Today’s saint [traditionally celebrated on 27th May but transferred to 25th May in the modern liturgy] was a model monk who lived his whole life in an English monastery, although he occasionally travelled to neighbouring communities to teach young scholars.
Venerable Bede’s cell and monastery were nothing like those impressive stone structures with soaring arches and large courtyards, which still stand as icons of medieval Europe. Bede lived long, long before that golden age of monasticism. He died less than two hundred years after Saint Benedict, the founder of monasticism. The monasteries of Bede’s era were more like farms, where the monks lived in a dormitory above a large chapter room or perhaps even in crude huts huddled around a squat stone church. These first simple efforts to plant religious life into English soil matured, over centuries, into a network of enormous English monasteries. And these monasteries, in their fullest flower, grew into the universities, towns, schools, hospitals, lodges, cathedrals, and trade centres of England itself, a rich garden of Catholicism known in medieval times as Mary’s Dowry. Venerable Bede and his monastic brothers planted; later generations harvested. And King Henry VIII then confiscated the garden and handed it over to his friends, who uprooted its most beautiful plants. Ironically and sadly, the tombs of many English saints, including Venerable Bede, lie today in Protestant churches.
From his cell in remote England, Bede was enmeshed in the Church matters of his day. He became involved in the long simmering dispute over the date of Easter, promoted the practice of using Christ’s birth as the starting date for calendars, translated Christian works from Latin or Greek into Anglo-Saxon (to the immense good of the growth of the Church in England), and authored numerous works, the most famous of which is a history of the Church in England until his days. He was, in short, a prolific and wide-ranging scholar. In 1899 Pope Leo XIII honoured that reputation by naming him a Doctor of the Church, the only native of England to be so honoured.
Thomas à Kempis, in his spiritual classic The Imitation of Christ, writes that every time a monk leaves his cell he comes back less a man. It is in the cell that the monk learns everything he needs to know about himself, the world, and God. It is inside of their vocations that God’s will is found and thus, fulfillment. A deep and abiding commitment to a specific person, a specific religion, a specific home, job, school, parish, spouse, and family is the stuff of life. Wandering is fun for a while. Commitment, though, is more exciting in the long run. The banks of the river must be built up. The edges and borders stacked high. The rails set in place. Then, and only then, life starts to be lived. To go deeper, not wider. To run those roots down deep into the moist soil. When we leave the four corners of our commitments and vocation, it may be liberating for a while, but time rectifies the deception. Our vocation is our home, and in that home we find happiness, make others happy, and satisfy the divine plan of God who made us.
St Bede the Venerable, we see in your life a model of commitment to one place, one idea, one love, and one Church. We ask your intercession to aid all scholars, all monks, and all Christians who waver, to stay at their desk, their kneeler, or their work bench to fulfill the task at hand.
St Bede the Venerable, Confessor and Doctor
Born at Yarrow in Northumberland, Bede was committed, as a child, to St. Benedict Bishop, abbot of the Benedictine monastery at Wearmourth.
The Holy Ghost filled him with wisdom and intelligence (Introit), wherefore his writings, penetrated by holy doctrine, were read aloud in the churches, even in his lifetime. As it was not permissible to call him Saint, he was called “The Venerable,” a title he kept after his death. He was one of the most learned churchmen in the eighth century and his name is found among those of the Doctors of the Church.
Not satisfied with teaching men the Law and the Prophets, he also practised the most beautiful virtues (Gospel). On the Eve of the Ascension he received the Last Sacraments, embraced his brethren, lay down on the ground upon his hair cloth, said twice : Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, and fell asleep in the Lord on May 27th, 735.
Let us honour Bede, the holy Doctor, that we may always be enlightened by his wisdom and helped by his merits (Collect).
Deus, qui Ecclesiam tuam beati Bedae Confessoris tui atque Doctoris eruditione clarificas: concede propitius famulis tuis; ejus semper illustrari saptentia et meritis adjuvari.
O God, who by the learning of blessed Bede, Thy confessor and doctor, hast glorified Thy Church: grant that Thy servants may ever be enlightened by his wisdom and helped by his merits. (Collect)