Would you believe me if I told you that Pope Francis daily receives guidance and inspiration from an Englishman?
In fact, the Pope chose words from this Englishman to be his own personal motto, and he placed them on his papal crest.
The Englishman in question is someone cherished also by Anglicans all over the world.
He is someone who lived nearly 1500 years ago. He was a prolific writer and is generally regarded as the founder of English history.
His name? The Venerable Bede.
It seems Pope Francis is particularly impressed by Bede because in his writings the saint stresses the need for people to show mercy.
Bede entered a monastery at Jarrow when he was only seven years old. Perhaps he was placed there by his family because they were too poor to look after him.
Bede’s master work was his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, commissioned by the Northumbrian king and completed in 731.
Bede gathered information from all over Britain, and even from the papal archives. His talent was one of collecting together fragments of myth, tales, and oral traditions, and weaving together a coherent history. So popular was Bede’s Ecclesiastical History that Alfred the Great had it translated into Anglo-Saxon.
Bede is credited with almost single-handedly popularising the use of “BC” and “AD” as terms of calendar reference.
An oddity in his writings is that more than once he says he was married, that he had a wife. Either priests and monks were allowed to marry at this time in England, or else these passages are simply instances of Bede employing a rhetorical device.
Mercy is usually thought of as “kindness or help given to people who are in a very bad or desperate situation.”
Have you noticed that the gospels never paint a picture of Jesus by telling us how he looked? Instead, they paint a picture of Jesus by showing us what he did—by his acts of mercy.
Even the Old Testament grasped the importance of mercy. “What does God want from us?” it asks, before giving the answer: “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
The ministry of Jesus was a ministry of mercy.
Even his first words on the Cross were a prayer for mercy: “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”