If you are fortunate enough to ever be in Wales on the first of March, I'd like to think that you would find the country in a festive mood, with lots of people celebrating St. David's Day in one way or another. Saint David, as you're likely to know, is the patron saint of Wales who was a Celtic monk, Abbot and Bishop in the sixth century. During his life, he was the Archbishop of Wales, and was one of many church leaders who helped to spread Christianity among the pagan Celtic tribes of western Britain.
Like other Celtic saints of his generation, David is said to have been of royal lineage. His father was prince and his mother was the daughter of a local chieftain as well as being a niece of King Arthur (so legend has it!).
David is recalled as being a very gentle person who lived a frugal life. It is claimed that he ate mostly bread and herbs - probably watercress, which was widely used at the time. He is sometimes known as 'David the Water Drinker' as water was an important part of his life - he is said to have drunk nothing else. Despite this supposedly meagre diet, it is reported that he was tall and physically strong.
David, along with a number of companions, travelled far on his missionary journeys through Wales, where he established several churches. He also travelled to the south and west of England and Cornwall as well as Brittany and possibly Ireland.
He founded a monastery at Rose Vale on the banks of the small river Alun where the lovely cathedral city of St. David stands today. The monastic brotherhood that David founded was very strict, the brothers had to get up early in the morning for prayers and afterwards to work hard to maintain the life of the monastery, either on the land; beekeeping or craft work. The daily cycle would include times of prayer; the celebration of the Mass; work and refreshment.
The monks had a reputation of feeding themselves well from the produce they grew, but would also be generous in their hospitality towards the many pilgrims and travellers who needed lodgings. They also had to feed and clothe the poor and needy in their neighbourhood.
It is claimed that David lived for over 100 years, and it is generally accepted that he died on 1st March 589. His last words to his followers were in a sermon on the previous Sunday: 'Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things in love that you have seen and heard about. Walk the path that our forebears have trod before us'.
'Do the little things in love' is a very well-known phrase in Welsh, and has proved an inspiration to many as they seek to walk in the way of Christ. On a Tuesday, the first of March, in the year 589, where it is said the monastery was 'filled with angels as Christ received his soul'.
David's body was buried in the grounds of his own monastery, where the Cathedral of St. David now stands. After his death, his influence spread far and wide - first through Britain, along what was left of the Roman roads, and by sea to Cornwall and Brittany.
Sadly I don't appear to have any Welsh blood in me, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to recognise St. David's Day, or singing 'Guide me O Thou Great Redeemer' at the top of my voice. I also love to hear the Welsh Male Voice Choirs especially when listening to 'Land of My Father's'. So for all those with roots in Wales, or who yearn to have a bit of Welsh in you, I want to offer you this lovely Welsh blessing, which is a little thing but is offered in love:
'Wishing you a house full of sunshine,
Hearts full of cheer,
And love that grows deeper each day of the year'.