A brief note before this day ends, on Saint David, sixth-century monastic bishop, now patron, of Wales, born at an unknown date, but who likely died on this day, March 1st, in 589, based on what evidence we have. He was acclaimed bishop after an eloquent sermon denouncing the stll-lingering heresy of Pelagianism. His life of prayer, the sacraments and good deeds seems to have been rather devoid of legendary miracles oft attributed to saints of that era – one recounted is that a hill rose in height as he preached a sermon, prompting one modern Welshman to comment that one hardly think of a more superfluous miracle in that part of Wales. But David was renowned for his holiness, his monastic reform, and his evangelical work in establishing Christianity in that once-pagan country. One of his sayings, still popular, is Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd – which I will refrain from trying to pronounce, at least in public, but it means something like ‘do ye the little things in life‘, which is very Sainte Theresian, twelve centuries before the French Carmelite.
Wales was, like the rest of the British Isles, a solidly Catholic people until the tragedy of the Reformation, begun under Henry VIII, who looted and robbed David’s shrine, as he did the rest of them, and all the monasteries as well, not one of which survived his pillage and wreckage. Wales is still predominantly Christian – about 72% – but only 6.7% Catholic. And that’s on paper. One wonders what Covid – or rather, as I am now wont to clarify, our response to Covid- will do to further undo David’s work.
Thomas More’s quip to Richard Rich that it profits a man nothing to lose his soul for the world, but for Wales, may bring a smile to our lips with our mind’s eye on much empty, rocky, wet and sodden terrain. But Christ died for Wales, as He died for England, as He died for all of us. May the prayers of Saint David bring us all to see that it profits a man everything to give up all things for one individual soul, not least his own.