Feast of Saint David by A.J. Sefton
Some years are barren and in others, abundant. Daffodils. But whether they are growing naturally or are of the paper variety, there is no avoiding them on 1 March in Britain. These lovely spring flowers of eternal cheeriness and hope are the national flower of Wales, 1 March being Saint David’s Day, the Patron Saint of Wales.
This day is a triple celebration for me personally. I love Wales, the little principality of the United Kingdom, and Saint David is one of my favourite saints. Of course, daffodils are one of my favourite flowers and we know the winter is over when they show their bright heads. Oh, make that four things. The place of Saint David’s Cathedral is Brtian’s smallest city, which also happens to be my favourite city. It’s called…Saint David’s.
At the time of David’s life, in the sixth century, Saint David’s was known as Menevia and David (or Dewi in Welsh) was the bishop there. He was nicknamed ‘water drinker’ because he ate a simple diet of vegetables and bread and probably drank no ale. Unusual for folk back then. Besides being the patron saint of Wales, David is also the patron of vegetarians. It is written that he refused his monks the use of oxen to pull the plough on the monastery farm. He said that “every man is his own ox” demonstrating a kindness to animals. Statues of him often depict a dove on his shoulder.
Saint David was a real person, which is good because so many saints have little evidence to support their existence. However, there are several legends surrounding him:
Before his birth
The first legend is set 30 years before David was born when an angel foretold his birth to Saint Patrick.
The legend of his birth
Saint David’s father was a prince called Sant, son of the King of Cardigan.
His mother, Non, was the daughter of a local chieftan (and possibly the niece of King Arthur).
But David wasn’t the child of a love-filled marriage. He was born after his father either seduced or raped Non, who went on to become a nun.
Non left her family and gave birth by the sea. So intense was the birth that her fingers left marks where she grasped the rocks.
As David was born a bolt of lightning from heaven struck the rock and split it in two.
The legend of his baptism
St David was baptised by Saint Elvis of Munster, and it is said that a blind man was cured by the water used for the baptism.
David’s early life, and another legend
David was schooled at the local monastery, Hen Fynyw, which is south of present day Aberaeron, and was taught by Paulinus, a blind monk.
David cured Paulinus of his blindness by making the sign of the cross. Realising that David was a special and holy person, Paulinus sent him off as a missionary to convert the pagan people of Britain.
David died on 1 March 589 and was recognised as a saint by Pope Callixtus in 1120.
Although I am not Welsh (my mother-in-law is) I always celebrate Saint David’s Day by filling my home with daffodils and eating Welsh cakes. This September my daughter is off to a Welsh university, Aberystwyth. I shall visit her often.
Happy Saint David’s Day.