St. Bede the Venerable
Bede was born in the 7th century near present-day Newcaslte, England. His family seems to have been of comfortably well-to-do Saxon stock, and at age seven the lad was sent to be educated at the monestary of Monkwearmouth. Like the Celtic peoples, it seems likely that sending young children to be reared in "foster home" settings was the norm of the elite. Bede was evebtyakkt transferred to Monkwearmouth's sister monestary in Jarrow, a place where he would make his permanent home. Four years after arriving, the plague broke out, and only the teen-aged Bede and another surviving monk at Jarrow were capable of singing the full offices. The near brush with death was a close call for the history of English historical documentation! Bede became a deacon at age 19, and was ordained a priest at age 30. Shortly before his ordaination, he began to write his first works, the De Arte Metrica and De Schematibus et Tropis, to be used in a class-room setting.
Over the course of his life, he went on to write some 60 books, most of which are still preserved today and serve as an invaluable chronicle of early England and Christinity in the Dark Ages. One of his most famous works is Historia Ecclesiastica, a History of the English Church and People. Replete with anecdotes, legends, and pain-stakingly well-documented view of early history, Bede wrote it to show the growth and unity of the Church in England, as well as the development and gradual unification of the English people. He also was the first one to coin A.D./B.C. as a way of marking history from a Christological perspective. While his writing is often colored with local bias and personal opinonion, his efforst gained him the title "Father of English History." Bede died at Jarrow on May 26, 735 AD. He was made the only English Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII.
St. Augustine of Canterbury
Augustine was the prior of monestary in Rome who was chosen by Pope Gregory the Great to embark on a missionary expedition to England in 597. According to legend, the Pope first became interested in converting the Germanic tribes who had settled in Britain in the wake of Rome's withdrawal when he saw two handsome boys being sold at a slave market. Gregory inquired what race they came from. The slave-dealer replied that they were Angles. "Not Angles, but angels," quipped Gregory, "for someday they shall sing praises to God in Heaven." One way or another, Gregory couldn't get the fair-haired people out of his head or heart, and the mission was on. Augustine and his companions started across Europe, reaching Gaul and being regaled by tales of how barbaric the Anglo-Saxons could be. Feeling a little green, Augustine wrote and appeal to the pope to quit while they were ahead. Gregory would have none of it.
Eventually the intrepid missionaries landed in Kent, where King Ethelbert and his French Christian wife, Queen Bertha. Although the king was at first suspicious, standing under a huge oak tree to protect himself from "Christian magic", he eventually agreed to allow Augustine and his followers to set up camp in Kent and go about their missionary endeavors in peace. Eventually, the king himself converted, starting a mass conversion of his people to Christianity. Augustine established his first episcopal see at Canterbury and was consecrated as its first bishop. He went on to establish two more bishoprics, one in London and one in Rochester. Pagan temples were consecrated for Christian worship, and pagan festivals were reinvented to incorporate Christian meanings, helping to create the culturally rich liturgical calendar we have today. Augustine died on May 26, 604 A.D. His willingness to overcome his own weakness and face the unknown unleashed a missionary fervor that spread throughout England with all the gusto that Pope Gregory had so ardently desired.
St. Bede and St. Augustine, Ora pro nobis!!!
|St. Augustine of Canterbury|