Chanting "Glory Be to the Father" Bede Died

Chanting "Glory Be to the Father" Bede Died

Suffering from a lung infection, Bede sang, and prayed, and urged his pupils to learn quickly, for he did not have much time left to live. What a fearful thing it is to fall unprepared into the hands of the living God, he warned them. Then he divided his few prized possessions, including a little precious pepper, among his fellow monks. His sufferings did not make him bitter; on the contrary, he thanked God, believing his pains were a scourging at the hands of a loving Father. He labored hard to complete the Gospel of John and to make some extracts from the works of Isidore.

On this evening, May 26, 735, his secretary, a lad named Wilbert, said, "Dear master, there is one sentence still unfinished." "Very well," he replied, "write it down." After a short while, the lad said, "Now it is finished." "You have spoken truly," Bede replied. "It is well finished. Now raise my head in your hands, for it would give me great joy to sit facing the holy place where I used to pray, so that I may sit and call on my Father." Chanting "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son," he died. So passed one of the noblest men who lived.

Bede is known as "the venerable," a name rarely applied to major figures of history. He is also called the Father of English History. No student need dig deep to appreciate why both names are deserved. His life was filled with piety and his Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation is almost our only satisfactory source of material on the early history of the Anglo-Saxons in England. Bede selected his anecdotes with care, crediting his sources when possible. Although filled with miracles, the history has narrative interest and lucidity. Its events are reported without prejudice, but with wide learning in a dignified tone.

In an autobiographical sketch, he tells of many of his other writings, the bulk of them scriptural interpretations. He informs us that he was a servant of Christ and priest at the monastery of Peter and Paul at Wearmouth and Jarrow. "I was born on the lands of this monastery, and on reaching seven years of age, I was entrusted by my family first to the most reverend Abbot Benedict and later to Abbot Ceolfrid for my education." There is speculation his parents died while he was very young. "I have spent all the remainder of my life in this monastery and devoted myself entirely to the study of the scriptures. And while I have observed the regular discipline and sung the choir offices daily in church, my chief delight has always been in study, teaching and writing. I was ordained deacon in my nineteenth year, and priest in my thirtieth... ."

As a young man he survived a plague which wiped out most of the choir. He had cheated death once, but not again. The prayer with which he closed his history would aptly fit his death: "I pray you, noble Jesus, that as you have graciously granted me joyfully to imbibe the words of Your Knowledge, so You will also of Your bounty grant me to come at length to Yourself, the fount of all wisdom, and to dwell in Your presence forever."


  1. Asimov, Isaac. "Bede." Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology; the living stories of more than 1000 great scientists from the age of Greece to the space age, chronologically arranged. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1964.
  2. Bede. A History of the English Church and People [Ecclesiastical History of England]. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1968.
  3. "Beda, Bede, or Baeda." Kunitz, Stanley L. British Authors Before 1800; a biographical dictionary. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1952.
  4. "Bede or Baeda." Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. London: Oxford University Press, 1921 - 1996.
  5. "Bede, St." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.
  6. "Bede, the Venerable." Dictionary of Scientific Biography; edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie. New York: Scribner, 1970 - 1980.
  7. Blair, Peter Hunter. The World of Bede. London: Secker and Warburg, 1970.
  8. D'Souza, Dinesh. The Catholic Classics. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 1986.
  9. Kunitz, Stanley L. British Authors Before 1800; a biographical dictionary. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1952.
  10. Thurston, Herbert. "The Venerable Bede." The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1914.
  11. Various encyclopedia and internet articles and references in histories of English literature.

Last updated April, 2007.

Originally published April 28, 2010.

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