Stories of Saints and Martyrs - Jetta S. Wolff

Venerable Bede

May 27; A.D. 735

Against the date May 27 we find in our Prayer Book Calendar the name of Venerable Bede. His name has indeed always been greatly honoured, "venerated," both by the Church on account of St. Bede's good and holy life, and by men who love books and learning, because of the great book of history he wrote and gave to the world.

He was a north-country man, born either in Durham or Northumberland, and he never moved from that part of the country.

From a child Bede loved study. He was only seven years old when he was placed under the care of an Abbot named Benedict. Benedict was a man of great learning, who did all he could to bring books and treasures from other lands to England, and tried to teach those around him as much and as well as was in his power. Of all the Abbot's pupils, none was like Bede, who set himself to work with his whole heart and soul, and became by-and-by quite the greatest scholar of his day.

It was in this monastery of Jarrow that all his life was passed. A very quiet life it was, but very busy. He seems never to have lost a moment of his time. He studied Latin and Greek, History, Medicine, and Science, besides what is called Theology, or the special learning that belongs to religion. He also gave much time to music, singing, and poetry. As quite a young man he began to teach in the great school of the monastery. Sometimes there would be six hundred pupils there at once, monks who had lived always at the Convent, and strangers who came from other parts to learn of the great Bede. He loved his work. In one of the books he wrote, he says: "I always took delight in learning and teaching and writing." He speaks also of the "daily care of singing "which he had in the church. He wrote many books; the one we prize most is his Church History, of which I have spoken above. It is full of stories about many good men of that time, and tells us much of how people lived and thought in those days.

The story of St. Bede's last days is very beautiful. It is told us by St. Cuthbert, who was one of his pupils, and was with him when he died. Even when in great pain he was bright and cheerful. "He gave thanks to GOD," says Cuthbert, "day and night, yea at all hours. Every day he taught us lessons, and when night after night he lay awake, he never spoke one word of complaint, but seemed only to be full of joy, and gave constant praise to GOD ."

Through all the last days of his sickness he continued working as hard as he could with his pupils at a translation of the Gospel of St. John into English. Those about him begged he would rest. "No!" he said, "I do not want my boys to read a lie; I must see that the work is done as well as it can be before I die."

So, weak as he was, he still strove to get on with his writing, and still taught his pupils.

"Learn with what speed you may," he said to them, "I know not how long I shall last."

He grew worse. But he was eager to get on. His pupils were around him, and wrote as he dictated the words. Often their own tears blinded them and they were forced to stop, for great was the love they bore to their aged master.

On the eve of Ascension Day St. Bede was very weak. One of his pupils, a young boy, said, "We have still one sentence left to write." "Write quickly," was the reply. Soon the boy said, "It is written;" and the master answered, "Thou hast well said—it is done, it is finished."

Then he said to the youth, "Raise my hands, for it will do me good to sit where I may see the place in which I was wont to kneel and pray, that so sitting I may call upon my FATHER."

Thus he died, leaning upon his pupil's arm, and chanting the Gloria. As he named the HOLY GHOST his spirit passed from earth to heaven.