Today is the feast of St Benedict Biscop, founder of the Benedictine twin monastery at Wearmouth and Jarrow.
Benedict lived between AD c.628-690 and taught the Venerable Bede when the latter was still a young boy. He was also something of a traveller, making several trips to Rome during the course of his life.
Yesterday, I read about Benedict in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History and came across a story that made me smile. The reason for this was a very modern one. Have you heard of the phrase ‘to mug someone off’? The more brutal definition of it can be found at the Urban Dictionary here. In my experience, though, to mug someone off could also be defined as ‘to treat a person badly either deliberately or inadvertently’.
Benedict and a young man named Wilfred set off for Rome together. The two crossed the English Channel and entered Gaul…
On their arrival at Lugdunum (Lyons), Wilfred was detained there by Dalfin, bishop of the city; but Benedict continued on his journey to Rome without staying. For the bishop took great pleasure in the young man’s wise conversation, graceful appearance, and enthusiasm for action, as well as in his balanced and mature opinions.
Now, it’s possible that Wilfred and Benedict parted ways before the former was asked to stay by Bishop Dalfin. What made me smile, however, (and, of course, I am very sorry for it) is the thought that Benedict stayed with Wilfred until they reached the Bishop’s home and had to endure listening to His Lordship compliment his companion to the high heavens before inviting him to stay behind while saying nothing to Benedict (i.e. blanking him) before he set out again. That’s not just a mugging off, but a proper mugging off.
The humour in this serious moment is firstly in the juxtaposition of a modern idea with an ancient event and the fact that the muggee is a bishop – someone who ought to be a very unlikely candidate for the practice of mugging someone off!
I’m sure it didn’t happen like that, but even just the thought that it might have done made me smile. On a cold winter night, one takes the smiles where one can!
Benedict Biscop – Ora Pro mei
Wilfred and Dalfin – Da mihi veniam!