The Venerable Bede
( Originally Published 1883 )
The well authenticated miracles which are mentioned in the Ecclesiastical History of the Venerable Bede, are so numerous that it is difficult to make a selection—that such were, however, wrought both by the hands of St. Augustine, and in his time, is evident from contemporaneous testimony.
Pope Gregory (says Bede) sent Augustine a letter concerning the miracles that he had heard had been wrought by him, wherein he admonishes him not to incur the danger of being puffed up by the number of them ; he says :—" I know, most loving brother, that Almighty God, by means of your affection, shows great miracles in the nation which he has chosen. Wherefore it is necessary that you rejoice with fear, and be apprehensive in rejoicing on account of the same heavenly gift, viz., that you may rejoice because the souls of the English are by outward miracles, drawn to inward grace but, that you fear, lest amidst the wonders that are wrought the weak mind may be puffed up in its own presumption. And later, he says, whatsoever you shall receive or have received, in relation to working miracles, that you consider the same, not as conferred on you, but on those for whose salvation it has been given you."
The following is one of those miracles :
Augustine, with the assistance of King Ethelbert, drew together to confer with him, the Bishops, or Doctors of the next Province of the Britons, at a place, which is to this day called Augustine's Ac, that is Augustine's Oak, when St. Augustine tried to induce them to undertake the common labour of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, and to keep Easter at the proper time, but they preferred their own traditions before all the Church in the world, which in Christ agree among themselves. The Holy Father, Augustine, put an end to this troublesome and tedious contention by saying : " Let us beg of God, who causes those who are of one mind, to live in His Father's House, that He will vouchsafe by His heavenly tokens to declare to us which tradition is to be followed, and by what means we are to find our way to His Heavenly Kingdom. Let some infirm person be brought, and let the faith and practice of those, by whose prayers he shall be healed, be looked upon as acceptable to God and be adopted by all." The adverse party unwillingly consenting, a blind man of the English race was brought, who, having been presented to the priest of the Britons, found no benefit or cure from their ministry. At length, Augustine, compelled by real necessity, bowed his knees to the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, praying that the lost sight might be restored to the blind man, and by the corporeal enlightening of one man the light of Spiritual Grace might be kindled in the hearts of many of the faithful. Immediately, the blind man received sight, and Augustine was by all declared the Preacher of the Divine Truth.
The following is the epitaph written on the tomb of St. Augustine :
" Here resteth the Lord Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, who, being formerly sent hither by the blessed Gregory, Bishop of the City of Rome, and by God's assistance, supported with miracles, reduced King Ethelbert and his nation from the worship of the Idols to the faith of Christ, and having ended the days of his office in peace, died the 7th day of the Kalends of June, in the reign of the same King."
The following miracle, which appears to be very well authenticated, shows the faith of the Saxons in several doctrines of the Catholic Church, and how widely that Church (from which the Church of England claims her descent) differed from its present doctrines :—
" In a certain battle, wherein Elfwin, the King's brother, was killed, a memorable fact is known to have happened, which (says the Venerable Bede) I think ought not to be passed over in silence, for the relation of the same will conduce to the salvation of many. In that battle, one Imma, a youth, belonging to the King was left as dead, and having lain so all that day and the next night among the dead bodies, at length came to himself, and sitting, bound up his wounds in the best way he could. Then, having rested a while, he stood up and began to go off to seek' some friends that might take care of him ; but in so doing he was discovered and taken by some of the enemy's army, and carried before their Lord, who was an Earl belonging to King Ethelred. The Earl entertained him, and ordered his wounds to be dressed, and when he began to recover, to prevent his escaping, he ordered him to be bound, but that could not be performed, for as soon as they that bound him were gone his bonds were all loosened. He had a brother called Tunna, who was a priest, and Abbot of a Monastery in the city, which from him is still called Tunnacestre. Hearing that his brother had been killed in the fight he went to see whether he could find his body, and finding another like him in all respects concluding it to be his, he carried the same to his Monastery and buried it honourably, and took care often to say masses for the absolution of his soul, the celebration whereof occasioned what I have said—that none could bind him, but he was presently loosed again. In the meantime, the Earl that kept him was amazed, and began to inquire why he could not be bound, whether he had any spells about him as are spoken of in fabulous stories. He answered, he knew nothing of those contrivances ; " but I have," said he, " a brother who is a priest in my country, and I know that he—supposing nie to be killed—causes masses to be said for me, and if I were now in the other life, my soul there, through his intercession, would be delivered from pain."
As soon, therefore, as he had recovered he sold him at London to one Frisco, but he could not be bound by him the whole way, as he was led along, and though his enemies put several sorts of bonds on him, they were all loosed. The buyer, perceiving that he could in noway be bound, gave him leave to ransom himself if he could, for at the third hour (nine in the morning) when the masses were wont to be said, his bonds were generally loosed. He having taken an oath that he would either return or send him the money for his ransom, went into Kent to King Lothere, who was son to the sister of Queen Etheldrid, above spoken of, for he had once been her servant. He obtained of him the price of his ransom, and, as he had promised, sent it to his master. Returning afterwards into his own country, and coming to his brother, he gave him an exact account of all his fortunes, good and bad ; and by his relation he understood that his bonds had been generally loosed at those times when masses had been celebrated for him, and that other advantages which had accrued to him in his time of danger had been conferred on him from heaven through the intercession of his brother and the oblation of the saving sacrifice. Many persons, on hearing this account from the aforesaid man, were stirred up in the faith and devotion of piety, either to prayer or to almsgiving, or to offer up to our Lord the sacrifice of the holy oblation for the deliverance of their friends who had departed this world, for they understood, and knew, that such saving sacrifice was available for the eternal salvation both of body and soul.
This story was also told me by some of those who had heard it related by the person himself to whom it happened ; therefore I thought fit to insert it in our Ecclesiastical History, as I had it fully made out to me."
It is well known that there are in the Catholic Church many bodies of the saints which remain uncorrupt to the present day. Of these, the first account which will be given will be from the writings of the Ven. Bede, and then the very remarkable one of St. Cecilia.