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Thoughts to Live by | Optional Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable

Updated: May 26, 2022

by Cardinal Orlando Beltran Quevedo, O.M.I, Archbishop-Emeritus of Cotabato

1. Today's Reflection is devoted to St. Bede. Last year, my reflection was on St Gregory VII. Both were towering Benedictine monks whose influence on the Church was profound and reached far beyond their times.

2. Some Notes on St, Bede -- Much of Venerable Bede's life is contained in his book, Ecclesiastical History of the English People (731), a book that gained him the title, the Father of English History. Born c. 672-673, in the lands of twin Benedictine monasteries in modern day Wearside and Tyneside, he may have come from a noble family. He was educated in the monastery. At 19, he was ordained a deacon, exempted from the canonical age because of his exceptional abilities. At 30, around 702, he was ordained a priest.

3. He wrote his 1st work the year before his ordination. A prolific writer, he completed over 60 works. Some monks accused him of heresy regarding the age of the world before the Bishop of Hexham. The standard belief at that time was that of St. Isidore of Seville, who wrote that the world was over 5,000 yrs. Bede calculated the age of the world at 3,952 years before Christ was born. Nothing resulted from that accusation. This was the 8th century, without the scientific means, data, and skills available today.

4. Bede was also a great teacher, an accomplished singer, and a poet who wrote and recited poems in the vernacular.

5. As a Benedictine monk, he visited many monasteries, corresponded with many people in the British Isles. But he spent a lot of time in prayer, strictly observed monastic discipline, studied the Scriptures, and wrote grammatical, historical, scientific, biblical, historical and theological works. He was considered the most learned man of his time.

6. He died on the Feast of the Ascension, 25 May 735, singing "Glory be to the Father...," as he lay on the floor of his cell. It is said that he had composed, a five-line poem, known as Bede's Death Song, the most widely copied Old English poem. His remains are now venerated in the Durham Cathedral.

By the 9th century he became known as "Venerable," because of his holiness. He was canonized and was made a Doctor of the Church in 1899. San Beda University, one of our great Catholic universities, is named after him.

7. Bede's Death Song --

A modern literal translation, without the metrical feature of a short poem --

"Before setting forth on that inevitable journey,

None is wiser than the man who considers --

Before his soul departs hence --

What good or evil he has done,

And what judgment his soul will receive after its passing" (Leo Shirley Price).

8. Prayer of St. Bede -- Lord God Almighty, open wide the door of my heart and illumine it with the grace of the Holy Spirit, that I may seek what is pleasing to your will. Guide my thoughts and my heart and lead my life in the way of your commandments, that I may always seek to fulfill them, and that I may be found worthy of the eternal joys of the heavenly life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers, stay safe, God bless!

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