May 25 is the liturgical feast of Venerable Bede. The proper of the saints part of my Christian Prayer book tells me that he was not just a priest, but he is also proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.
Bede was born in 673. He himself tells us that he became a monk at an early age (some say he was just 7 years old) and lived most of his life at Jarrow located in Northeast England. He was ordained a deacon when he was only 19 years old, and became a priest at the age of 30.
Scholar, teacher and writer, he wrote biblical commentaries and other works. He has been described as the ‘Father of English History’ and is widely regarded as the greatest of all the English scholars. His use of anno domini contributed to its wide use now, though he did not invent that dating method, Dionysus Exiguus is credited for having invented it.
Some 40 books are credited to have come from his pen. He was deeply versed in the sciences of his times: natural philosophy, the philosophical principles of Aristotle, astronomy, arithmetic, grammar, ecclesiastical history and especially the Holy Scriptures.
The honorific title Venerable was conferred to him due to his being a polymath (a person of encyclopedic learning). This title is derived from the Latin inscription on Bede’s tomb:
Hic Sunt In Fossa Bedae Venerabilis Ossa
Here are buried the bones of the Venerable Bede
At a young age, he was entrusted the care of the Monastery of St. Paul in Jarrow. The combination of genius and the instruction of scholarly, saintly monks produced a saint and an extraordinary scholar. His intellectual acumen has led kings to seek his counsel.
Among his works, His Ecclesiastical History of the English People is commonly regarded as the most significant in the history of historiography. This work has become a key source for the understanding of early British history and the arrival of Christianity. This became widely read in Western Europe throughout the Middle Ages.
Bede’s teaching and writing were based on the resources of the library. These included Latin grammars, history, hagiography and patristic commentaries on the Bible.
However, he regarded himself primarily as a Biblical commentator.
He died in his cell in 735 on May 26, Feast of Christ’s Ascension.