Venerable Bede

Saint Bede (673-735) A gentle scholar

Bede was born near Sunderland and, at the age of seven he was sent to Wearmouth to study. The monastery at Wearmouth had been founded only six years earlier by Benedict Biscop but, by the time Bede arrived, Benedict had recruited Frankish stonemasons and glaziers to build a magnificent Church, he had written a Rule of Life based on that of Saint Benedict, and made several trips to Rome to obtain books and artefacts so that his monks could have the best as they sought to learn about God. Bede therefore, got the best education possible.

In 682 Benedict founded a sister community to the one at Wearmouth. This new community at Jarrow was to be lead by Ceolfrith and among those who went with him from Wearmouth was a very young Bede. Sadly, not long after the work at Jarrow had begun, plague struck and many of the monks died which placed greater responsibility on the survivors, among whom were Ceolfrith and Bede.

Bede found his greatest delight in "learning, teaching and in writing", and it is for these three things that he is best remembered. In 703 he was ordained Priest, although this made little difference to his lifestyle. Bede lived very simply and devoted himself to his studies, never venturing far outside the community. It is believed that he never left the Kingdom of Northumbria, travelling only once to York and once to Lindisfarne in order to study. It was as a result of his visit to Lindisarne that Bede wrote a very sympathetic "Life of Saint Cuthbert".

Bede also wrote on worship: he wrote on the lives of other saints: he wrote commentaries on the Scriptures: and most importantly he wrote his "Ecclesiastical History of the English People". Surprisingly Bede didn't begin what many believe to be his greatest work until he reached his fifties. It is a remarkable account in which he sought to recount stories that united the Church rather than divide it. However there are uncharacteristic errors in places: Bede was only as good as the information he was given. Bede died on 24 May 735, the day before Ascension Day, aged 62. His health had deteriorated steadily and he was eager to complete a work on Saint John's Gospel. He worked steadily through the morning then, as the afternoon progressed, he called his friends around him.

"How much of the work is there to do?" he asked his scribe.

"One verse, master." Came the reply.

Bede completed the final verse, and then he led the brothers in the singing of a Psalm. As they sang together, Bede breathed his last.

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