Herebald and Bishop John of Beverly

Looking at John’s miracles, Bede was in contact with one of John’s former clergy (HE IV:6). Abbot Herebald of Tynemouth reported a miracle that happened to him which he credited to John. Herebald’s story is a charming one of the bishop and his entourage traveling through the countryside on horseback with eager young men out to run their horses. Young and disobedient Herebald had ran his horse with the boys and fallen off, cracking his head on a rock. Eventually they managed to get the badly injured Herebald to the monastery and Bishop John insisted on sitting up all night praying and watching after his foolish young clergyman. John was particularly distressed over whether his clergyman had been properly baptized. Herebald replied that he had and named the priest. Bishop John knew the priest and declared that baptisms done by him were not valid. He claimed that the priest was ordained but lacking in understanding about catechism and baptism. John had ordered the priest to no longer practice his ministry. John then blew on Herebald’s face and healed him, but he called the surgeon to finish the healing. Bishop John immediately began teaching the boy all over again and in a few days baptized him (again).

Its an interesting little story. I am left wondering if John was so distressed not just that the boy was seriously injured but that perhaps he had been lax in seeing that his charges were properly schooled and baptized. I am also wondering if this dull priest was perhaps one ordained by the Irish before 664 and refused to change his ways. Bishop John’s apparent positive schooling by Bishop Theodore would make him a real Roman convert like Egbert of Iona. Bishop John’s connections to Archbishop Theodore may explain why overall he was so successful as a bishop with a long episcopate in Hexham and even longer in York. Interesting that he had been bishop for 33 years, just as his first teacher Hild had been in the church for 33 years (abbess for 32 years). Given Bede’s close association with Bishop John’s clergy and that John was a student of Abbess Hild, it is just possible that Bede’s stories of Hild came to him through John’s clergy, who used the same types of symbolism.


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