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Saint David's Anglican Church

Saint David's Anglican Church

About St. David

St David

It seems right that at St. David’s Anglican Church we should know some things about St. David himself, other than that he is the patron saint of Wales, and that many centuries ago he was ordained Bishop of Wales by the Patriarch of Jerusalem in replacement of Dubricius (Welsh, Dyfrig) his predecessor. These are notable facts in themselves, given the rich heritage of Welsh culture in Poultney and the surrounding area.

Unfortunately, not much is known for sure about the man, and what we do have is at best sketchy information. Even his birth and death dates are uncertain. His birth may have occurred as early as A.D. 454 and his death has been estimated to be A.D. 601 at the latest. Much of the information that exists about St. David is legendary, so don’t expect all the dates below to line up and make sense.

The first biography of St. David is from the end of the 11th century, by Rhygyfarch, son of the bishop of St. David’s at the time. Some historians believe Rhygyfarch’s motive in writing was controversial and intended to support the claim of the Welsh episcopate to be independent of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Again, what information we have must be held with a loose hand, and how much is historical and how much is legendary and imaginative is difficult to decide.

What we do know of St. David is that he founded twelve monasteries, that he lived an extremely ascetic life, and that he was passionate in both spreading and defending the Christian faith. It has been historically established that he attended the Synod of Brefi (the modern Llanddewi Brefi, in Cardiganshire) about the year ca. A.D. 545-560. He was canonized in A.D. 1120.

I’ve looked into several sources of potential information about St. David, and decided that what follows (copied verbatim from the website A Full Homely Divinity) is as good a place to start in our search for knowledge of the man. If nothing else, its a good read, and we can all impress our friends with how much we know (?) about David, patron saint of Wales. Having a recipe for leek soup close at hand would be all the more impressive !

- Pastor Jim

March 1st is the Feast of Saint David (in Welsh, Dewi Sant) of Mynyw (Menevia), the patron saint of Wales. Born in the latter half of the 5th century, he was the son of a noble woman named Non. She had entered the religious life at the convent of Ty Gwyn, but her beauty had attracted the attention of a local prince who forced himself upon her, leaving her pregnant with the future saint. David was born in the midst of a violent storm on the coast near Menevia (modern Saint David's). The ruins of a chapel and a holy well mark the spot to this day.

Some sources say that David was related to King Arthur (either his mother's uncle or her nephew) and the great Welsh bard Taliesin (his half-brother's foster son). Given his mother's religious vocation, it is not surprising that David was drawn to a vocation in the Church early on. He studied under Saint Paulinus of Wales and Saint Illtyd and, after he was ordained to the priesthood, he set about evangelizing the still largely pagan land of Wales.

He founded several monasteries, the greatest of which was at Menevia where he presided as abbot. The rule of this monastery emphasized simplicity of life. The monks did not use animals to pull the plough, but pulled it themselves. They did not drink wine or eat meat. David himself got the nickname "the waterman" from the fact that he drank only water and also because he would often spend hours immersed up to his neck in cold water while he prayed.

After founding the monastery at Menevia, David went with two of his followers, Saints Teilo and Padarn, on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There, it is said, they were consecrated as bishops by the Patriarch of Jerusa-lem. Upon their return to Wales in 545, David was summoned to a synod of the Church in Wales at Brefi (later known as Llandewi Brefi, "the holy place of David at Brefi"). The synod was called to address matters of church discipline and to deal with the spreading heresy of Pelagianism. As David preached eloquently against heresy, the ground miraculously rose up beneath him so that all who were present could see him and hear him more clearly. And a dove settled upon his shoulder as a sign of God's grace. Moreover, Saint Dyfrig, then Archbishop of Wales, was so moved that he resigned the archbishopric in favor of David. As Archbishop, David relocated the primatial see from Caerleon to Menevia.

David's exploits also took him to the ancient British holy place of Glastonbury. He went, intending to consecrate the church there, but was warned in a dream that our Lord himself had already consecrated the ancient church there in honor of his Mother. So David had a new church built on to the east end of the old church and endowed it with a famous sapphire altar. David lived to a very great age and died on March 1, 589, in Menevia where he was buried and where his relics are still venerated to this day in the cathedral and city which now bear his name. In his last sermon to his monastic brothers, he urged them to "Be joyful, and keep your faith and creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about." To "do the little things” became a popular saying in Wales, a reminder that the pursuit of holiness does not require great heroics but is just as frequently found in a life of simplicity and quiet faith.

Once, during a battle with Saxon invaders, the Welsh were unable to distinguish between friend and foe on the battlefield. St. David suggested that the Welsh fighters wear a leek on their hats. They did, and they won the battle. Ever since, the leek has been the national symbol of Wales. On Saint David's Day, the tradition is to wear a leek on your lapel or on your hat. Leek cawl (soup) and other dishes made with leeks are eaten on this day. Modern recipes for leek cawl generally have bacon or chicken stock, but a version that would be more in keeping with the ascetical practices of the saint, and with the Lenten season in which his feast often falls, would omit meat of any sort. The leek and the daffodil share the same Welsh name, ceninen, so the daffodil has also become a popular symbol of Saint David and of Wales.


‘Almighty God, who didst call thy servant David to be a faithful and wise steward of thy mysteries for the people of Wales: Mercifully grant that, following his purity of life and zeal for the Gospel of Christ, we may with him receive our heavenly reward; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.’

A Collect for David, Bishop of Menevia, Wales.
From Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 3rd ed.  


Related Links

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The 1928 Book of Common Prayer Daily Offices
Ordo Calendar and The Church Year Occasional Offices
1928 BCP of Fixed Holy/Saints Days Propers for Sundays, Holy Days and Saints Days
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