29 February 2024

Dewi Sant (Saint David), Patron of Wales

Dewi Sant (St David) is the Patron of the Principality of Wales. As in Ireland with the shamrock on St Patrick's Day, the Welsh wear leeks and daffodils in honour of their Patron.

According to tradition, St. David was the son of King Sant of South Wales and St. Non. He was ordained a priest and later studied under St. Paulinus. Later, he was involved in missionary work and founded a number of monasteries. The monastery he founded at Menevia in Southwestern Wales was noted for extreme asceticism. David and his monks drank neither wine nor beer - only water - while putting in a full day of heavy manual labour and intense study. Around the year 550, David attended a synod at Brevi in Cardiganshire. His contributions at the synod are said to have been the major cause for his election as primate of the Cambrian Church. He was reportedly consecrated archbishop by the patriarch of Jerusalem while on a visit to the Holy Land. He also is said to have invoked a council that ended the last vestiges of Pelagianism. David died at his monastery in Menevia around the year 589, and his cult was approved in 1120 by Pope Callistus II. He is revered as the patron of Wales. Undoubtedly, St. David was endowed with substantial qualities of spiritual leadership. What is more, many monasteries flourished as a result of his leadership and good example. His staunch adherence to monastic piety bespeaks a fine example for modern Christians seeking order and form in their prayer life. His feast day is March 1.

The legendary story of Dewi Sant from Storynory, a site with stories for children, including tales of the Saints.

David’s father was the King of Ceredigion, and some say that he was the nephew of the famous English King Arthur, whose knights sat around a round table. David’s mother was a poor but beautiful young woman, and the King did not look after her. When she was ready to give birth to David, she found that she was caught outside in a storm. The sky was filled with great flashes of lightning, and there were terrifying crashes of thunder. Hail and rain were coming down everywhere, except on the spot where she got herself ready to deliver the child. All around her was dry and lit by the sun.
David was baptised by a blind monk. Some of the water from the font splashed onto his eyes, and immediately he could see.
When David grew up he became a monk, and he travelled around Wales and England. He founded monasteries and churches including the famous Abbey at Glastonbury where it is said that King Arthur is buried. You can still see the beautiful ruins of the Abbey to this day.
David told his followers to be vegetarians and, of course, they ate a lot of leeks which grow very well in Wales. The monks who joined him had to give up much more. They didn’t use animals for farming – and they even pulled ploughs themselves instead of using oxen. They weren’t allowed to own any possessions, and if one of them said “My book” he had to do a penitence, which is a kind of punishment.
Despite his tough ways, St. David became very popular – perhaps because he had the gift of working miracles. For instance, when his neighbours' land was drying up, he stuck his staff into the earth and a spring sprung out of the ground. A local ruler became very jealous of his popularity, and his wife told him to send slaves with sticks to beat David and his monks – but as they came to attack the monks, their arms lost all their strength, and all they could do was to hurl filthy insults at them. When they returned home, they found that all their cattle had died. They returned to the monks and asked forgiveness. This time when they went back, all their cattle had come back to life.
Another time, some of St. David’s monks turned against him and decided to poison his food, but a friend of his in Ireland foresaw this in a dream and he sent St. Scuthyn to warn him. There were no ships ready, to carry Scuthyn across the Irish sea to Wales, but he waded into the water and a sea monster picked him up on his back and carried him across. When he arrived he warned St. David that his cook had put some deadly poison into his bread. At dinner time, St. David broke the bread into three pieces. He gave one piece to a dog, and another to a crow – both immediately died. Then he blessed the third piece, which he ate himself. Everyone watching thought that he would surely die too – but he was perfectly alright.
His most famous miracle happened at a great religious meeting. There was a vast crowd of people in the audience, and not one of the bishops who spoke could make themselves heard – except for David. The ground beneath him rose up into a hill so that he stood high up above the crowd, and a dove landed on his shoulder. His voice rang out as clear as a trumpet. St. David is often pictured speaking with a dove on his shoulder.
David became Bishop, not just of the Welsh, but of all the Britons. At that time, the Britons often had to fight off Saxon invaders from Europe. Before one great battle, St. David told the army of the Britons to wear leeks in their hats as a kind of uniform. They won the battle, and ever since leeks have been a welsh symbol. To remember the victory, Welsh soldiers eat raw leeks on the eve of St. David’s day.
St. David lived to be more than 100 years old, and as he was dying, the monastery in which he lay was filled with angels. His last words were “Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd,” which means, “Do the little things in life,” and to this day, it’s a common saying in Wales.
The only picture I could find
with his name in Welsh!

Happy St David's Day!

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