St Bede the Venerable

Doctor of the Church (entered heaven in 735)

Dear Beth,

If it is true that the pen is more powerful than the sword (which I am willing to admit) than I am quite relieved to have your pen on our side.  Another writing prize? I daresay that you will probably be able to pay your entire tuition with proceeds from essay contests if you continue along these lines.  As your loving uncle, however, I have to put in a little caveat: you put in a couple of cheap shots in that last paper – praising Napoleon to the detriment of the Pope (who was truly charitable to the ungrateful emperor) was clearly (to me anyway) a clever way to ingratiate yourself with those anti-Catholics on the panel of judges.  Tut tut, my darling little authoress, beware the prowling lion. If you begin now, while still an “amateur,” to make little compromises for the sake of worldly success, you may someday end up winning a Nobel Prize, but it could cost you a pretty eternal penny. Better to keep God first in everything, developing your talents to the full, but using them only to further truth, justice, and beauty – not your personal fame, power, and vanity.

Take today’s saint, for example.  The Venerable Bede was sent off to a monastery school in northern England when he was seven years old, and he spent the rest of his influential and exemplary life within that convent’s walls (with the exception of a few trips to visit friends in other monasteries).  By his own description, he spent “my whole life in that monastery, devoting all my efforts to the study of the Scriptures, and amid the observance of monastic discipline and the daily charge of singing in the church it has ever been my delight to learn or teach or write.”  And boy did he write. Commentaries on the Bible, compilations of the works of the Fathers, the most famous Ecclesiastical History of the English People (the only source of English history before to the 8th century), countless sermons (many of which still form part of the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours), and much else besides.  But he always wrote what he wrote out of love for the truth and wisdom of God. He put it best himself in this little prayer: “And I pray thee, loving Jesus, that as thou hast graciously given me to drink in with delight the words of thy knowledge, so thou wouldst mercifully grant me to attain one day to thee, the fountain of all wisdom, and to appear forever before thy face.”  During the brief illness that led to his death, he spent his time (confined in bed) dictating a translation into English of the Gospel of John, dying only a few moments after finishing the last sentence, with the “Glory be” wafting heavenward on his final breath.

So wield that pen well, my delightful little niece, so that when you bring it with you to our Lord at the end of your life (may it be a long and prolific one), he will give it a place of honor in his royal arsenal, and welcome you home with a glad smile.  Keep up the good work.

Uncle Eddy

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