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“BE JOYFUL, KEEP THE FAITH”

Father Francis's picture
Saint David

In the islands of Great Britain and Ireland there are four patron saints. Andrew was born in lsrael, George in Cappadocia and Patrick supposedly in Wales – only David was a native of the country of which he is patron.

He was said to be the son of a Welsh prince. Born near St. Bride's Bay in Dyfed around the year 520, he received his early training from St. Illtyd and, after ordination, he retired to the Isle of Wight and embraced an ascetic life. He spent many years in study and prayer preparing for his future ministry of preaching the Gospel to the Britons. He built a chapel at Glastonbury, a place associated with the first apostles, and founded 12 monasteries in South Wales where monks were required to follow a strict rule consisting of hard manual labour, study and constant prayer. They were to speak only when absolutely necessary, and their diet was restricted to bread and vegetables. Many men were attracted to the monasteries, and admission was far from easy.

It was about this time that the Pelagian heresy sprang up again in Britain. Pelagius was a British monk, possibly from North Wales, who went to Rome around the year 400. He began teaching and promoting his idea that salvation can be achieved by human effort alone, without any assistance from the grace of God. The bishops, seeking a way to suppress this heresy, held a synod at Brefi, in Cardiganshire, which David was asked to attend. He composed a learned treatise which refuted the arguments of Pelagius and conclusively quashed the heresy. On the spot where this synod was held the church of St. David was later built.

Shortly after the synod the bishop of Caerleon, St Dubritius, resigned his see to David who then requested it be transferred from what was a busy city to Menevia, a quiet and solitary spot now known as St. David's. A second synod which he later assembled confirmed the decisions of the first, and established the rule and standard of the British Churches.

David died about 588, at the age of 68, and in 962 his relics were transferred to Glastonbury, where he had founded his first chapel. Today we honour him as Patron of Wales.

He found strength in solitude and a simple lifestyle. His message is given to us in the hymn to Saint David which is brief and inspiring, “Be joyful, keep the faith." He dedicated his life to preaching the Gospel and spreading the faith. We ask that he continue to care for the people of Wales and for all the people of the British Isles.