A Lesson from St Bede

I have written so much about St Bede in previous years that this morning I want to offer only a single thought. We can easily become sentimental when we think of the young Bede and Abbot Ceolfrith diligently maintaining the Office in choir, or the old Bede sharing out his little treasures and insisting on writing one last line of the work on which he was engaged. We forget, or perhaps have never known, what it meant to be a monk in the Northumbria of the seventh and eighth centuries. The cold, the darkness, the monotonous diet. the routine of the monastery, endured cheerfully and with grace year after year in the quest for God — if we think about these at all, it is probably with a little romantic frisson of delight. How gloriously medieval! We forget or sentimentalise, but Bede knew and saw clearly; his life was not in the least sentimental. He was daily confronted with the reality of seeking God and finding him in his brethren and in every aspect of the life he led.

It was Bede’s fidelity and generosity in living his monastic vocation that made him a saint, not his learning or his charm or any of the things that we tend to associate with him. Above all, it was his patient obedience and the self-renunciation community life demanded that transformed him little by little. Substitute ‘family’ or ‘colleagues’ for ‘community’ and you will soon see where the matrix of sanctity lies for you — a lesson we can all learn from St Bede.

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