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Saint Benedict Biscop


The surname of this Benedict was Biscop. He was born in the year 628, of the highest Saxon nobility, and was ever very dear to the devout King Oswy of the Northumbrians, whose thane he was. At the age of twenty-five he restored his estates to the King, and put away all thought of marriage and of advancement in this world, and rather gave himself over to the things of God; who made use of him in the establishment of learning and ecclesiastical decencies throughout England during the times when Saints Theodore and Hadrian were labouring to these ends. His first thought was to visit the shrines of the blessed Apostles at Rome, and gain there in the Christian capitol of the world a wider learning than could be got in any other place. After his return home he did much to spread this learning in England. He returned to Rome again in the time of Saint Pope Vitalian; but shortly after he went to the monastic Island of Lerins, where Saint Vincent had lived and taught, and there he took the monastic habit and vows.

After two years he returned to Rome, at the time when Saint Theodore, the Greek monk, was about to be sent as Archbishop to Canterbury. And Saint Vitalian, knowing his worth, ordained him, and sent him along with holy Theodore. When they came to Canterbury, Benedict was made Abbot of the Monastery of Saints Peter and Paul in that city, until Saint Hadrian was able to come from Rome to England and assume the government thereof. Whereupon Benedict undertook still another journey to Rome, and brought back a great library of books to England, some of which he had begged and others which he had bought. Then he betook himself to King Egfrid of the Northumbrians, the son of his former master and friend. The same made him an ample gift of ground at Wearmouth, for a monastery. After the founding of which, Benedict obtained masons from Gaul to build him a stone church, and glaziers to glaze the windows; for hitherto in England stone buildings were rare and glass-making unknown. After this he took for the fifth time the long and perilous journey to Rome; and necessaries which he could not obtain in Gaul he brought back with him.

In particular he brought back John, the Precentor of Saint Peter's Church in Rome, to teach in England the true ecclesiastical chant and the principles of liturgical prayer. After his return from this journey Benedict, by another benefaction of the same King Egfrid, founded another monastery, namely, at Jarrow upon the Tyne. When this foundation was secure, he went for the sixth time on a mission to Rome. But on his return therefrom he found that a pestilence had carried away many of his friends, and in the monastery of Jarrow no one was left but the Abbot, and a lad named Bede who lived to become known as The Venerable. Benedict soon afterwards lost his health and suffered for three years. During which he oftentimes impressed upon the brethren the necessity of keeping the rule, and of preserving the excellent and abundant library which he had brought together as a needful equipment for sacred learning. He fell asleep in the Lord upon January 12th, 690, and was buried in the monastery at Wearmouth. His feast is usually observed on February 12th.


O GOD, who to the blessed Abbot Benedict Biscop, gavest grace to imitate Christ in his poverty, and with humble heart to follow him to the end: grant that all who enter the path of Gospel perfection may neither look back nor go astray from the way, but hastening to thee without stumbling, may attain the crown of eternal life whereunto thou doest call them. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Anglican Breviary, Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation, Inc., New York, 1955, pages 1849-1850; 1685

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