Tag Archives: St Bede the Venerable



And every one that striveth for the mastery, refraineth himself from all things: and they indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible one. (1 Corinthians 9:25)

Today, dearly beloved, on one solemn day of rejoicing, we celebrate the feast of all the saints in heaven. In their communion, heaven exults; in their patronage, earth rejoices; in their triumph, holy Church is crowned with glory. Their testimony becomes more glorious with honour in proportion to the intensity of their agony. As the battle waxed fiercer, the greater was the glory which came to those who fought; the more terrible their tortures, the more illustrious the triumph of their martyrdom; the greater their torments, the greater their rewards. As our holy mother the Catholic Church – now spread far and wide throughout the whole world – has been taught by Christ Jesus her Head, not to fear shame, or the cross or death, but to become stronger and stronger, not by resisting but by enduring, so has she breathed into her children, welded by the cruel prison into a glorious band, a triumphant spirit equal to her own in its fire and in courage to carry on the conflict.


O mother Church truly holy, whose glory God deigns to illumine, whom the glorious blood of conquering martyrs adorns, whom the white robes of virgins clothe with an inviolate confession of faith, roses and lilies are not wanting to your garlands. Dearly beloved, let each one of us fight that he may gain the high dignity of one or the other of these honours, either the white crown of virginity, or the red crown of martyrdom. In the heavenly camps, both peace and war have their own garlands with which the soldiers of Christ are crowned.

The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us.

For the ineffable and limitless goodness of God has provided that the time of both toil and struggle shall not be prolonged unduly, nor drawn-out and without end, but brief, and as I might say, of a moment. Therefore, although in this short and difficult life there may be labours and struggles, in that life which is eternal there are crowns and rewards of merits. The struggles are soon over, the rewards for merits last forever. God in his goodness has provided, too, that after the darkness of this life they shall see an exceedingly great radiance, they shall receive blessedness far beyond the bitterness of all their torment. The Apostle bears witness of this when he says, “The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us.” [Romans 8:18]

– St Bede the Venerable, Priest, Sermon 18 on the Saints, from: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964


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Bede was a priest who was born at Jarrow near the Border of Britain and Scotland. He became a monk and combined a life of full devotion to the liberal arts and sacred sciences with one of unmitigated religious discipline. He was thoroughly familiar with every branch of learning, but his chief concern was the study of Sacred Scripture.

Upon ordination, he accordingly began expounding the Sacred Books, and adhered to the Fathers strictly, stating nothing contrary to their opinions and, in most instances, using their own words. He hated laziness, and alternately read and prayed.

Many of his books aim at moral reformation and the defence and affirmation of the faith. These gained him such a reputation everywhere that his writings were publicly read in the churches during his lifetime. At last, weakened by age and work, he died a holy death. Leo XIII declared him a Doctor of the universal Church.

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964




Gospel Text: Jesus Casts The Money Sellers Out Of The Temple (Matthew 21:10-17)

Homily of St Bede the Venerable

That which he did figuratively, by cursing the barren fig tree, the Lord soon afterwards showed more openly, by casting the unrighteous out of the temple. For the tree had not sinned, in that it had no fruit when the Lord was hungry, for the time for fruit was not yet come; but the priests had sinned in carrying on worldly business in the house of the Lord [and charging the worshippers exorbitant rates for the service of money changing], and failing to bear that fruit of piety then due from them, and for which the Lord was hungering. The Lord withered the tree with a curse, that men seeing this, or hearing of it, might better understand how they are liable to be condemned by divine judgment if, having borne no fruit of good works, in mere self-approval of their own discourses, they soothe themselves, as it were, with a rustling shelter of green leaves.

But because they had not understood, the Lord brought upon them the punishment they deserved: and he cast out the traffickers in earthly things from that house, in which, according to the commandment, only what was divine was to be done, victims and prayers to be offered to God, the word of God to be read, heard, and sung. And indeed we must believe that such things only were to be found bought and sold in the temple, as were necessary for the service of the temple itself, according to what we read as taking place on another occasion, when entering into the same temple he found there men buying and selling sheep, and oxen, and doves. For we must certainly believe that it was those coming from a distance who bought all these things from the inhabitants of the place, merely that they may offer them up in the house of the Lord.

If, therefore, the Lord would not have those things sold in the temple, which were to be offered in the temple according to his wish (and this no doubt because of the sins of avarice or even cunning, which is a crime associated with trade), with how much greater severity, do you think, will he punish those whom he may find spending their time there in laughter, or idle talk, or giving themselves up to any other vice? For if the Lord will not suffer temporal business to be carried on in his house, which might freely be exercised elsewhere; how much more shall those things that are not lawfully done in any place merit the wrath of heaven, if they are done in temples consecrated to God? Truly, since the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove upon the Lord, by doves the gifts of the Holy Spirit are rightly signified. And who are they who today sell doves in the temple of God, if not those who in the Church accept a price for the laying-on of hands, whereby the Holy Spirit is given from heaven?

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964

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Posted by on February 29, 2016 in Words of Wisdom


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“[The words], ‘If you love me, keep my commandments, and ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclete’, were brought to fulfilment in the disciples themselves.

They were proven truly to have loved him, truly to have obeyed in his commandments, on that day when all at once the Holy Spirit appeared to them in [tongues of] fire as they were praying in the upper room, and taught them, [putting] in mouths a diversity of languages, and made them strong in heart with the consolation of his love.

Earlier, however, they possessed the Paraclete himself, namely, our Lord sojourning with them in the flesh. By the sweetness of his miracles and the wealth of his preaching they were wont to be raised up and strengthened, so that they could not be scandalised at persecution by unbelievers.

But since by ascending into heaven after his Resurrection he had deserted them bodily, although the presence of his divine majesty was never absent from them, he rightly added concerning this Paraclete, that is, the Holy Spirit: ‘to abide with you forever’. He abides eternally with the saints, always illuminating inwardly and invisibly in this life, and introducing them to the everlasting contemplation of the sight of his majesty in the future.

If we too, dearly beloved brothers, love Christ perfectly in such a way that we prove the genuineness of this love by our observance of his commandments, he will ask the Father on our behalf, and the Father will give us another Paraclete. He will ask the Father through his humanity, and will give [us another Paraclete] with the Father through his divinity…

If we commit ourselves with all care to hearing, reading, conferring with one another, and preserving these [deeds and teachings] in heart and body, it is sure that we will easily overcome the hardships of this age – as if the Lord were sojourning with us forever and consoling us. If we love this Paraclete and keep his commandments, he will ask the Father, and he will give us another Paraclete – that is, he will in his clemency pour forth the grace of his Spirit into our hearts, and it will gladden us in the expectation of our heavenly homeland in the midst of the adversities of our present exile.”

– St Bede the Venerable

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Posted by on August 8, 2015 in Words of Wisdom


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O God, by the learning of your blessed confessor Bede, you brought glory to your Church; may we, your servants, be guided by his wisdom and assisted by his merits. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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The Mission of St Augustine to Kent in A.D. 597 is the most important event in the Christian history of Kent and of England. It had two important results. Firstly, it re-established the Catholic Faith in England, centred on the unity of the Apostolic See, after it had been almost eradicated by the heathen invasions of the 5th and 6th centuries.

Secondly, it re-established cultural and intellectual contact with the Continent, particularly Rome, which was still looked upon as the capital of the western world.


The most important source of our knowledge about St Augustine comes from the ‘Epistles of Pope Saint Gregory the Great’, preserved in Papal Registers in Rome. These documents consist of letters of Pope St Gregory to St Augustine or other Members of his Mission. They give instructions and advice, sometimes they are letters written to others about the Mission asking for their help in aiding St Augustine. Unfortunately, these letters have not been preserved in chronological order. Many are undated, and different editors have put them in different orders. As well as this, not all of them have survived, and for detailed content of some we must rely on the evidence of Bede (see below). The consequence of the letters being undated, sometimes missing or merely described by a later author, is that it is sometimes extremely difficult to grasp the speed with which events took place.

The other important source of our knowledge is the Venerable ‘Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation’, written about A.D. 731, some four generations after the Mission had taken place. Bede was a very careful historian, and sent researchers to Canterbury and Rome in search of trustworthy information. It is certain that earlier documents about the Mission were still being kept in Canterbury and Rome in the early eighth century.


The story begins with the familiar tale of Gregory’s meeting with fair-haired pagan Anglian slaves in the Roman Forum, probably in the 580’s. He was told that they were Angles. ‘Non Angli, sed angeli si Christiani’ (they are not Angles but angels if they are Christians), was his famous reply. Gregory’s informant added that they were from Deira (roughly equivalent to modern Yorkshire): ‘de ira (delivered from wrath) they would indeed be,’ said Gregory, ‘once they had been called to the mercy of Christ.’ On asking the name of the king of that province, Gregory was told that it was Aella. Alluding to the name, Gregory concluded: Alleluia, the praise of God the Creator must be sung in those parts.’

At the time of this celebrated exchange, Gregory was Abbot of St Andrew’s Monastery on the Coelian Hill in Rome, and a little while later, determined to bring about the conversion of the Angles, set out on a missionary journey to England. However, he was recalled by the Pope, Pelagius II, urged on by the people of Rome who did not want their beloved Gregory to leave the City. In A.D. 590 Gregory became Pope, and that naturally put an end to any hopes he might have had of journeying to England himself. But he never forgot his meeting with the Angles in the Roman market-place and his resolve to evangelise the English.


In A.D. 596, probably in the autumn, Gregory, the new Pope, having heard that the English rulers were favourably disposed, commissioned Augustine, the Prior of his former monastery, St Andrew’s, together with forty monks to undertake the Mission to England. The party crossed the Alps into Provence. It appears that when they reached Aix some of the monks began to have misgivings about the task they had undertaken. They heard accounts of the length and the dangers of the journey and of the barbarism of the English. They began to lose heart, and Augustine was sent back to Rome to implore Pope Gregory to call off the Mission. The Pope issued a stern reproof to Augustine for having turned back after setting his hand to the plough, and he was ordered to rejoin the party at Aix with his position as leader of the Mission confirmed; he was made Abbot and given letters of recommendation to various bishops and leaders in Gaul urging them to give Augustine and his fellow monks every assistance. After many adventures, in the spring of A.D. 597 Abbot Augustine and his forty monks, together with some Frankish priests to act as interpreters, landed on the Isle of Thanet off the Kent coast.

A.D. 597

On arriving in Thanet, Augustine sent a message to Ethelbert, King of Kent, who replied that the newcomers should remain on the island until he could visit them. Shortly afterwards a meeting took place in the open air – Ethelbert insisted on this as a precaution against magic. Historians debate the exact spot where this meeting took place, but it could well have been at Ebbsfleet where a Victorian monument, called ‘St Augustine’s Cross’, now stands. Ethelbert gave the missionaries permission to cross the Wansum Channel, a stretch of water which separated the Isle of Thanet from Kent, to the Kentish mainland to preach the Gospel. In due course the party reached King Ethelbert’s capital, Canterbury. Bede gives us a vivid description of the procession as it entered the city chanting a litany and carrying on high a picture of Christ. Tradition has it that Augustine was exceptionally tall and towered head and shoulders above his fellow monks.


Once in the city Ethelbert provided Augustine and his party with lodgings by the Stablegate (near the present redundant church of St Alphege) and the use of St Martin’s church which had been restored some years earlier for the use of his queen, Bertha, who was already a Catholic. Bertha was the daughter of the Frankish king, Charibert, and her presence at the Kentish court was certainly a major reason why Pope Gregory judged that the time was right for a Mission to the English.

The conversion of her husband, Ethelbert, seems to have taken place soon after, for tradition says that he was baptised at Whitsun A.D. 597, possibly in the font which is still to be seen in St Martin’s church. About the same time, King Ethelbert gave Abbot Augustine a grant of land within the city walls, the site of the future Canterbury Cathedral and the Monastery of Christ Church.


There is little doubt that Ethelbert’s conversion was followed by that of his principal nobles and officials. The rapid and spectacular success of the Mission and the need to give the Church formal organisation led to Augustine’s return to the Continent, probably in the autumn of A.D. 597, to be ordained bishop by Vergilius, Bishop of Arles.

On his return to Canterbury, Bishop Augustine sent Laurentius and Peter, two of his companions, to Pope Gregory with a report on the progress of the Mission to date and a list of questions, some theological and some administrative, which were bothering him. In his reply, which was delayed until A.D. 601 on account of illness and his preoccupation with the Lombard invasions, Pope Gregory confirmed Augustine’s authority over other bishops to be created in England. With his reply, carried by Laurentius and Peter, the Pope sent a second group of missionaries, for it was obvious to him that more were urgently needed. In this second group of missionaries were two monks, Justus and Mellitus, who figure later in the story. At the same time, it appears that Pope Gregory sent Augustine the pallium, originally a sort of wrap-around cloak but nowadays a white woollen band with crosses worn over the chasuble, which is the sign of a Metropolitan Archbishop.


The Christianisation of Kent went ahead rapidly. We are told that 10,000 people were baptised, either in the Swale or the River Medway, at Christmas A.D. 597.

In A.D. 604 the second Kentish See was established at Rochester with Justus as bishop. Soon after, the Faith reached the Kingdom of the East Saxons (Essex), doubtless through Ethelbert’s influence with the East Saxon king, Saberht, who was his nephew. London was at that time the capital of the East Saxon Kingdom, and at the highest point in the city a church, dedicated to St Paul, was built, Mellitus becoming the first bishop of London.


It was about this time that Augustine had his first meeting with the Celtic clergy. Catholicism had survived uninterrupted in the North, Wales and Ireland since the period of the Roman Occupation of Britain.

The Celtic Church, because of its long isolation caused by the heathen invasions of the 5th and 6th centuries, had become only loosely affiliated with the rest of Christendom and had developed its own practices. It had, for example, different ways of calculating the date of Easter. Moreover, it was more monastic in its organisation. Its bishops had no clearly defined dioceses as they had on the Continent, and there were different practices surrounding the consecration of bishops and the form of the tonsure.

The meetings of Archbishop Augustine with representatives of the Celtic Church took place on the bank of the River Severn at a place which Bede tells us was known in his day as St Augustine’s Oak, and may well be the place now called Aust opposite the mouth of the River Wye. We have to rely on Bede, who was not favourably disposed towards Welsh Christianity, for the account of what happened at these meetings.

At their first meeting the Celtic clergy were loath to abandon the practises of their Church and to embrace the full unity of the Catholic Church, centred on the Apostolic See, which Augustine sought to bring, and it was decided to seek divine guidance through a miracle. A blind man was brought. The Celtic priests tried to heal him and failed; Augustine succeeded. Thereupon the Celtic clergy said that they could not give a final answer until they had consulted their colleagues. A second meeting was arranged, and on their way the Celtic representatives called on a hermit with a great reputation for holiness to seek his advice. The hermit said that if Augustine was a man of God they should heed his words, and when they asked how they should know this, the hermit suggested they should arrange to arrive at the meeting after Augustine. If he were a true follower of Christ he would be humble and rise to meet them: if he remained seated it would show him to be filled with pride. The advice was followed. Unfortunately, Augustine remained seated when the Welsh bishops arrived, and in consequence the meeting broke up without achieving anything. The Celtic Church went its own way for several decades longer, and it was not until the Synod of Whitby in A.D. 664 that the full unity of the Church, centred on the Holy See, for which Augustine laboured, was achieved.


Augustine died on 26th May, probably in the year A.D. 604, although the year is not certain. Shortly before his death he consecrated Laurentius as his successor, perhaps to avoid instability in the infant English Church.

He was buried in a roadside cemetery on the east side of Canterbury outside the city walls, the exact location of which has been lost. However, we do know that Ethelbert, prompted by Augustine, built a monastery on the east side of the city dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul which was incomplete at the time of Augustine’s death. Later in A.D. 613 when the abbey had been finished, Augustine’s body was transferred from its first resting place into the new abbey (which was later additionally named St Augustine’s Abbey by St Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, in A.D. 978). The site of Augustine’s first tomb within the Abbey can still be seen as well as the tombs of several Archbishops of Canterbury and Kentish kings.

Over the next four centuries, various alterations, improvements and enlargements were made rto the original abbey building, founded by Augustine himself. In Norman times it was decided to completely rebuild the abbey on a far more splendid scale, and the original Saxon abbey was demolished. As part of the demolition and re-building process, the tomb of St Augustine was opened by Abbot Wydo on 6th September A.D. 1091. The body of the saint, dressed in his archiepiscopal vestments, was, according to contemporary accounts, found to be incorrupt. In due course, once the building of the new Norman abbey had been completed, St Augustine’s tomb was translated to an imposing shrine in the apse behind the high altar with Laurentius, the second Archbishop of Canterbury, and Mellitus, the first Bishop of London, on either side of him.

We are told by Goscelin, a monk of Canterbury who lived a little later in the 12th century, that the inscription on the tomb read: ‘Here lies the body of Saint Augustine, the noble and holy patron of the English, and their glory on high.’ After the new tomb had been dedicated, in fact that very same night, Abbot Wydo and a few of the older monks, removed the body from the tomb so as to prevent it falling into the hands of Danish raiders. They left a few small bones and some ashes in the tomb which had been dedicated that day and hid the body in a stone coffin in a wall under the east window. The knowledge of its real resting place apparently died with those concerned with its removal and re-burial, although there is strong evidence to suggest that in A.D. 1221 the tomb was rediscovered and the body reinstated in a dignified position within the Abbey. There it remained for a further three hundred years.

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries in A.D. 1538 under King Henry VIII it is very probable that the monks of St Augustine’s Abbey secretly removed St Augustine’s body, just as the monks of Christ Church probably secretly removed the body of St Thomas Becket from Canterbury Cathedral. One tradition states that St Augustine was buried at Chilham Church, some six miles south-west of Canterbury, but his remains have never been discovered…”
– This is an excerpt of the booklet “The 1400th Anniversary of St Augustine’s Mission to the English: AD 597-1997” by Canon Michael Bunce

Reproduction is permitted for personal use only.

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Posted by on September 14, 2013 in Prayers for Ordinary Time


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O God that art the only hope of the world,
The only refuge for unhappy men,
Abiding in the faithfulness of heaven,
Give me strong succour in this testing place.

O King, protect thy man from utter ruin
Lest the weak faith surrender to the tyrant,
Facing innumerable blows alone.

Remember I am dust, and wind, and shadow,
And life as fleeting as the flower of grass.
But may the eternal mercy which hath shone
From time of old
Rescue thy servant from the jaws of the lion.

Thou who didst come from on high in the cloak of flesh,
Strike down the dragon with that two-edged sword,
Whereby our mortal flesh can war with the winds
And beat down strongholds, with our Captain God.


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