St. David, the patron saint of Wales

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March 1 marks the celebration of Wales’ own St. David, a sixth century monastic miracle worker who helped spread Christianity amongst the pagan celtic tribes.

Most of what we know is based on the Latin writings of Rhygyfarch, who composed his biography about 500 years after David’s death. St. David was born around 500 A.D, became a priest and preacher, and established monasteries and churches throughout the country. It is said that his monks lived a very strict and silent lifestyle of work and prayer, surviving off of vegetables, bread and water, as well as plowing the fields without the help of animals. They were known for their asceticism, rejecting sensual pleasures. St. David took a pilgrimage to Jerusalem where he was made a bishop, and later was named Archbishop of Wales in 550.

The most notable miracles associated with St. David involve him shedding tears onto a dead child and bringing him back to life, and the sudden conception of a hill upon which he preached to a crowd to be better heard. A white dove, his emblem, was said to have landed on his shoulder.

David is said to have died in 589. He was buried at what is now St. David’s Cathedral, which was built in the 12th century on the site of one of his monasteries in Pembrokeshire. His shrine, a popular pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages, had to be reconstructed after a Viking raid.

He was supposedly canonized by Pope Callixtus II in 1120.

There’s a mysterious text called the Armes Prydein, written about 940 A.D, that helped St. David grow in popularity. The poem predicts that one day the Brythonic people would unite under the Welsh and the banner of St. David and defeat the English.

Prayer:

Almighty God, on this special day for the people of Wales,

we remember Saint David, your servant.

We give thanks for his passion for the Gospel

which helped to spread Christianity;

We give thanks for his purity and simplicity of life

which enabled his pursuit of Christian perfection;

We give thanks for his gentleness, but clear spiritual leadership.

Grant that we may learn from him

and respond to the words that are thought to be his last:

‘Be steadfast, and do the little things’;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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