Blessed Feast of St. Benet Biscop!

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Re-posting below a biography of our patron and a prayer I hobbled together from a couple of sources.

As this inaugural group of St. John’s oblates of the Chapter of St. Benet moves forward from its humble beginnings, I thought it might be helpful to give an idea of the kind of life St. Benet would have known as he grew up. The photo of the village is made up of the typical buildings that housed Northumbrians in that period.  (The paved circular drive might be a tad anachronistic.)  Though the young Biscop was of a noble family, this didn’t mean he lived in anything like a stone or marble palace.  Northumbria was a prosperous part of Europe in the seventh-through-the-ninth centuries (before the turmoil caused by the arrival of the Danes).  But it had its marches-of-the-civilized-West elements, which makes the spiritual, cultural, scholarly, and artistic accomplishments of Sts. Benet and Bede all the more impressive.

The photo of the chancel is of the part of St. Paul’s Church (CofE), Jarrow that existed in Bede’s day. The English of that period didn’t build stone structures.  So St. Benet’s buildings were wondrous to behold and—those parts of them still standing—still are.

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Life of St. Benet Biscop.

Born around 628 to a noble Anglo-Saxon family, the young Biscop Baducing served as a thane (lord) in the court of King Oswy (Oswiu) of Northumbria. At twenty-five, Biscop made the first of five pilgrimages to Rome.  Impressed by what he saw in Rome, the young Biscop returned to Northumbria and contributed to King Oswy’s 664 declaration that shifted Christianity in Northumbria from Irish to Roman practices.

It was on Biscop’s second pilgrimage that he stopped at Lérins in 666 and took both the monastic habit and the name Benedict (shortened to Benet). A study trip to Rome in 668 resulted in Pope Vitalian asking Benet to accompany Theodore of Tarsus to England since the latter, a Greek who had never been to England, was to become that country’s next Archbishop of Canterbury.

In 674, St. Benet founded St. Peter’s monastery Wearmouth and founded St. Paul’s monastery Jarrow in 682, both on land given by Oswy’s successor, King Ecgfrith. From Rome, St. Benet brought relics, books, and paintings.  Abbot John, Arch-cantor of St. Peter’s in Rome, also made the trip to teach chant at Wearmouth and Jarrow.  The Venerable St. Bede, one of St. Benet’s pupils, relates that the abbot of Wearmouth-Jarrow brought craftsmen from what is now France to erect the first English ecclesiastical structure in stone and with glass windows.

In 686, the indefatigable traveler fell ill and was bedridden. Never recovering fully, he died 12 January 690.  His feast day is January 12th.

As a monk whom circumstances drew out of the cloister, St. Benet serves as a model for oblates who strive to lead lives of recollected prayer apart from the monastic enclosure. St. Benet’s breadth of vision and his appreciation of the importance of worthy liturgy played an immense role in influencing English Christianity.

St. Benet Biscop Prayer.

Almighty God, by whose gift the blessed Abbot St. Benet Biscop

gained wisdom and breadth of vision,

grant that, by your grace,

we may imitate his love of praising thee in the beauty of holiness

and of magnifying thee upon earth with music,

that hereafter we may sing the new song in the heavenly city;

and grant us also that same fidelity of thy servant St. Benet

to the path of evangelical perfection,

neither looking back nor lingering in the way;

and that hastening to thee without stumbling,

we may lay hold upon eternal life.

Through thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord,

who, with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost,

liveth and reigneth God, world without end.

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