Thursday, March 1, 2012

Happy St. David's Day - in Welsh: Dydd Gwyl Dewi

St. David - 19th century stained glass window in Jesus College Chapel, Oxford

St. David's Church -
Built in its present form 1181 - St. David's Flag

Saint David: Born in Caerfai, Pembrokeshire, Wales.
Major shrine: St David’s Cathedral, Pembrokeshire, Wales.
Patron Saint of vegetarians and poets.

Saint David's Day (Welsh: Dydd Gŵyl Dewi) is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, and falls on 1 March each year. The date was chosen in remembrance of the death of Saint David on that day in 589, and has been celebrated by followers since then. The date was declared a national day of celebration within Wales in the 18th century.

Every year parades are held in Wales to commemorate St. David. The largest of these is held in Cardiff.

St. David was born towards the end of the fifth century, less than a hundred years after the last Roman legions had marched out of Wales. Over fifty churches and innumerable holy wells were dedicated to him in Wales alone.

The saint was conceived through violence and his poor mother, Non the daughter of Lord Cynyr of Caer Goch, gave birth to him on a cliff top during a violent storm.

David was educated at what is usually taken to be Whitland in Carmarthenshire under Saint Paulinus of Wales. He became renowned as a teacher and preacher, founding monastic settlements and churches in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany in a period when neighbouring tribal regions were still mostly pagan. He rose to a bishopric, and presided over two synods, as well as going on pilgrimages to Jerusalem (where he was anointed as an archbishop by the Patriarch) and Rome.

St David's Cathedral now stands on the site of the monastery he founded in the remote and inhospitable valley of 'Glyn Rhosyn' in Pembrokeshire.

The Monastic Rule of David prescribed that monks had to pull the plough themselves without draught animals; to drink only water; to eat only bread with salt and herbs; and to spend the evenings in prayer, reading and writing. No personal possessions were allowed: to say "my book" was an offence. He lived a simple life and practiced asceticism, teaching his followers to refrain from eating meat or drinking beer.

The best-known miracle associated with Saint David is said to have taken place when he was preaching in the middle of a large crowd at the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi. When those at the back complained that they could not see or hear him, the ground on which he stood is reputed to have risen up to form a small hill so that everyone had a good view. A white dove was seen settling on his shoulder—a sign of God's grace and blessing. The village of Llanddewi Brefi is said to stand on the spot where the miracle occurred.

Many Welsh people wear one or both of the national emblems of Wales on their lapel to celebrate St. David: the daffodil or the leek on this day. The association between leeks and daffodils is strengthened by the fact that they have similar names in Welsh, Cenin (leek) and Cenin Bedr (daffodil, literally "Peter's leek").

The flag of Saint David often plays a central role in the celebrations, and can be seen flying throughout Wales.

In contrast with the other national patron saints of the British Isles, Saints George, Andrew and Patrick, David is a native of the country of which he is patron saint, and a relatively large amount of information is known about his life. However, his birth date is still uncertain, as suggestions range from 462 to 512.

It is claimed that David lived for over 100 years. The monastery is said to have been 'filled with angels as Christ received his soul'. His last words to his followers were in a sermon on the previous Sunday. Rhygyfarch transcribes these as 'Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.'

'Do the little things in life' ('Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd') is today a very well-known phrase in Welsh, and has proved an inspiration to many.

David was buried at St David's Cathedral where his shrine was a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages.

Happy St. David’s Day to all.

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