Tag Archives: Saint David

17 July: F is for Fishguard


What is it about Docks and Ports? Dover, East End of London, and now Fishguard? Things happen there, as they do at railway stations.

Fishguard, one of the ports to go to Ireland, is tucked into this rocky Welsh shore, not far from St David’s. I introduced readers to the late John Byrne a year ago last month; he was a highly respected Irish railway modeller.

He was also a retired sea captain. When we were in Pembrokeshire I sent him a photo of the Ferry arriving in port; he recognised her at once, saying she was not built for the Irish Sea and the Atlantic swells, but for the enclosed Mediterranean  or the Baltic, and gave many a rough ride when the wind was up.

I wonder how it was for Saint Nôn and her son David, forced into exile when he was little, voyaging on a tiny boat across the very sea that John’s big ship was so ill-equipped for?


Let us remember in our prayers all those in peril on the sea, especially those trying to cross the Mediterranean in flimsy boats. Like the one used to make the Lampedusa Cross. And remember, too, the crews who spend months at sea, rarely able to call home, ill-paid, forgotten by us consumers who depend on their hard work. crososososo1450655040


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October 17: Tarnished Offerings


Mosaic, Baptistery, Basilica of St Maurice, Valais, Switzerland 

R.S. Thomas had a holy well in his parish, sacred to Mary:

‘… Ignoring my image I peer down

to the quiet roots of it, where

the coins lie, the tarnished offerings

of the people to the pure spirit

that lives there, that has lived there

always, giving itself up

to the thirsty, withholding

itself from the superstition

of others, who ask for more.’[1]


The Samaritan woman asked Jesus: ‘Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come hither to draw.’ (John 4:13–15) Like her, those visiting Mary’s Well may have mixed or inarticulate motives: thanks for the water, but ‘asking for more’? Possibly healing, as at Saint Winifride’s Holywell or fertility?  At Saint Nôn’s Well in Pembrokeshire, we heard a party of pagans descending to hold a service in the water; one removing some of her clothing as we walked by. It did not seem opportune to ask whom they were worshipping.

In Bath Romans cast money into the water as an offering to Minerva. This ceased after the pious Emperor Theodosius I forbade offerings to pagan gods. But today’s tarnished offerings? Thomas says the ‘pure spirit that has lived there always’ accepts them.

Jesus led the conversation on from water, telling the woman: ‘God is a spirit; and they that adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth.’ (John 4:24)  R.S. Thomas invites us to plunge beyond introspection to offer thanks to a loving Creator rather than trying to force the hand of a coin-in-the-slot robot deity.




[1]R.S. Thomas, ‘Ffynnon Fair’ in R.S. Thomas, ‘Collected Poems, 1945 – 1990’, London, Orion, 2000.

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Interruption: from Pope Benedict XVI for Saint David’s Day

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When Pope Benedict visited Britain he did not experience the joy of going to Wales, but he sent this message to the Welsh people. Britain did not see itself as estranged from the rest of Europe, indeed David himself travelled widely overseas as well as within Wales.

Let us be faithful in the little things, but above all, let us have the courage of the faith, as our sisters reminded us yesterday, and be joyful!

Saint David was one of the great saints of the sixth century, that golden age of saints and missionaries in these isles, and he was thus a founder of the Christian culture which lies at the root of modern Europe. David’s preaching was simple yet profound: his dying words to his monks were:

“Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things”.

It is the little things that reveal our love for the one who loved us first (cf. 1 John 4:19) and that bind people into a community of faith, love and service. May Saint David’s message, in all its simplicity and richness, continue to resound in Wales today, drawing the hearts of its people to renewed love for Christ and his Church.

Through the ages the Welsh people have been distinguished for their devotion to the Mother of God; this is evidenced by the innumerable places in Wales called “Llanfair” – Mary’s Church. I pray that she will continue to intercede with her Son for all the men and women of Wales. May the light of Christ continue to guide their steps and shape the life and culture of the nation.

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Humility, Saints and Poets

Saint Francis was never ordained priest, let alone bishop. David, born of royal blood, became a bishop at his birthplace beside the sea in Pembrokeshire.

Francis died praising God; David urging his followers to be faithful to the little things. A quarter Welsh, I should attend to my patron.

One interpretation of David’s words is to take care of the little tasks of daily life, to do them well and cheerfully. Another, which by no means contradicts that, is not to be ambitious for the riches of this world, to be content with the little things. David was content with little: bread, water and herbs – surely that means vegetables, including his emblematic leek. Yet another reading is to be faithful to the little people; certainly the life’s work of a bishop.

For Dylan Thomas the little people of his imagined little town of Llaregub were saintly sinners, for

‘It is Spring in Llareggub in the sun of my old age, and this is the Chosen Land.’[1]

Therese would agree that, even if we are not in Wales,this is the Chosen Land, and so we are saints, even sinful saints, that walk beneath its sun. She did not always find it easy to see the saints in her sisters!

[1] Dylan Thomas: ‘Under Milk Wood‘, p48.

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