May - John of Beverley, Catherine of Bologna

John of Beverley

7th May (died 721)

Bishop of York. Born at Harpham (Humberside), he studied at Canterbury. On returning to Yorkshire he became a monk at Hilda’s double monastery of Whitby. In 687 he was consecrated Bishop of Hexham in succession to Eata. He was reputed to have shown special care for the poor and the handicapped, including one young man whom he taught to speak. He also used to retire to a hermitage for periods of prayer, and it was he who ordained Bede both deacon and priest.

On the death of Bosa in 705, John became Bishop of York. At the same time Wilfrid, now an old man, succeeded him at Hexham as part of the final settlement of his prolonged dispute with the Northumbrian kings. John, however, never incurred the enmity of Wilfrid or his followers. As Bishop of York he founded the monastery of Beverley, then in a forest. He retired there in 717, about four years before his death there on 7th May.

Both Bede and Alcuin recorded his miracles. King Athelstan (d.939) invoked his intercession for victory against the Scots. Other devotees include Julian of Norwich, King Henry V (who ascribed the victory of Agincourt on his translation feast to his intercession) and John Fisher, who was born at Beverley.

Catherine of Bologna

9th May (1413-1463)

Catherine, patron saint of Bologna and canonised by Pope Benedict XIII, lies in the convent of the Poor Clares of which she became abbess after being maid of honour in the court of the Prince of Ferrara. She wrote a book of prophecies, published in 1511, which enjoyed considerable fame. She was an artist and because she spent many hours illuminating her breviary she is considered to be the patron saint of artists (her attribute is a paint brush). She appreciated the inherent need of the human soul for things of beauty. She is sometimes shown painting a picture of the Crucifixion or nursing the Christ-Child, a reference to her vision one Christmas Eve when St Mary the Virgin appeared to her and placed the infant Jesus in her arms.

Without art we would survive, but we would not live.

Angela Newton
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 28th April 1998