March 1 is the feast of St. David, and so the national day of the Principality of Wales. Together with Cornwall, Brittany, and Cumbria-Strathclyde, it was one of the last refuges of the Romano-British Celts from the Anglo-Saxons. Alongside their lands, their folk hero, Arthur (in all likelihood the last dux bellorum of Britain – whether or not he used the title) was appropriated by the nascent English to be their King Arthur, and serve as the foundation-stone of English literature. In any case, as I have written elsewhere, March, in addition to being the month of St. Joseph may be considered the Celtic month par excellence due to the presence of Ss. David of Wales, Piran of Cornwall, and Patrick of Ireland calendar leaves, even though the Manx must wait until April, the Bretons until May, and the Scots November until their respective patronal days roll around. I have also written of the supposed independent Celto-British Church, upon whose mythos so much of anti-Papalist Anglicanism and Presbyterianism depends.
Those particular dreams aside, the recently renewed shrine of St. David in Wales and his ongoing veneration in the Catholic shrine at Glastonbury should remind us of the importance of “Wild Wales” to the patrimony. In common with the other Celtic lands, Wales was evangelised by a plethora of interrelated monastic saints. The subsequent history of the country featured the gradual absortion of power by the English, culminating in the defeat of Owain Glyndwr’s rebellion. Henry’s break with Rome fell heavily upon the Welsh, as it did the Cornish. There were quite a number of martyrs, and up until the Civil Wars Wales remained primarily Catholic, as the writings of such as Dom William Pugh reveal. Wales was primarily Royalist during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. But the supply of Welsh-speaking priests gave out, and while such families as the Mostyns of Talacre, Jones of Llanarth, and Vaughans of Courtfield kept the Faith for themselves and their tenants, by the beginning of the 19th century these and the small groups of Welsh Catholics around St. Winefride’s Well, Brecon, Abergavenny, and Monmouth were about all that was left.
The penetration of Wales by Anglicanism was shallow, though, and many families held on to various Catholic customs: folk songs and dances, and veneration of Holy Wells, for example – and there were a number of hereditary guardians of various saints relics scattered about. The Jacobites long had a following in Wales. But the spiritual vacuum that opened up was filled starting in the late 18th century by Calvinistic Methodist preachers, who soon captured the majority of the Welsh, and were responsible for the destruction of much of the remaining folk culture – much to the chagrin of George IV’s Harper Royal, Edward Jones. But the CM’s did excel at hymn-singing, and Welsh choirs remain hauntingly beautiful.
The local symptom of 19th century Romanticism was the Welsh version of the Celtic Twlight; apart from the work of Lady Llanover (whose descendants, despite her own evangelicalism, are now among the afore-named Catholic Jones clan), this led to the revival of such cultural institutions as the National Eisteddfod. But it also impelled elements of what was left of Welsh Anglicanism to regroup and respond. Bishops of the calibre of Alfred Ollivant and Thomas Vowler Short, the latter a friend of Newman, Keble, and Pusey. A plethora of Anglo-Catholic (or Cambro- or Siluro-Catholic?) clerics followed, who should be remembered: Rice Rees, Richard Williams Morgan (who was also connected with F.G. Lee), John Williams, John David Jenkins, and Morris Williams. From this milieu arose Arthur Machen, the noted horror writer. Steeped in the traditions of his native Caerleon, his work ranged far, from sublime meditations on the Holy Grail to stinging criticisms of religious and political liberalism. Nevertheless, the defection of the vast majority of the Welsh from the Church of England led to the creation by law of the Welsh dioceses into the Church in Wales and its disestablishment. Since then it has shared in the general decline of Anglicanism.
The Catholic Church was not idle during the 19th century either, as Irish immigrants gave some numbers to the Faith, and there were a number of noted converts among the Welsh nobility, such as the Earl of Denbigh, the Marquess of Bute, and Lord Tredegar. In time, such 20th century Welsh Nationalists as Saunders Lewis and H.W.J. Edwards came to see the Church as the true spiritual home of their people. To-day, the ecclesiastical province of Cardiff includes the Archdiocese of that name and the dioceses of Menevia and Wrexham. In addition to St. Winefride’s Well, there are such shrines as Our Lady of the Taper in Cardigan, as well as to such martyrs as St. David Lewis, St. John Kemble, St. Richard Gwyn, and Bl. William Davies. While Welsh Anglicanism may be crumbling, as with the revival of St. David’s there is a move afoot to revive routes in northern and central Wales to such ancient sites of pilgrimage as St. Melangell’s. There also Ordinariate communities so far in Southeast and West Wales, as well as Presteigne on the central border.
There may seem little to do in the immediate about the Welsh element of the patrimony, save to pray for the country’s conversion, visit the country’s shrines when and if able, and to rediscover her writers. But the Welsh diaspora has maintained a number of societies, some of which celebrate St. David’s day in grand style –and a few of which actually maintain choirs specialising in the beautiful hymns of their homeland. If an Ordinariate community should be located near such a place, parishioners might attend and get acquainted. One might even invite a Welsh choir to give a concert if the community in question has its own space. It is hard to think of a more enjoyable means of evangelisation!
Prayers for the Conversion of Wales
O Almighty God,
Who in Thine infinite goodness
has sent Thine only-begotten Son into this world
to open once more the gates of heaven,
and to teach us how to know, love and serve Thee,
have mercy on Thy people Who dwell in Wales.
Grant to them the precious gift of faith,
and unite them in the one true Church
founded by Thy Divine Son; that,
acknowledging her authority and obeying her voice,
they may serve Thee, love Thee, and worship Thee
as Thou desirest in this world,
and obtain for themselves everlasting happiness
in the world to come.
Through the same Christ our Lord.
Our Lady, Help of Christians,
pray for Wales.
pray for Wales.
pray for Wales.
- Catholic Online
The Daily prayer said by Ransomers in Wales is:
Jesus, Give Back The Faith To Wales
Jesus, Have Mercy On This Country.
Our Lady of Ransom, Pray for us
St David, Pray for us
St Winifred, Pray for us
St David Lewis, Pray for us
St Richard Gwyn, Pray for us
Blessed William Davies, Pray for us
Blessed Martyrs of Wales, Pray for us
Prayer for Wales Ransomer prayer
O Almighty God, Who in Thine infinite goodness has sent Thine only-begotten Son into this world to open once more the gates of heaven, and to teach us how to know, love and serve Thee, have mercy on Thy people Who dwell in Wales. Grant to them the precious gift of faith, and unite them in the one true Church founded by Thy Divine Son; that, acknowledging her authority and obeying her voice, they may serve Thee, love Thee, and worship Thee as Thou desirest in this world, and obtain for themselves everlasting happiness in the world to come. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
- Guild of Our Lady of Ransom, Walsingham
Remember, 0 Lord, what is come upon us: consider and behold our reproach.
We are become as orphans without a father. Our parents have sinned, and are not: and we have borne their iniquities.
Therefore is our heart sorrowful; therefore are our eyes become dim,—for mount Sion, because it is destroyed.
Convert us, 0 Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted: renew our days, as from the beginning.
- Call upon Me in the day of trouble.
- And I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me.
- O Lord, hear my prayer.—R. And let my supplication come to thee.
Let us PRAY.
O God, who in a wonderful manner didst signalize thy mercies to the nation of the ancient Britons, in visiting it with the light of the Gospel, and pouring upon it a plenitude of heavenly blessings, as on a chosen and holy people; renew now to it, we beseech thee, all thy ancient mercies, and may it no longer be excluded from thy favours. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Grant, 0 Almighty Father, that the intercession of the ever glorious Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and of blessed David, may plead for this once holy and Catholic Principality; and, restoring to it thy Church in all the beauty of its primitive institution, connect it with the only Central Pillar of Truth and Apostolical Communion. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our Father, Hail Mary, I believe in God.
- Society of St. David