This Doctor of the Church worked tirelessly for unity

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Bede
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Saint Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Feast day: May 25

Known as the father of English history, St. Bede the Venerable was born about 672 in northern England and died there in 735. He was an Anglo-Saxon theologian and historian best known for his “Ecclesiastical History of the English People” on the conversion to Christianity of the Anglo-Saxon tribes. His many writings included commentaries on sacred Scripture, which provide a clear understanding of Catholic theology from the early days of Christianity, as he strove to promote unity amongst multiple cultures. His earliest biblical commentary was probably written on the Book of Revelation, and in it and many similar works, St. Bede writes to explain and show the continuity of the early Church Fathers up to the time of the Irish Celts and the Anglo-Saxon people of England.

St. Bede lived in a literary environment of learning and prayer as, like many children from wealthy families in his time, he was taken to live in a Benedictine monastery for his education. He was transferred to a second monastery before being ordained a deacon at 19 and a priest at age 30. Other than visits to York and Lindisfarne, he evidently lived his entire life writing and praying at two monasteries in Monkwearmouth and Jarrow, England. A skilled linguist and translator, St. Bede wrote over 60 works, most of which have survived.

St. Bede was clear that all of his studies were subordinate to the interpretation of Scripture. In his “De Schematibus” he notes, “Holy Scripture is above all other books not only by its authority because it is Divine, or by its utility because it leads to eternal life, but also by its antiquity and its literary form.” St. Bede saw continuity from the time of the Acts of the Apostles to that of the early Church Fathers and the Councils. Working for Christian unity, he scientifically established the exact date of Easter for all the Irish, Celtic and Pict churches to have one celebration for Easter in line with the Roman calendar. For St. Bede, all time and history could be summed up in Christ, and in his light, the Old and New Testaments were part of one, entire sacred Scripture.

An academic, St. Bede was nevertheless a man known for exuding inner joy in both prayer and song. As his disciple, St. Cuthbert, relates of his master, “I can with truth declare that I never saw with my eyes or heard with my ears anyone return thanks so unceasingly to the living God.” St. Bede humbly concluded his most important work on the history of the English people with these words: “I beseech you, O good Jesus, that to the one to whom you have graciously granted sweetly to drink in the words of your knowledge, you will also vouchsafe in your loving kindness that he may one day come to you, the Fountain of all wisdom, and appear for ever before your face.”

St. Bede wrote about the beauty of becoming like Christ after one receives the sacraments. He encouraged the lay faithful to live in fraternal communion with the hope that they would become an evangelizing mission to pagans in other countries. He was a proponent of a strong prayer life and an advocate for good religious instruction. St. Bede died on the vigil of the Ascension as he called upon his Heavenly Father by singing on the floor of his cell, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost” before he died.

Reflection

Dear Lord, help me to use all of my talents and gifts to build your kingdom, whether they be big or small. May I always be ready to defend the gift of your Church passed down to us through the ages.

Prayer

O God, who bring light to your Church
through the learning of the priest St. 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,
God, for ever and ever.

Maryella Hierholzer

Maryella Hierholzer is a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and did graduate work at Georgetown University. After concluding a career in the Washington area, she is now retired in Indiana where she is a teacher of adult and youth faith formation at her parish. She is also a volunteer at Catholic Charities in Fort Wayne.