I love the month of March. Meteorologically its arrival represents the beginning of Spring, the days are noticeably getting longer and the daffodils and snowdrops are in full bloom.
For us at Saint David’s March is special in another way, for the first of the Month is the feast of Saint David, our patron saint. David lived in the Sixth Century, the son of St. Non and the grandson of the Prince of Ceredigion. There are many legends surrounding his life, but what is certain is that he founded a monastery at what is now Llantwit Major, South Wales and that he was active in preaching and spreading the Gospel in a country where many were still hostile to what was seen as a new teaching. David was part of a small band of the so called “Celtic Saints” whose influence was to spread far and wide throughout the land we now call Britain.
The sixth century was a difficult time, the relative stability afforded by the Roman Empire was a fading memory and there was a new threat on the horizon with the first appearance of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes; even the Church was divided between those that followed the Celtic Christian tradition and those that followed the traditions of Rome.
Students of history soon discover that times of stability are often short lived. I, and many others, in Britain have been fortunate to live through times that have been stable; yes, we have had our ups and downs but overall things have gone well but change is on the horizon and for some it has already started. In March we could see the triggering of Article 50 and the beginning of negotiations to leave the European Union chipping away at that stability many of us have known for the past forty years or so. We don’t know what is to happen and I know in talking to people some find that disconcerting. I have also talked to other people that no longer have stability simply because their work involves short term contracts or zero hours pay. Some of those people are in what was once considered good jobs and ‘a career for life’. The more I talk to people the more I realise that for many the old stabilities have already gone.
So what should the Christian response be? Well, we can learn something from the likes of David and the other early Celtic Saints. Firstly, they had a faith rooted deep in the belief that God loved them. Their early prayers constantly talk of God being the rock on which they stood and his love the breastplate that protected them. Secondly, they did not hide behind the walls of their monasteries but travelled out meeting people as they struggled to get by. They did not confine themselves to preaching but they also listened, to better understand the hopes and the fears of the people in order to help them bring God into every aspect of their lives. Thirdly, their monasteries were not just a place of prayer for a select few but were open to all. Many, including David’s, grew up to be small towns with people involved in all sorts of crafts, but all centred on the church at its heart.
We have many challenges facing us now and in the near future. Individually, we need to find our rock on which to stand our breastplate to protect us from whatever may cause us harm; the God of St. David seems a good place to start. Individually, and as a Church we need to be less insular, we must open ourselves to listen to others, to understand them, to support them and know better how to pray for them. Finally, as a Church we must seek to be even more community with doors open to all whether it is to pray, to work or just to meet in a safe space.
Remembering David, and his work perhaps I can paraphrase a well known slogan: Saint David is not just for March 1st, he is for life.
Dydd gwyl Dewi hapus – Happy St David’s day
(This article was originally published as part of St David’s Messenger in March 2017)