we can think of him and ask him to pray for us.