ST. BEDE, THE VENERABLE, DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH.
I desire to see Christ!
Born in England, St Bede (673-735) became a Benedictine to be ‘the most observant and the happiest of all monks.’ His writings were full of sound doctrine so he was called ‘Venerable’ while still alive. He wrote commentaries on Holy Scripture and treatises of theology and history. He died at Jarrow, England. Bede’s influence both upon English and foreign scholarship was very great, and it would probably have been greater still but for the devastation inflicted upon the Northern monasteries by the inroads of the Danes less than a century after his death.
From a letter on the death of the Venerable Bede, By Cuthbert (Nn. 4-6: PL 90, 64-66)
I desire to see Christ
On Tuesday before the feast of the Ascension, Bede’s breathing became labored and a slight swelling appeared in his legs. Nevertheless, he gave us instruction all day long and dictated cheerfully the whole time. It seemed to us, however, that he knew very well that his end was near, and so he spent the whole night giving thanks to God.
At daybreak on Wednesday he told us to finish the writing we had begun. We worked until nine o’clock, when we went in procession with the relics as the custom of the day required. But one of our community, a boy named Wilbert, stayed with him and said to him, “Dear master, there is still one more chapter to finish in that book you were dictating. Do you think it would be too hard for you to answer any more questions?” Bede replied: “Not at all; it will be easy. Take up your pen and ink, and write quickly,” and he did so.
At three o’clock, Bede said to me, “I have a few treasures in my private chest, some pepper, napkins, and a little incense. Run quickly and bring the priest of our monastery, and I will distribute among them these little presents that god has given me.”
When the priests arrived he spoke to them and asked each one to offer Masses and prayers for him regularly. They gladly promised to do so. The priests were sad, however, and they all wept, especially because Bede had said that he thought they would not see his face much longer in this world. Yet they rejoiced when he said, “If it so please my Maker, it is time for me to return to him who created me and formed me out of nothing when I did not exist. I have lived a long time, and the righteous Judge has taken good care of me during my whole life. The time has come for my departure, and I long to die and be with Christ. My soul yearns to see Christ, my King, in all his glory.” He said many other things which profited us greatly, and so he passed the day joyfully till evening.
When evening came, young Wilbert said to Bede, “Dear master, there is still one sentence that we have not written down.” Bede said, “Quick, write it down.” In a little while, Wilbert said, “There; now it is written down.” Bede said, “Good. You have spoken the truth; it is finished. Hold my head in your hands, for I really enjoy sitting opposite the holy place where I used to pray; I can call upon my Father as I sit there.”
And so Bede, as he lay upon the floor of his cell, sang, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.” And when he had named the Holy Spirit, he breathed his last breath. We believe most firmly that Bede has now entered into the joy of the heaven he longed for, since his labors here on earth were always dedicated to the glory of God.
During all my years in the monastery I spent long hours in meditating on the sacred Scriptures; I was always faithful to the holy rule and to the daily chanting of the hours. I found delight in constant study, teaching and writing, alleluia. The man who obeys God’s law and teaches others to do so will be great in the kingdom of heaven. I found delight in constant study, teaching and writing, alleluia.
COLLECT O God, who bring light to your Church through the learning of the Priest Saint 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, one God, for ever and ever.