Just a bit of History… Psalm 3

But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
I was crying to the Lord with my voice, And He answered me from His holy mountain.
I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me round about.
–Psalm 3:3-6

800px-IMG_WilliamBedell0537This was the text from which Bishop William Bedell preached to his fellow-prisoners in the time of the Irish rebellion in 1642, when he and the Protestants of the district were shut up in hold, and in danger of death at any moment. He was one of the best bishops who ever lived in Ireland, and, had his example been generally followed, the Reformation would have made much greater progress in the country. He learned the Irish language, had the Bible translated into it, was assiduous in Christian work, and filled with the spirit of meekness and self-sacrifice. The word “bedel in Hebrew signifies the metal tin, and so deep was his desire of an entire renewal that he took for his motto, Isaiah 1:25, ‘I will purely purge thy dross,and take away all thy (bedel) tin.‘ He lived from 1570 to 1642, and, when he died in the midst of these troubles, the Irish had such regard for him that they fired a volley at his interment, and cried, Requiescat in pace ultimus Anglorum —  May the last of the English rest in peace.

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The French Protestants, in the time of their persecution, had psalms adapted to their varied circumstances. The 3rd Psalm was for the stationing of sentinels to keep watch against sudden attack; when the danger was over, and they could worship in safety, they sang Psalm 122nd.

A little more about a great Christian and part of your Christian heritage: The Rt. Rev. William Bedell, D.D. (Irish: Uilliam Beidil; 1571 – 7 February 1642), was an Anglican churchman who served as Lord Bishop of Kilmore, had the Bible translated into Gaelic, and became a martyr of the Reformation during the Irish Rebellion of 1641. 

He was born at Black Notley in Essex, and educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was a pupil of William Perkins. He became a fellow of Emmanuel in 1593, and took orders. In 1607 he was appointed chaplain to Sir Henry Wotton, then English ambassador at Venice, where he remained for four years, acquiring a great reputation as a scholar, theologian, printer, and Missionary to the faithfull leaving under Roman Catholic tyranny of the Inquisition.

He translated the Book of Common Prayer into Italian, and was on terms of close friendship with the Italian patriot, and supporter of the Reformation, Paolo Sarpi. He wrote a series of sermons with Fulgenzio Micanzio, Sarpi’s disciple. In 1616 he was appointed to the rectory of Horningsheath (near Bury St Edmunds, where he had previously worked), which he held for twelve years.

In 1627, because of his ceaseless efforts for nationalist evangalism, he was appointed provost of Trinity College, Dublin, despite having no prior connection with Ireland. Thus, he was at the forefront of advancing the Irish Reformation when he decreed that the Collect including the New Testament be read in Gaelic so that the masses might understand in contrast to the Catholic method of reading in Latin. In 1629, he was appointed to become Bishop of Kilmore and Ardagh. He set himself to reform the abuses of his diocese, which has with other Catholic diocese had been notorious in its corruption, bribery, graft. Additionally, to further encourage literacy and religious enlightenment he encouraged the use of the Irish language in all aspects of ecclesiastical affairs, and personally undertook the duties generally discharged by the bishop’s lay chancellor. He is noted for commissioning the translation of the Bible into the Irish Language, which translation was undertaken by the Protestant Rector of Templeport parish, The Rev. Muircheartach Ó Cionga. He would appoint only Irish speakers to parishes.

In 1633, he resigned the see of Ardagh, retaining the more primitive bishopric of Kilmore, where he had encountered some opposition from Anglican and Catholic nobles for his undertaking of reaching out to the Irish Commons. He was determined to rebuild the neglected church buildings throughout the diocese, where, in 1638, he held a synod of all the Anglican priests and officers within the diocese to discuss lax discipline. He was asked by the court of the Plantation Commission to ‘lay out’ the town of Virginia, County Cavan after complaints from the residents there about the landlords’ failure to build the town and provide a church for worship.

Bedell was a man of simple life, often walking miles on foot or on horse, travelling the dangerous byways. This was a particularly dangerous period as Irish Catholic nobles and leaders who adhered to ancient privileges of the Chieftainship made common cause with Catholic powers in Europe in causing treason, sedition, sabotage and partisan warfare. Indeed, Bedell made it a point of entering anti-Protestant and especially anti-English areas encouraging and providing assistance to converts to Protestantism, including supporting them whilst studying for the ministry.

Bedell was also noted for his even application of the law in prosecuting the law and providing help against corruption, regardless of persons religious adherence. For instance, he sided with the Catholics of Kilmore against the excess of Alan Cooke, the incumbent chancellor of the diocese. However, the church courts found that Cooke had legally acquired the right as chancellor, and the Bishop was unable to remove him.

Because of his support within the common Irish, especially the Catholic Irish leadership fearful of his standing, he was a high value targets by Irish Catholic rebels. With the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, the local warlords, led by the O’Reillys, took control of the area. Nonetheless, while support for the rebellion had yet to bear full fruit the rebel leadership trod carefully around the popular bishop. Thus, the O’Reillys “gave comfortable words to the Bishop” and Bedell’s house at Kilmore in County Cavan was left untouched.

Indeed, because of Bishop Bedell’s popularity among Catholic and Protestant’s alike, not only did Protestant Irish refugees quickly flee to him, but also Catholics who were unwilling to join the rebellion. As the rebellion grew increasingly bloody and entire Protestant families and then towns were murdered, Bedell’s property, became a place of refuge for hundreds of families from the area seeking shelter from the rebel insurgents.

In the end, however, the rebels insisted upon the immediate release into their capture of all who had taken shelter in his house. Knowing full well that they would likely be mass murdered, the bishop refused. Having isolated the Bishop and the refugees, the rebels believed they could murder the bishop and refugees in silence. They mounted an assault, seized the Bishop and other known missionaries of the Reformation, and imprisoned them on the nearby island castle of Lough Oughter, Cloughoughter Castle.

Here, Bedell and other were tortured while imprisoned for several weeks. When the rebellion began to subside, his captors fearing for their own safety, forced him into signing a deposition and a remonstrance from his captors, ‘pleading on their behalf for graces from King Charles.’ Freed, Bedell was now into the care of his friend Denis Sheridan but the imprisonment and torture had worked their damage. Shortly after his release Bedell died from his wounds and exposure on 7 February 1642.

Bishop Bedell was afforded the dignity by his captors of being buried next to his wife Leah at Kilmore, where he received an honourable funeral in the presence of his O’Raghallaigh (O’Reilly) captors. At his funeral, a Roman Catholic priest, Father Farrelly, was heard to say, “May my soul be with Beddell’s”.

The story of his life was written by Bishop Gilbert Burnet in 1685 and by his elder son (ed. T. W. Jones, for the Camden Society, 1872). Bedell’s Last Will and Testament is available through the UK National Archives.

 Character excerpts from Wikipedia