Thursday, 28 May 2009

St Bede the Venerable

Sorry for not posting this yesterday, but ''life'' often gets in the way of fun stuff like blogging. ''O my heart, it is all a very odd life,'' as Charles Williams wrote.

Anyway, yesterday was the Feast of St Bede the Venerable (c.672/3-c.735), one of the greatest minds the Church has ever known. As yet, he is the only English Doctor of the Church (St Anselm doesn't count, as he was Italian by birth) which makes him even more special, at least to me.

What is known of the life of St Bede, he himself reports at the end of his most famous work The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, finished in the Year of Grace 731. He was born in Northumbria, near the monastery of Wearmouth and Jarrow. At the age of seven, he was taken into the care of the Abbot, a certain Benedict, and then of Ceolfrith, and he was educated by the monks. From an early age, he lived according to the austere Holy Rule of St Benedict, singing in the Church and applying himself to the august study of the Holy Scriptures. At the age of nineteen, he was ordained Deacon, and at thirty a Priest. He wrote and translated many works on Scripture, commentaries and exegeses that a friend of mine (a Church historian) said were more coherent than those of the more famous St Augustine.

The vast scholarly contribution of St Bede can be summed up by Wordsworth:

The recreant soul, that dares to shun the debt
Imposed on humankind, must first forget
Thy diligence, thy unrelaxing use
Of a long life, and, in the hour of death,
The last dear service of the passing breath.
(The Ecclesiastical Sonnets, I.23, II. 10-14).

St Bede the Venerable, pray for us.

I'd like to know why he is called ''Venerable.'' My old Philosophy teacher asked me to find that out years ago, but I never did. I spoke to an historian about it, but he said to me that he himself did not know, but that it was his supposition that like many other ''titles'' such as Seraphic Doctor, Angelic Doctor etc, it was merely added on by the devotion of the faithful.


  1. If this gives you any leads, here's what Wiki says:

    "...According to a legend the epithet was miraculously supplied by angels, thus completing his unfinished epitaph. It is first utilized in connection with Bede in the 9th century, where Bede was grouped with others who were called "venerable" at two ecclesiastical councils held at Aix in 816 and 836. Paul the Deacon then referred to him as venerable consistently. By the 11th and 12th century, it had become commonplace. However, there are no descriptions of Bede by that term right after his death.

  2. Dear Singulare Ingeniu. According to my St. Andrew's Daily Missal, St. Bede, The Venerable, is so called because of the following: The Holy Ghost filled him with wisdom and intelligence, 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 still alive), he was called "The Venerable", a title he kept after his death.