Lent Madness: Hilda of Whitby vs. the Venerable Bede

This is a battle of contemporaries. Bede was born eight years before Hilda’s death and most of what we know about Hilda is from the writings of Bede. In recent action, Richard Hooker overwhelemed Clement of Rome 80% to 20%. The updated tournament bracket is here: Lent Madness 2010

Hilda of Whitby (614-680) was the founding Abess of the Monastery in Whitby, England. The source of our information about Hilda’s life is from the Venerable Bede’s “The Ecclesiastical History of the English.” According to Bede, Hilda was brought up in the court of King Edwin of Northumbria after her father, the king’s brother, was poisoned when Hilda was an infant. She was baptized along with King Edwin and his entire court in 627.

As a young woman she entered a convent, influenced by St. Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne. In 657 she founded the monastery in Whitby, where she remained until her death. Bede describes her as a woman of great energy, wisdom, and a skilled administrator. Many kings and princes sought her council and it is no accident that the Synod of Whitby was held at her monastery in 664. It was here that the church in England decided to follow the Roman rather than the Celtic path, a decision that would impact the course of Christianity in Great Brittain.

A Collect for Hilda of Whitby: O God of peace, by whose grace the abbess Hilda was endowed with gifts of justice, prudence, and strength to rule as a wise mother over the nuns and monks of her household, and to become a trusted and reconciling friend to leaders of the Church: Give us the grace to recognize and accept the varied gifts you bestow on men and women, that our common life may be enriched and your gracious will be done; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Venerable Bede (672-735) was a monk at St. Peter’s monastery in Northumbria. He was a scholar of the first order, his most famous work being “The Ecclesiastical History of the English People.” It is because of this book that he became known as “The Father of English History.” In 1899, Bede was made a “Doctor of the Church” by Leo XIII, a position of theological significance and the only native of Great Britain to achieve this designation.

Bede was incredibly prolific, writing scientific, historical and theological works. His interests were amazingly broad ranging from music to Scriptural commentaries to grammar. His library held between 300-500 books, making it one of the largest in all of England.

Bede was not referred to as “Venerable” until the 9th century. According to legend the epithet was miraculously supplied by angels, thus completing his unfinished epitaph

A Collect for the Venerable Bede: Heavenly Father, you called your servant Bede, while still a child, to devote his life to your service in the disciplines of religion and scholarship: Grant that as he labored in the Spirit to bring the riches of your truth to his generation, so we, in our various vocations, may strive to make you known in all the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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