Feast of St David

Saint David Top News

Saint David, or Dewi Sant – monk, abbot, bishop, confessor, and patron of Wales – seems to have led a holy life surrounded by lots of other saints.

Born to St Non, who was possibly a niece of King Arthur, the young David was baptised by St Elvis of Munster, schooled by St Illtyd then by St Paulinus (whom he cured of blindness with the sign of the cross), and apparently went on to teach St Finnian. St Scythun saved him from poisoning. St Teilo and St Padarn accompanied him to Jerusalem, where the Patriarch anointed him archbishop. There too he met up with St Dubric and St Daniel and helped them confound the Pelagian heresy.

Saint David, or Dewi Sant – monk, abbot, bishop, confessor, and patron of Wales – seems to have led a holy life surrounded by lots of other saints.

Born to St Non, who was possibly a niece of King Arthur, the young David was baptised by St Elvis of Munster, schooled by St Illtyd then by St Paulinus (whom he cured of blindness with the sign of the cross), and apparently went on to teach St Finnian. St Scythun saved him from poisoning. St Teilo and St Padarn accompanied him to Jerusalem, where the Patriarch anointed him archbishop. There too he met up with St Dubric and St Daniel and helped them confound the Pelagian heresy.

It seems anybody who was anybody in those days must be a saint! Certainly, this reflects the priorities of the historians and hagiographers who wrote down St David’s life. Chief among them is perhaps Ricemarchus, or Rhyghfarch, who recounts David’s many wondrous miracles, such as when a hill rose under his feet so that the great crowd could hear and see him preach. Although the reliability of Rhyghfarch’s account, written some 500 years after David’s death, is doubtful, we can still aspire to follow in St David’s footsteps today, for we are all capable of holiness. When the histories and legends of the 2010s are written hundreds of years from now, I hope they will be full of saints like Illtyd, Paulinus, and David.

David’s legendary achievements may seem beyond us: he helped evangelise the pagan Celtic tribes in Wales, England, Ireland and Brittany; founded or restored twelve monasteries; enacted a rigorously ascetic Rule in his monastery at Glyn Rhosyn (now St David’s in Pembrokeshire); became Bishop of Menevia; died aged over 100, on 1st March sometime in the late sixth century; and was canonised by Pope Callistus II in 1120.

But holiness is not about achievement. It is an orientation of faith, gratitude and love towards God and neighbour. So there is no reason we cannot be just as holy as David in our own humble ways, especially if, during this Lent and beyond, we take to heart his dying words, and be found ‘doing the little things in God’s presence with conscientiousness and devotion‘.

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