Thursday 22 June 2023

St David of Wales - Rev David Crowley - CTS Biographies

St David of Wales
CTS Biographies
Rev David Crowley
Catholic Truth Society
CTS Booklet B414

This book was another that was harder to track down, it was well worth doing so. I love readings books that are part of the CTS Biographies series. I have read some published just this year (2023) and some over 100 years ago. This one is in the middle with a publication date of 1955. A few years ago I read Dewi Sant: St David Patron of Wales, by J.B. Midgley, who wrote mainly for the CTS but not this specific volume. This started my interest in this saint. My son found out this is the patron saint of his school Saint David’s in Waterloo, Ontario so I decided to look for more books about him. This is one I read in that further study about Saint David of Wales, Dewi Sant.

And the sections in the volume are:

His Times
Celtic Monasticism
The Written life
Date of Birth - Parentage
Menevia and St Patrick
Birth and Early years
David the Monk
David the Reformer
His Death
Miracle and Legend
St David in Art

This is a small volume. But it is wonderfully written. It is one of only 3 volumes on Saint David I have found written for adults. I highlighted a number of passages while reading this small volume. They are:

“WALES for the last 300 years has been so identified with Protestantism, especially Non-Conformity with its extreme hostility to Catholicism, that it comes as a surprise, even to Catholics, to learn that that same Wales has a long and ancient Catholic past. The Welsh nation has been Catholic for three times as long as it has been Protestant. It can boast of a good thousand years of Catholic Faith.”
“St David was born at the end of the fifth century. It must have been a turbulent and restless Wales into which he was born. Roman rule had ceased at the beginning of that century; Roman legions withdrew from Britain in 409 and with them the law and order and discipline of Imperial Rome.”
“There was no security, with the result that the better element amongst the Celts of
Wales and Cornwall felt themselves to be displaced persons in their own land. Many of them emigrated to Brittany, and colonized that still Celtic and Catholic land. Something was needed to give the people an ideal, a unity, a sense of belonging to some greater and more ordered entity, and it came with the rise of monasticism.”
“Great Celtic abbots soon became renowed as masters of the monastic life : Samson, Illtud, Cadoc, Gildas and David these alone in little Wales; nor was their fame confined to the borders of their own land. St David's active influence seems to have been pre-eminent. He founded the historic See of Menevia-later to be known as St Davids- and he remains to this day the national and patron saint of Welshmen.”
“It seems impossible to state with accuracy the exact date of St David's birth and death. Authorities differ so much. He was born right at the end of the fifth century and lived for the greater part of the sixth. He is said to have been baptized by the Irish St Ailbe. T. P. Ellis gathered that the years 49? to 5~2 or .589 are as near as we can ever get. He almost certainly died on March 1st, which day is still his feast day.”
“St Non (or Nonnita) was St David's mother. Her name is perpetuated in at least five parishes in different counties of Wales. There is St Non's Bay near St Davids and the ancient St Non's Well which is now in Catholic hands. A beautiful tomb and effigy of her are to be seen in Brittany at Dirinon, Finistere, where a mystery play was annually acted in her honour. She was and still is much revered in Catholic Brittany. A metrical Life of St David and St Non is attributed to King Richard the Lion-Hearted.”
“St Patrick's Chapel, now in ruins, marks the spot in Porth Mawr where he sailed for Ireland, and there was also a spot, the " Seat", Eisteddfa Badrig, from which the mountains of Ireland are visible. Ireland returned the compliment later, for there are churches dedicated to St David in the Irish dioceses of Cloyne, Ferns and Kildare.”
“At a later age David may have gone to the great school of St Illtud either at Llantwit Major or Caldey, or both. The ninth-century Life of St Paul Aure!ian says that he with Samson, Gildas and David were disciples of Illtud.”
“Having embraced the monastic life David soon became the successor of Paulinus as abbot, and to obtain vocat10ns and spread the monastic ideal he left his native place and went on a missionary tour. If we are to accept Rhygyfarch's map of his itinerary we are to credit David with religious foundations at Glastonbury, Bath, Croyland, Repton, Leominster and Raglan. On his return he moved his monastery to yallis Rosina - the new Menevia. There by his zeal and the spirtual direction of his monks he soon became an acknowledged master of the monastic life. His fame spread beyond Wales to Cornwall, Brittany and Ireland.”
“It is interesting to note that the earliest reference we have to St David is an Irish one. It is found in the eighth-century Catalogue of the Saints of Ireland-the Saints of the Second Order (from 544-598)-and it is a curious one. It says-"A Davide episcopo et Gilda et a Doco Britonibus missam acceperunt." "They received the Mass from Bishop David, Gildas and Docus (or Cadoc)."”
“Nevertheless, these penitential decrees of St David became known outside his own country and were incorporated into some of the greater Penitentials which had such vogue in English and Continental monasteries. That their idea originated in Wales and Ireland cannot be doubted. Some particular excerpts of St David's decrees survived m what is known as the Book of David.”
“There is evidence that Pope Callixtus II was aware of and approved of the age-old veneration of St David. Two Welsh bishops were present at the Council of Rheims at which that Pope presided in II 19. The affairs of the Welsh dioceses were very much before the Holy See at that time. Later Pope Callixtus issued a Bull from the Lateran Palace to the Bishop of St Davids wherein he couples the saint's name with that of St Andrew as the patron saints of St Davids. This is tantamount to an explicit Papal recognition of St David's cult, which from a purely local one became a national one and traversed the Welsh borders when it was accepted by the Province of Canterbury. King William the Conqueror, a relative of Callixtus II, went on pilgrimage to St David's shrine. So, too, did King Henry II, Edward I and Queen Eleanor.”
“All roads in Wales led to St Davids. The road to his shrine was called "The Holy Way", and there was even a well-known pilgrim route from as far as Holywell in the north. Thus his cult developed until he became the much revered patron saint of Wales, Dewi Sant, and was accorded his honoured place, too, in the English and Armorican liturgies.”
“St David's biographer-Rhygyfarch-ensured that his saint would not be outdone in wonder and miracle by any other. There was a competitive spirit amongst medieval hagiographers which led them to exaggerate and over-embellish their subject. Their statements now can neither be proved nor disproved; we are quite free to be credulous or critical. But whichever our attitude, we cannot fail to find interest and often amusement in reading their eulogistic efforts.”
“Well and truly did St David implant in the hearts of his Welsh children the seeds of a deep and abiding Catholicism. Built, as it was by him, upon that Rock which is Peter, it withstood through the centuries all the storms and buffetings which ever assault it ; and when that cataclysm came which is called the Reformation, there was no part of the British Isles where it was more unwelcome and more loyally and whole-heartedly rejected than in Dewisland.”
“As late as 1722 Erasmus Saunders can write of the people of St Davids: “If we have not yet quite unlearned the errors of our Popish ancestors it is because the doctrines of the Reformation begun about 200 years ago in England have not
effectually reached us”.”
“Though taut at times and other times slack, nevertheless there runs through all the thousand years and more after St David, as the golden thread of Welsh history, the Catholic Faith. The Celts have long memories and deep hidden longings. How well Chesterton expressed these things in his poem on St David:
     “Mine eyes were shy with secrets-
     A hymn is hid in my speech ; it may cry to Thee still”.”

This was an excellent little biography. I am very thankful I was able to track down this volume. My son has now read the volume and he has lent it to both his English and Drama teachers at the school named after this saint. It is a fascinating read, and this one gives a lot more historic evidence for the arguments then some others I have read. I can easily recommend this book if you can lay your hands on it. A great read.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.


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