a priest's musings on the journey

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Celtic Saints of the Day 25 May

St. Dunchad Abbot of Iona
(Dumhade, Dumhaid, Dunchadh)
Died March 24, 717. Dunchadh was born into the line of Conall Gulban.
He became a monk at Killochuir in southeast Ulster and, from 710 until
his death, ruled the abbey of Iona, Scotland. During Dunchadh's abbacy,
Saint Egbert (f.d. April 24) finally convinced the Celtic monks of Iona
to adopt the Roman customs-- tonsure, date of Easter, Benedictine Rule.
For Saint Bede (f.d. tomorrow), this was the final sign of unity from
diversity, which was the main theme of his "Ecclesiastical History."

Dunchadh is the titular saint of Killclocair, in the diocese of Armagh.
His feast is still celebrated in Donegal on May 25; elsewhere it is
March 24. He is the patron of sailors in Ireland.

St. Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne
(Adhelm, Aldelmus)

Born in Wessex, England, c. 640; died at Doulting in Somerset, May 25,
709. In the 7th century an Irish monk named Maeldubh (f.d. May 17)
settled in the lonely forest country that in those days lay in the
northeast of Wiltshire. After living for a time as a hermit, he
gathered the children of the neighbourhood for instruction. In the
course of time his hermitage became a school and so continued after his
death, acquiring fame as a community of scholars known as Malmesbury.

To this centre of learning came a young and clever boy called Aldhelm, a
kinsman of Ina (Ine), King of Wessex. He was to be the first English
scholar of distinction. After studying under Maeldubh, he learned what
he could from Saint Adrian (f.d. January 9) and Saint Theodore (f.d.
September 19) at Canterbury, where he probably became a monk (though he
may have done so earlier at Malmesbury).

He returned to Malmesbury and under Aldhelm the school became a
monastery, of which he was appointed abbot about 675. He knew Greek,
Latin, and Hebrew, and attracted scholars from other lands. He was also
a poet, and was so full of music that it was said that he could play
every musical instrument in use. In course of time he established other
smaller religious communities in the neighbourhood and, thereby,
advanced education in all of Wessex.

He was an advisor to Ina and held in high regard by King Alfred, who
wrote down this story about him. Aldhelm was distressed because the
townspeople were indifferent to the church services, either by absenting
themselves or by gossiping and remaining inattentive when they attended.
He therefore stood on the town bridge and acted the part of a minstrel
by singing popular ballads and reciting his verses interspersed with
hymns, passages from the gospels, a bits of clowning in hopes of winning
'men's ears, and then their souls.' The result was that he soon
collected a crowd of hearers and was able to impart simple religious
teaching to them; 'whereas if he had proceeded with severity and
excommunications, he would have made no
impression whatever upon them.'

Later, at the request of Pope Sergius I, he accompanied Coedwalla, the
West Saxon king, to Rome. Later still, he took an active part in
disputes between the Celtic and the Anglo-Saxon Church. He addressed a
famous letter to Gerent, king of Dumnonia (Devon and Cornwall),
explaining the date on which Easter ought to be kept by the Celtic
clergy there. At one famous synod (Whitby?) Aldhelm attempted
reconciliation with what remained of the old British Church in Cornwall,
which was then a kingdom with its own king.

In 705, Aldhelm became the first bishop of Sherbourne, his appointment
dating from the time of the division of the old diocese of Wessex into
Sherborne and Winchester. His brief episcopate was marked by energy and
enterprise. He had travelled a long way from the days when he joined
the school in the forest and sang as a minstrel on Malmesbury Bridge.
But always he is remembered as the Saxon poet-preacher, who first
translated the Psalms into the Anglo-Saxon tongue, and who sang the
words of Scripture into the hearts of the common people. In King
Alfred's words:

'Aldhelm won men to heed sacred things by taking his
stand as a gleeman and singing English songs on a bridge."

His English writings, hymns and songs, with their music, have all
perished; of his Latin works, the longest are a poem in praise of holy
maidens and a treatise on virginity written for the nuns of Barking in
Essex. In his lighter moments he composed Latin verse and metrical
riddles. As a scholar, Saint Aldhelm has been described as 'ingenious,'
and it has been well said that the Latin language went to his head. He
liked to play with words and his writing was so involved and obscure as
often to be unintelligible; but his reading was extensive--so extensive
that he has been described as the first English librarian.

In his own day Aldhelm had a wide influence in southern England. He was
buried at Malmesbury Abbey. The cape in Dorset usually called Saint
Alban's Head is properly Saint Aldhelm's Head.

In art, Saint Aldhelm is portrayed as a bishop in a library. He is
venerated at Malmesbury.

St Bede

Born in Northumbria, England, 673; died at Jarrow, England, on May 25, 735; named Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1899.
In the days when Northumbria was a great scholastic center with famous schools at Jarrow and York, Bede was the most distinguished of its scholars. Beginning at age seven (or three?), he was educated at the newly-founded monastery at Wearmouth-Jarrow under Abbots Benedict Biscop and Ceolfrid. In 703, he was received as a monk by Saint Benedict Biscop and ordained a priest at age 30 by Saint John of Beverley. Except for a few brief visits elsewhere, Bede spent the rest of his life in Jarrow; never going further afield than Lindisfarne and York.

"I have spent my whole life," he says, "in the same monastery, and while attentive to the rule of my order and the service of the Church, my constant pleasure lay in learning or teaching or writing." He numbered 600 monks among his pupils and became the Father of English learning. "I have devoted my energies to the study of Scriptures, observing monastic discipline, and singing the daily services in church."

Bede was a prodigious worker, the author of 45 volumes, including commentaries, text-books, and translations. His range was encyclopedic, embracing the whole field of contemporary knowledge. He wrote grammatical and chronological works, hymns and other verse, letters, and homilies, and compiled the first martyrology with historical notes. These are in Latin, but Bede was also the first known writer of English prose (since lost). Bede's Biblical writings were extensive and important in their time, but it is as an historian that he is famous. The Latin of the hymns 'The hymn for conquering martyrs raise' and 'Sing we triumphant hymns of praise' was written by Bede

His supreme achievement, completed in 731, was his History of the English Church and People, in the laborious preparation of which he searched the archives of Rome (? most sources say he never left England), collecting and collating documents, and set forth in detail the first authoritative history of Christian origins in Britain. To this he added Lives of five early abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow. Nor until his last illness had he any assistance: "I am my own secretary; I dictate, I compose, I copy all myself."

Many stories have gathered round his name. This one is probably mythic: On a visit to Rome with other scholars, he found them puzzled by an inscription of cryptic letters upon an iron gate. A passing Roman citizen, seeing their confusion, sneered at Bede and rudely called him an English ox, when, to his surprise, Bede at once read out the meaning. From that time, because of the range of his wisdom and the keenness of his intellect, he was given the title of venerable.

But the best-known story is related by his contemporary Saint Cuthbert of how when illness and weakness came upon him at the end of his life, his translation of Saint John's Gospel into the English tongue was still unfinished. Despite sleepless nights and days of weariness, he continued his task, and though he made what speed he could, he took every care in comparing the text and preserving its accuracy. "I don't want my boys," he said, "to read a lie or to work to no purpose after I am gone." His friends begged him to rest, but he insisted on working. "We never read without weeping," remarked one of them.

When it came to the last day, he called his scribe to him and told him to write with all possible speed. "There is still a chapter wanting," said the boy, as the day wore on; "had you not better rest for a while?" But Bede persisted with his task. "Be quick with your writing," he answered, "for I shall not hold out much longer."

When night fell, the boy said: "There is yet one sentence not written." "Write quickly," Bede replied; and when it was done, he said: "All is finished now," then after sending for his fellow monks and distributing to them his few belongings, in a broken voice he sang the Gloria and passed to his reward on Ascension Eve.

Of all the writers in Western Europe from the time of Saint Gregory the Great until Saint Anselm, Saint Bede was perhaps the best known and most influential, especially in England. He was a careful scholar and distinguished stylist. His works De Temporibus and De Temporum Ratione established the idea of dating events anno domini (A.D.).

Already in 853 a church council in Aachen referred to him as 'the venerable,' i.e., worthy of honor. Saint Boniface called Bede 'a light of the church, lit by the Holy Spirit.' To Alcuin, himself the 'schoolmaster of his age,' he was 'blessed Bede, our master.' (Alcuin claimed Bede's relics worked miraculous cures.) Bede is the only Englishman whom Dante names in the Paradiso. The center of Bede's cultus is Durham, where his shrine is located, and York.

A good deal of further information on Saint Bede is available on the Internet, including his Life of St. Cuthbert. Saint Bede is depicted in art as an old monk writing with a quill and rule. He might also be shown (1) studying a book, (2) holding up a pitcher with light from heaven falling on him, or (3) supported by monks as he is dying. He is the patron saint of scholars and historians.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 8:23 PM


Wow, what riches! Thanks.

P.S. If you and Zac are planning to do downtown Greensboro this weekend again, let me know, I may be down there a couple of times (maybe the Green Bean tomorrow, and church Sunday of course, near UNCG).
Blogger Jane R, at 1:33 PM  
It would have been great to run into you downtown, but I will be in Rowan Co interviewing for a rector position- (I'm on the short list of 2...) I will give you a yell next time we go downtown though.

Blogger PadreRob+, at 4:08 PM  
Jane pointed me hither and I am so glad. As former vicar of St Cuthbert's, Oakland, I have a deep interest in the Saxon and Celtic saints of this period. Nice to see mention of Adrian and Theodore and the scholarship they fostered at Canterbury!

At one of the blogs honoring Bede today I must tell the following story: While praying at Bede's tomb one afternoon in the summer of 1997, I felt a tingling in my fingers. I had knelt beside the tomb and was praying with arms outstretched and my hands on the tomb itself. It did not stop until I finished praying and removed my hands. I felt honored that the venerable saint should greet me. Either that or he was saying, Hey, get your hands off the marble; your acid sweat's not good for it.

If you see Jane, give her a hug for me. Paul Strid, Albuquerque.
Blogger Paul, at 4:12 PM  
Yay, a finalist interview! I'm going to light a major candle to La Virgen de Guadalupe. I hope all goes well. If you bring the Adorable Son they're sure to hire you, right?
Blogger Jane R, at 5:38 PM  
:) Thank you Jane; she is my patron saint. I was ordained to the priesthood on her Feast Day.

And, yup, I'll def let Zac charm them :)
Blogger PadreRob+, at 5:45 PM  

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