MAKING ST DAVID LEWIS KNOWN THROUGH
THE MEDIUM OF
One of the aims of Friends of St David Lewis is to spread
knowledge of and devotion to St David Lewis. To that end, John Gray has
printed several hundred pictures and cards. He has even printed several
hundred copies of his own book, “All For the Glory of God”. These cards and
books had been distributed locally and, to a limited extent, in England and
As you know, a website,
FRIENDS OF SAINT DAVID
LEWIS and a blog,
LAST WELSH MARTYR, have been set up as means of bringing St David Lewis
into the 21st century. I am happy to report that we are achieving some
success in this area. We have featured several book giveaways on the blog
and these have been very successful. In total we have sent about two dozen
books around the world. The book giveaways have consisted mainly of John’s
book but ‘In Thoroughgoing Service’ by Fr Gareth Jones and the little C T S
Book, ‘Forty Martyrs of England and Wales’ have also been distributed. These
books have been requested by and sent to people in Newport, Bridgend,
London, Birmingham, Scotland, Trinidad, various parts of the U S A,
including Hawaii, various provinces of Canada, the Philippines, and even
Through the blog we also gave away about 100 of John’s cards.
Requests for them came from far and near and we sent them, free of charge,
to Newport, Bridgend, Haverford West, Llanelli, Cardiff, London, Birmingham,
Scotland, Belfast, Hawaii and other parts of U S A, Australia, the
Philippines, East Malaysia and various provinces of Canada,.
continue with book giveaways from time to time. We are at present out of
cards but John will print more and I will again feature them on the blog and
send them out to anyone who requests them.
As you can see, although we
haven’t held a meeting for several months, we haven’t been idle! Through the
medium of cyberspace we have continued to work to make St David Lewis known.
Article by: Mrs Beth Smith. (March 2011)
SAINT DAVID LEWIS; RETRACING HIS LAST
On Thursday 8th July, fourteen Friends of Saint David
Lewis decided to spend an afternoon at Usk retracing the last journey of our
dear martyr Saint. By spending some time retracing his footsteps and quiet
reflection, we hoped to enter a little more into his thoughts and feelings
during the last days of his life spent here at Usk, three hundred and
thirty-one years ago.
Our journey began at 12.30pm. from Our Lady’s Car Park,
and as we were sharing transport, we experienced a brief moment of anxiety;
would we be able to accommodate everybody? However, all was well, 14
passengers, exactly 14 seats! Many thanks to our very kind drivers who made
this trip possible. So we set off and arrived at St. Francis Xavier and St.
David Lewis Church at 1pm.
We were welcomed by Mrs Kate McLaughlin, who has lived
at Usk for many years and had kindly agreed to be our guide. Fr. Richard
Reardon, Parish Priest, also welcomed us and stayed with us during our
After a short prayer, we set off on our journey as
planned. First, we visited the spot where the old, cracked gravestone from
St. David Lewis’ grave lies beside the wall of the Church. This was very
interesting, especially as it was an opportunity to see where the plaque
which we hope to erect will be placed and to listen to John Gray as he
explained all the details involved. Fr. Richard then showed us a small piece
of stone bearing the name ‘David Lewis’ and ‘1679’, the date of his
Martyrdom, with a small plain silver cross imbedded into it. It had been
found in the undergrowth near by, and so far, its origin is unknown. Since
it could have been used to identify the old gravestone, Fr. Richard has
placed it beside the stone for the present.
From the Church, we walked along Bridge Street to the
Cross Keys Inn where Fr. David Lewis had celebrated Mass prior to his
arrest. We then walked along by the Usk River to the Gaol or the House of
Correction as it was known in past times. Here we paused and looked at this
building where Fr. David Lewis had spent his last months; where he had
prayed; ministered to other Catholic prisoners and had written the last
words he would speak to his people before his martyrdom. Already, three of
his close friends, Frs. Philip Evans, John Lloyd and John Kemble had
suffered the terrible death of being hanged, drawn and quartered. How did
Fr. David Lewis feel during the months he spent as a prisoner in this rather
grim building as he faced a similar fate? Was he afraid, and prayed to be
spared this ordeal; did he have doubts about the effect of his sacrifice on
the people he had loved and helped ; would they be with him to offer their
support to the end; would his death give them courage to remain faithful to
the Mass and the Catholic Religion? I think the answers to all these
questions can be found in his last sermon which is recorded in ‘ALL FOR THE
GLORY OF GOD’ by John Gray.
When we moved along from the Gaol, we felt particularly
close to our Saint as now his last journey would have begun. The doors of
the Gaol would open to allow the hurdle on which he was tied; head foremost,
to come through, pulled along behind a horse. What a painful and humiliating
experience that would be for the prisoner, particularly as his head was in
constant contact with the path which was rough and rugged. At last, we
reached the field where the scaffold had been erected and where preparations
had been made for his terrible execution. Recently, a plaque has been placed
there by the Usk Civic Society to mark this place where our dear martyr
Saint had given his life for the Mass and his Catholic faith. A very fitting
memorial indeed. From where we stood, we could see the Church, which is
dedicated to Saint David Lewis, a reminder for us that our martyr did not
die in vain because in this Church the Mass, for which he died, is
celebrated every day and his name is remembered by all who visit it. A sign
of great hope for the future of our Catholic faith in Usk and the World.
Truly ‘the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church’.
Having completed our peaceful and prayerful journey in
the footsteps of our dear Saint, we felt very relaxed and ready for the
enjoyable tea which Kate, our guide, generously provided for us.
tea and a chat, we set off to complete our pilgrimage with a visit to our
Saint’s grave by St. Mary’s Priory Church. There, we said his special Prayer
and sang his Hymn to complete our very special journey in the company of our
dear special patron, Saint and Martyr, David Lewis.
Article by: Sister Celsus. Llantarnam Abbey. (September
A Light Pilgrimage
On July 8th 2010 the car drew up at Llantarnam Abbey,
John Gray kindly taking us to honour St. David Lewis From the place where
Fr. Lewis often frequented. We drove by the Old Post Office, a Plaque
records his arrest 17.11.1678 to the Parish Church of Our Lady of the Angels
Cwmbran. There Friends of the Saint gathered ready for the off, within
thirty minutes reaching the Church of: St. Francis Xavier & St. David Lewis
Fr. Richard Reardon met us and prayed before the
Blessed Sacrament. We studied a portrait of St. David Lewis at the side
altar. Out in the grounds parallel with the altar was a grave-stone it had
marked the Saint’s grave in St. Mary’s Priory and as a memento was
transferred to Catholic Church ground. Topping the stone Fr. Richard had
placed a small headstone that was found by neighbours who offered it to the
priest. On it is etched the name of the martyred St. David Lewis.
Walking in the pilgrim-footsteps along Bridge Street
Usk we halted viewing the “House of Correction” – Usk Gaol; there Fr. David
Lewis was incarcerated in January 1679. Meditatively we moved towards the
Bridge signifying destiny not crossing it we turned to the right quiet by
the still river. A few steps on our eyes lighted on a blue circular plaque,
it stated that Saint David Lewis was martyred near this spot.
After refreshments with the Usk St. David Friends we
set out for the Anglican St. Mary’s Priory Church-yard, the remains of Fr.
David Lewis lie close to the Church door. In recent times a new grave stone
has been put in place, on it are inscribed significant dates of the Saint’s
life. A quotation from 1 Peter 4:15-16 is there too, Fr. David Lewis used it
in his parting words prior to mounting the Gallows:
“Let none of you suffer as a
murderer or a thief;
But if as a Christian let him not be ashamed.”
As we were about to leave parishioners from St. Mary’s
invited us to pre-view a Flower Festival & Celebration of Christian Baptism
in their Church; to be opened at eventide. Entering in we were uplifted by
the beauty of the exhibits Christening robes of the past, family
photographs, baby-dolls and flowers, testimonies to the significance of
We returned home replenished in faith contented in
Article by: Sister Bella. Llantarnam Abbey. (August 2010)
DAY IN HONOUR OF THE 330th ANNIVERSARY
THE MARTYRDOM OF THE LAST OF OUR
On the 14th November, Llantarnam Abbey had the
privilege of hosting a Celebration in honour of our four Martyrs, Ss. Philip
Evans, John Lloyd, John Kemble and David Lewis. This is the 330th year since
these brave Martyr Priests suffered a most cruel death because of their
loyalty to their Catholic Faith and their Priestly Vocation.
Philip Evans and John Lloyd were martyred in Cardiff on
the same day, 22nd July. John Kemble was martyred at Widemarsh Common
Hereford, on 22nd August, and last of all David Lewis on 27th August at Usk,
all within a month, in the year 1679.
What a tragic time that must have been for the
Catholics of Cardiff, Hereford and Monmouthshire. They knew and loved these
priests who had lovingly ministered to them over many years. In honouring
them, we too owe them our deep gratitude for their courage and example which
ensured the heritage of faith which is ours today. All four priests were
closely related in friendship, having worked in the same areas for many
years. Moreover, Philip Evans and David Lewis were Jesuits and had lived
together in the Jesuit Mission at the Cwm, while John Kemble and David Lewis
were cousins. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to honour them with a joint
celebration for their Anniversary. Since this is a special Year for Priests,
it was also an opportune time to ask the intercession of our Martyr Priests
for our own priests in Wales and the world.
In spite of the inclement weather, the Day was well
attended, with people from various parts of the Diocese. One gentleman
braved the weather to travel by bus from Grangetown and walk the length of
the Abbey Drive! Everybody spoke of how much they enjoyed the day,
especially the spirit of friendship in the Group. I am sure that the Spirit
of our blessed Martyrs was among us, and we want to express our deep
gratitude to all who came to honour them on this special occasion.
The Day began with an excellent and informative talk on
the lives of Ss. Philip Evans and John Lloyd given by Madge Cusack O’Keefe,
MA. We were very fortunate to have her with us again this year as her
knowledge and understanding of the life and times of the Catholic Church in
Wales during the Reformation is outstanding. Once again, we were very happy
to welcome Fr. John Edwards SJ, member of the same Jesuit Family as Philip
Evans and David Lewis. He came from London to help us to celebrate the Day
with Holy Mass and Benediction, and we were truly grateful for his kindly
presence among us.
In the course of the day, John Gray launched his new
‘All for the Glory of God.’ The Arrest, Trial
and Martyrdom of St. David Lewis.
John has worked on this for some time, with the
intention of writing a simple, accurate account of the person and character
of David Lewis, which would give the reader a clear image of the holiness
and loyalty of our dear local Saint. The Booklet is well worth reading and
studying. We wish John every success.
In the afternoon, we were given a very interesting
Power Point account of some of the events in the lives of the Martyrs and of
the latest activities of ‘Friends of Saint David Lewis.’ For this, Andrew
Butcher, who put the programme together, but was unable to present it.
However, he passed on his expertise to John Smith and we thank John for an
excellent job. Many thanks also to Beth Smith and John Gray who gave very
interesting explanations of the events displayed on the screen. Our day
concluded with Exposition and Service of Thanksgiving to God for our great
and glorious Martyrs and prayers for their continued intercession on our
behalf and for Priests.
Saints Philip Evans, John Lloyd,
John Kemble and David Lewis pray for us.
Article by: Sister Celsus. Llantarnam Abbey. (November
I have just had the privilege of attending the Baptism
of my great nephew, Colin Patrick McAllister. Colin was Baptized at St
Patrick's Church here in St John's Newfoundland, where generations of
McAllisters have worshipped and received the Sacraments of the Catholic
Church. This set me thinking about what conditions were like here in the
time of our Patron, St David Lewis.
David Lewis was nine years old when, in 1625, Secretary
of State, Sir George Calvert resigned his position and privately declared
himself a Roman Catholic. He was given the Irish title, Baron Baltimore of
Longford, a pension of 2,000 pounds per year, and was now free to devote
himself to the Colony of Avalon, at Ferryland, Newfoundland, the charter of
which had been granted to him by King James I. David Lewis would have been
about eleven years old when Lord Baltimore arrived at Ferryland on 23rd July
1627 with two Catholic priests, Fr Anthony Smith and Fr Longville.
Like St David Lewis, both priests were Jesuits!
That day, in thanksgiving for a safe voyage, the two priests offered
the very first Mass to be celebrated in British North
Rev Erasmus Stourton, the first Church of England
clergyman in Newfoundland, made it his business to confirm rumours of Popish
practices at Ferryland. On his return to England, Stourton lost no time in
spreading the news that recent convert, Lord Baltimore, was encouraging
Popery among the King's subjects in Newfoundland!
Newfoundland was a British Colony and the harsh
Penal Laws were enforced in the Colony. The only known Mass Rock outside
Ireland is located at Renews, not many miles from Ferryland, on the Southern
Shore of Newfoundland. It was here that Catholics would gather at a spot
known as Midnight Hill. Priests, who came out from Ireland disguised as
fishermen, would celebrate Mass while, from the top of the hill, people kept
watch for the authorities. Unlike Wales and the rest of Britain, nobody was
executed in Newfoundland but if caught, Catholics were imprisoned, had all
their property confiscated, were deported, or suffered various other
penalties. Sympathetic Protestants who sometimes allowed their premises to
be used for Catholic services had their properties "razed to the ground".
In 1829 King George IV reluctantly gave his ascent to
the Catholic Relief Act. In those days, news travelled slowly to the New
World! However, on receipt of the good news, Bishop Thomas Scallan, the
Catholic Bishop of Newfoundland, declared 21st May a day of public
thanksgiving. In St John's and all the major towns throughout the Island,
bands, parades and special church services were evidence of the joy felt by
Catholics that the penal restrictions of centuries had been lifted.
Unfortunately, their joy was very short lived!
In December of that year, 1829, the Colony's Attorney
General, James Simms, and the Supreme Court of Newfoundland concluded that
the Catholic Relief Bill was inoperative in the Colony.
Catholic Emancipation did not come to the English Colony of Newfoundland
until the proclamation of Representative Government and the calling of the
first elections on 26th August 1832! This Act effectively removed the
series of laws known as Penal or Popery Laws that severely restricted the
rights of Catholics in Newfoundland.
So, as I remember St David Lewis and the many brave men
and women who, through centuries of persecution, kept the faith, I rejoice
in the Baptism of the latest member of my family to be brought to St
Patrick's. I remember the poor Irish fishermen, my ancestors, who, in search
of Religious freedom, settled here and built this church with their
hard-earned pennies and their free labour. I remember that it is a scant 177
years since Religious Freedom came to this corner of the world. May we all,
wherever we are, cherish our Catholic Faith and the freedom to practise it.
Article by: Mrs Beth Smith.
“Saint David Lewis Will Take America By Storm During
The Year For The Priest”!
On 7th July, two young American Priests and an English
priest, “descended” on Llantarnam Abbey without warning! They were passing
through and asked if they could celebrate Mass in honour of Saint David
Lewis. Apparently, one of them had visited the Abbey five or six years ago
shortly before his Ordination and had heard about Saint David Lewis and was
determined to return.
He said, “Because it is the Year
for the Priest, we would like to have the privilege of offering Holy Mass in
the same place as this heroic priest who died for the Mass.
Needless to say, we were surprised, but delighted to
oblige them and joined with them in the celebration of a Mass in honour of
our Martyr Saint, which they offered with great fervour and devotion. At the
end, we sang the Hymn to Saint David Lewis, which we normally sing at our
Meetings, and to our great surprise, the three priests joined in with
perfect harmony. Obviously, they knew the Hymn very well.
Another surprise for us, as so few local people can sing it.
During a cup of coffee, we told them of our efforts to
revive and promote devotion to Saint David Lewis in this area:
by having a Plaque erected at the site of his arrest:
through regular meetings of Friends of Saint David Lewis and particularly
through our Web-site, where we can promote his devotion not just locally but
much farther abroad; to Africa,
India, the Philippines, Canada, to name a few places we know about. No doubt
there are many more?
Our visitors were delighted to hear all this and
promised that they would help Saint David Lewis “to take
America by storm during the Year for the Priest”! Before they left us
to go to Usk, they asked for any pictures and information and, especially,
for our Website address so that they can keep in touch with us.
The enthusiasm of those young priests was truly
inspiring as they spoke of how devotion to Saint David Lewis has meant so
much to them and has helped them in their vocation. It was wonderful to hear
that our local Saint is known and honoured so far away. For this we
acknowledge with gratitude the part our Website has in spreading devotion to
him because, without it, this wouldn’t be possible.
Before they left us, our visitors gave us the
following message for our Website.
May Saint David Lewis inspire us all to greater
Let us pray for one another.
Fr. Joseph Johnson…U.S.A.
Fr. J.P. Ericson……..U.S.A.
Fr. Mark Vickers…….. U.K.
Article by: Sister Celsus. Llantarnam Abbey. (July 2009)
Visit the Wheelwright’s Workshop,
The Wheelwright’s Workshop is an ancient building,
located on the eastern side of St. Michael’s Church, Llantarnam. It backs on
to the main road and takes up all the footpath space. Being a listed
building, it could not be demolished when the road was widened some fifty
years ago. Although it must date back many centuries, the building is in
fairly good condition but the interior, which contains some old machinery,
needs to be updated and renovated to show its former use.
The wheelwright was a very skilled craftsman, who made
the wooden cart wheels to ensure that transport needs were met in those far
off days. When the wooden wheel was almost completed, it was rolled across
the road to the blacksmith’s forge. There, it was put on a large metal ring
called a Tyring Platform and clamped through the Hub. A steel ‘tyre’ would
be heated and the expanded ‘tyre’ placed round the wooden wheel. Lots of
water was then thrown over it to shrink the ‘tyre’ until it was a snug fit.
This procedure completed the cart wheel.
Although the Smithy has long since disappeared, the
Tyring Platform remained and identified the site where Saint David Lewis was
arrested on 17th November 1678. It does seem providential that this ring has
remained during all the years which have elapsed since that day. As we know,
through the kindness of John O’Neill, it is now in a pretty Remembrance
Garden in honour of Saint David Lewis, at the side of his house, ‘The Old
The Cottage where the Wheelwright and his family lived
has been beautifully restored. The present owners have taken great care to
follow, as nearly as possible, the original design and it makes a very
comfortable and interesting dwelling; well worth a visit.
Walking around this hallowed place, it is easy to let
one’s imagination drift back through time to the days of Saint David Lewis;
to let his memory come alive in the mind and heart; to see the Plaque which
will immortalise his presence for future generations and to walk in his
footsteps. He knew and loved this place, and, no doubt, would have often
visited the Wheelwright and the Blacksmith, men who were also very dedicated
to their work in the area. He would have spent time chatting with them and
even would have helped them in their work.
May Saint David Lewis bless all who live in Llantarnam
Village and pass through on its busy road.
Article by: Sister Celsus. Llantarnam Abbey. (June
On Sunday, August 31st, along with many others, I went
to the Annual Pilgrimage to St. David Lewis’s Church at Usk. There was a
wonderfully moving service in the little Church, with the Rosary, hymns and
prayers; followed by a procession to the martyr’s grave in the old priory
church. It was a particularly poignant day for me, for two reasons.
First, I was born just outside Usk sixty years ago this
November. 1948 was the birth year of our National Health Service, and I was
delivered in the new maternity hospital of Cefn lla – a former house of the
poet Trelawny. The problem was that I was very premature, not expected to
live, and had to be baptised urgently. The Matron of the hospital was a
Catholic and agreed to be my Godmother, and I was, therefore, formally
Christened from Usk. St. David Lewis smiled on me, and I lived!
Secondly, fifty years later, I moved house in my
constituency, and settled in an estate, in which, until very recently, had
been the grounds of Llantarnam Abbey. This had originated as a great
Cistercian Abbey, but, after the reformation, became a country house, owned
by the staunchly Catholic Morgan family. On Sunday November 17th, 1678,
David Lewis was arrested as he was preparing to say Mass at the house. The
spot at which he was arrested was then a blacksmith’s, and on November 17th
2007, a plaque was unveiled at this historic site. I live a few hundred
yards from this place, and I often ponder how my own life has been tied up
with this compassionate Jesuit priest.
St. David Lewis was born in Abergavenny in 1616,
brought up as a Protestant, but converted to Catholicism. In 1638, he
entered the English College in Rome, was ordained in 1642 and became a
After a short spell in Rome, he returned to Monmouthshire and
ministered there for the rest of his life. The Jesuits had a Mission at the
Cwm, just outside Monmouth, and thirty-odd years ago, I wrote an article
about this remarkable institution. The College produced many priests for
Wales, amongst whom, of course, was David Lewis, known as ‘Tad y Tlodian’ –
Father of the Poor.
Our Usk Saint got caught up in the panic and
fanaticism of the Titus Oats Plot, and was an innocent victim. He died
simply because he was a Catholic priest, and was one of the last martyrs in
our county. His execution was deeply unpopular among Monmouthshire Catholics
and Protestants alike. His unswerving Faith is an example to all Christians,
and in his last words, he said; “I die for conscience and religion.” May he
be an example to all of us.
Article by: The Rt Hon Paul Murphy M.P., K.S.G.
www.friendsofsaintdavidlewis.co.uk are grateful to The Rt Hon Paul
Murphy M.P., K.S.G. For his most kind permission to print this wonderful
account of our local Saint and Martyr, Saint David Lewis S.J.
First printed by: Catholic People, issue 143, October
Day In Honour Of Saint David Lewis. 16th November 2008
On the 16th November, Friends of Saint David Lewis
celebrated a Day of Prayer at Llantarnam Abbey to commemorate the 330th
Anniversary of the terrible event of the Saint’s arrest at Llantarnam on
17th November 1678. What a sad and fearsome morning that must have been, not
only for Fr. David Lewis, but also for the people of Llantarnam who were
waiting and hoping to join him for Holy Mass.
Our day was well attended with people from many
parts of the Archdiocese. Even Paul Murphy, our MP took the morning off from
his busy schedule to spend some time with us. We want to express our deep
gratitude to him and to all who came to honour our dear Saint on this
The Day began with an excellent talk on the Life and
Times of Fr. David Lewis given by Madge Cusack O’Keeffe, MA. We were very
fortunate to have her as our guest speaker as she is not only a Lecturer of
Extra Mural Studies at Cardiff University, but is, also a very well-known
historian of the Catholic Church in Wales and the survival of the Faith
during the Reformation. Her book on the Four Martyrs of South Wales and the
Marches which she wrote to commemorate their Canonization in 1970 is a
Our Sunday Mass was a truly memorable occasion. It was
so appropriate that this Mass, which Father David Lewis was prevented from
saying on that Sunday morning of 17th November 1678, was celebrated by
Father John Edwards, himself a great Missioner, and above all a member of
the Jesuit family to which Fr. David Lewis was so proud to belong. It was
very moving for us to be present at this Mass and the singing of ‘Faith of
our Fathers’ at the end was a powerful outpouring of how deeply we were
touched by the whole Ceremony.
In the afternoon, we went on Pilgrimage to the site of
our Saint’s arrest at The Old Post Office. Father John led a simple ceremony
of blessing of the Plaque and of us all gathered there. He also prayed for
all who visit this place and all who pass by on the busy Llantarnam Road. A
dwarf conifer tree, (Cham Obtusa Aurora) kindly donated by Chris O’Brien,
was planted to commemorate the Anniversary by John O’Neill, who so lovingly
cares for the Shrine and is happy to welcome visitors. He says, “The gate is
On our return to the Abbey, we were given a Power Point
display of the events involved in the Erection and Unveiling of the Plaque,
17th November 2007, and of the promotion of devotion to our Saint by Friends
of Saint David Lewis through our Web-Site, set up by John Gray and his son
Mark, the distribution of Literature, Group Meetings and various other
activities. For this excellent account, we thank John Gray Andrew Butcher
and also Beth Smith for a very interesting explanation of the events
displayed on the screen.
The Day closed with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
and Service of Thanksgiving for our great and glorious Saint and Martyr, and
prayers for his continuous intercession on our behalf.
thanks to God who gave us good weather and to all who made it such a
Saint David Lewis, pray for us.
Saint David Lewis,
pray for Wales.
Article by: Sister Celsus. Llantarnam Abbey. (November
FACES IN THE ROCK
Can you see the faces in the rock?
Look closely and you
Faces: one, two, or even three.
In profile, facing the statue of Our Lady,
nose, mouth, chin and neck maybe.
Look again, facing in the opposite direction,
girl, her eyes so deep her hair so white.
The Grotto at Lourdes is a wondrous
Article by: Pauline Turner (October 2008)
THE MIRACLE OF LLANTARNAM ABBEY
On Thursday 19th of June, we gathered as usual for our
meeting of the Friends of Saint David Lewis. Sr. Anne Gabrielle was our
guest speaker and her topic was a brief history of Llantarnam Abbey, a
subject with which she is very familiar. Listening to her account from about
the year 1179 when the Cistercian monks first settled there until the
present day is truly fascinating, and it seems almost incredible to imagine
how the Abbey has survived through all those centuries. When I compare the
Abbey with the other Cistercian Monasteries in Wales which had been
destroyed during the dissolution of the Monasteries, Llantarnam seems to be
about the only one which has been rebuilt and renewed, while particularly
all the others remain in ruins to this present day.
anything remains of the original Abbey which was destroyed by fire in 1398
and rebuilt again by the monks, its dissolution at the time of the
Reformation and the periods of neglect it has suffered over the centuries
make its survival truly miraculous, to say the least.
Questions arise as
to the reasons for this extraordinary happening. Could it be that the
property was more valuable, more worth preserving than the other
monasteries.? I like to think that the prayers of the monks for their
beloved Abbey could have ensured its continued existence so that, in the
Providence of God, it would come full circle to the present day and once
again be a place of prayer and worship. So many people speak of the sense of
peace they experience when they come through the Abbey gates and this, I
truly believe can be attributed to the invisible but tangible influence of
the saintly people who lived, worked and prayed here so many centuries ago.
As I ponder on the survival of the Abbey, I feel the need to give thanks to
God for the many people who have been instrumental in its preservation. From
Sister Anne Gabrielle’s talk, I have chosen the name of the following family
who played a major role in the preservation of the Abbey and its Catholic
heritage for many years.
THE MORGAN FAMILY
The Morgan family bought the Abbey in 1554 and lived
there for almost 200 years. They were loyal to the Catholic faith and had to
pay regular heavy fines and even imprisonment for refusing to conform to the
Established Religion. They harboured Catholic priests and Mass was
celebrated there in spite of the threat of imprisonment and death. During
this time, a Tudor mansion was built from the remains of the Abbey and the
Coat of Arms which hangs on the exterior wall above the front door is dated
1637 which points to further rebuilding at that time.
During those later
years, the last of the Morgans to reside at the Abbey was Edward Morgan and
his wife Lady Frances. They were well known for sheltering Catholic priests,
particularly Father David Lewis who was Lady Morgan’s nephew. The following
was recorded at the time.
“…at Llantarnam, an eminent papist’s house in
Monmouthshire, there is a room fitted up chapel-wise where Father David
Lewis, a Popish priest, has said Mass for many years…”
When Edward Morgan
died in 1682 there were no direct male descendants and the title passed to
an uncle, who does not seem to have lived at the Abbey. He died without male
heirs so the title lapsed and the estate passed to Edward Morgan’s eldest
granddaughter who had married Edward Bray. Thus ended a very fruitful period
in the long history of Llantarnam Abbey.
Article by: Sister Celsus. Llantarnam Abbey. (October
In The Footsteps of Saint David Lewis
On 17th July, members of the group,
Friends of Saint David Lewis gathered in Our Lady of the Angels
Church car park and, just after 1:00 pm we headed for the lovely old market
town of Abergavenny, birthplace of our 17th century martyr, Saint David
Lewis. When we arrived at the Church of Our Lady and St. Michael, a smiling
Rev Dom Thomas Regan, the parish priest, welcomed us and invited us into the
church. There, after a short prayer, Fr. Regan gave a most interesting talk
on Christianity in Wales, guiding his attentive listeners through the
centuries of Catholicism in the area and telling of the faithfulness of the
people during times of persecution. Our special interest was, of course, our
patron, Saint David Lewis, and Father Regan did not disappoint! He gave a
brilliant account of the saint’s life, work and death.
The Church of Our Lady and St. Michael is home to some
wonderful pre – Reformation vestments, and we were delighted to be shown
some of them. Father showed us a cope and two chasubles, and explained the
symbolism of the intricately worked details of each. One chasuble dated from
1498 and was the gift of none other than King Henry VII. We were astounded
by the beauty and workmanship of these magnificent treasures.
Jean Bevan then led the group on a short walking tour
of some of the places associated with Saint David Lewis. This included the
Gunter mansion, where the Saint had celebrated Mass in the secret chapel in
the loft. We also visited the Castle Museum to view the painting that,
during renovations in 1908, was discovered on the wall of the loft.
Our day ended with afternoon tea in Jean Bevan’s lovely
garden. It was a wonderful afternoon, and we, Friends of
Saint David Lewis are extremely grateful to Father Dom Thomas Regan
for his time, his encouragement, his most enlightening and interesting talk,
and for the privilege of seeing the historic vestments.
What a heritage is ours! We are also very grateful to Jean Bevan and
her friends for their generous hospitality and the wonderful afternoon tea.
It was indeed a day to remember!
Article by: Mrs Beth Smith.
Golden Jubilee Celebrations At Llantarnam
Saturday 31st May 2008
This was a wonderful, golden occasion in every
sense of the word. After a week of rain and gloomy weather, the sun
shone brightly all day and the Abbey grounds were beautiful with every
shade of green, blossoms and flowers.
The eight Jubilarians, Sisters
Alice, Columcille, David Lewis, Eileen, Esther, Ellen, Genevieve and
Helena were very excited as they welcomed the crowds of visitors who had
come from far and near to join with them in celebrating fifty years of
Religious Life in the Congregation of St. Joseph of Annecy.
seven of the Sisters were Irish, the majority of the guests were, of
course, from Ireland so it was a great day for the Irish!
The day began with Holy Mass. The chief celebrant
was Archbishop Peter assisted by fourteen priests from various parts of
the diocese and beyond. The altar and sanctuary were beautifully
decorated (by Sr. Anne Gabrielle) with gold and white lilies and the
gold vestments worn by the Archbishop blended perfectly to make a golden
backdrop for the wonder of the celebration. The hymns, sung by the Abbey
choir, were a mixture of English and Irish, and the Proper was sung to
the Welsh tune ‘Calon Lon’. The Archbishop’s homily added to the joy and
reverence of the celebration.
After the mass, there was an opportunity for
photos. Then it was time to retire to the large Marquee in the grounds
for lunch. In all, about 260 guests sat down for the meal which had been
well prepared by the Abbey Chef and his excellent helpers. This was
followed by the ceremony of cutting the lovely Jubilee cake. (Made and
decorated by Srs. Laurentia and Elizabeth Mary in the Abbey Kitchen)
To conclude the celebrations, a group of the Male
Choir from Garndiffaith came along and entertained the guests with a
session of Welsh songs both old and new which were very enjoyable.
Soon, it was time to leave the Marquee and as the sun still shone, to
stroll around the lovely grounds, to take more photos, to meet friends,
to chat about days that have been. It was truly a wonderful day for
everybody. Praise the Lord.
Article by: Sister Celsus. Llantarnam Abbey. (June
FEAST OF THE SACRED HEART
The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus takes place on
the second Friday following Trinity Sunday and is celebrated as a Solemnity
in the Catholic Church.
This feast was inspired by the visions of Saint
Margaret Mary who was a nun in the Order of the Visitation at Paray-Le
Monial in France (1647 - 90). She was only forty three years when she died,
but her legacy lives on and has helped the Church to understand more fully
how the heart of Jesus burns with love for every person and longs to be
loved in return.
St. Margaret Mary received her first vision in 1673.
Jesus told her that she could rest her head on His heart and he would
disclose to her the wonder of his love for every person. Her second vision
occurred six months later in 1674, and this time His message was more
definite. Flames issued from his heart and Jesus told her that his heart was
radiant with love for everybody, sinners and those who were far from him
just as much as the righteous and holy.
The following summer St. Margaret
Mary received what is referred to as the ‘great apparition’ during which
Jesus said to her, ‘Behold this heart that has loved so much. and instead of
love and gratitude, I receive from many only coldness and ingratitude.’ He
told her that she was to be the instrument by which the love of his Sacred
Heart was to be brought to millions of people as long as the world would
St. Margaret Mary had to undergo severe trials and humiliations and
was not allowed to follow the inspirations which Jesus had given to her
until a holy Jesuit priest, Fr. Claude de la Columbiere was sent to be
confessor to the Convent at Paray-le Monial. He assured St. Margaret Mary of
his belief in her, encouraged her to follow the inspirations of the Holy
Spirit and to put into writing all she had experienced. Saint Margaret Mary
found in the holy Jesuit a faithful friend on whom she could trust for the
accomplishment of the work entrusted to her by Jesus. Thus it is that the
two names of Margaret Mary and Claude de la Colombiere are forever united,
bound by the closest of all ties- the love of the Heart of Jesus.
Margaret Mary is the first and principle apostle of the Sacred Heart.
Claude de la Columbiere was the first to make known this devotion publicly.
All the details of the honour to be given to the Sacred Heart were told to
him: Holy Hour, frequent Communion, devotion of the first Friday, honour to
be paid to the image of the Sacred Heart and above all, that hearts were to
be gained not by force but by love.
The Church is always cautious about visions and
visionaries, but devotion to the Sacred Heart spread rapidly throughout the
whole world and in his encyclical Annum Sacrum on 25th May 1899 Pope Leo
X111 solemnly declared that a Feast of the Sacred Heart was to be celebrated
each year and encouraged all Catholics to make an act of Dedication to the
Sacred Heart of Jesus on the First Friday of every month.
Sacred Heart of Jesus I place all my trust in you
Article by: Sister Celsus. Llantarnam Abbey. (June 2008)
Floral Arrangements by: Sister Anne Gabrielle
preparation for The Golden Jubilee Celebrations
At Llantarnam Abbey
Saturday 31st May 2008
Saint Claude de la Columbiere
Sacred Heart Sacred Heart of
THE SPIRITUALITY OF SAINT DAVID LEWIS
In order to grow in our devotion to St. David Lewis and
to promote this devotion, it is important to reflect on his life and gain
inspiration from the qualities by which he became a saint and martyr.
Some of these qualities are very obvious.
1. His great faith and courage
shown by his tireless work day and night to support and encourage his people
during the difficult and dangerous period of religious persecution.
His wonderful love for the Holy Mass for which he sacrificed his life.
His great love and compassion for the poor of the area, to whom he showed a
truly fatherly affection, and for which he was called Tad y Tlodian, Father
of the Poor.
His thirty years in South Wales were spent for his
people and his faith was sustained and supported by his Ignatian spiritually
as a member of the Society of Jesus, the Congregation founded by St.
Ignatius and six companions in 1540.
Perhaps a brief look at the
spirituality of his founder will help us to understand the ideals which
motivated and sustained St. David Lewis throughout his life and through the
sufferings he had to endure for his faith.
Ignatius, as we know, was
chosen as the first Superior General of the Society of Jesus and he wrote
the Constitutions and the Spiritual Exercises which were to guide and form
the members of the Congregation for all time.
Like all Catholic
Spirituality, the Ignatian spirituality was based on the Catholic faith and
the Gospels. It can be described as an active
attentiveness to God joined with a prompt responsiveness to Him, Who is ever
active in peoples lives.
The Ignatian ideal was to have the
GODS GREATER GLORY.
All for Gods greater glory Ad Maioram Dei Gloria was to be the motto which
must motivate every action. Our only desire and our only choice should be
this, I want and I choose what better leads to the
deepening of Gods life in me
UNION WITH JESUS.
Ignatius stressed a great desire for union with Jesus in the Spiritual
Exercises. And this is summed by a prayer, Lord, grant
that I may see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more
nearly, day by day. (104)
In order to grow and mature in the
practice of these fundamental virtues, Ignatius gave clear guidance in The
Spiritual Exercises. There, he stresses the need for prayer, to take time to
reflect and to pray because Prayer is the foundation of
Jesus life. Holy Mass and the Sacraments, Daily Examen of
consciousness, Ignatius recommends the Examen to be done at least twice
daily; Finding God in all things and loving God in all things; Effective
love, that is love in action; Zeal for souls, employ all
ones strength for the salvation and perfection of ones neighbour;
undertaking self-forgetful and humble service to the poor and needy.
this brief summary of Ignatian spirituality, it is easy to imagine how David
Lewis, who entered the Jesuit Novitiate in 1645, was influenced in his life
and ministry by the spirituality of his founder. He too was to give his life
for Jesus; his motto would be All for the glory of God.
The Spiritual Exercises would be the foundation of his prayer life. The
Daily Offering, Take Lord, receive would be a
priority in giving his whole life to the service of The Divine Majesty, and
would enable him to go to the scaffold with great joy of
countenance and firmness. His final prayer in honour of the Blessed
Trinity could be a summary of a life time spent in the worship and glory of
God alone while the beautiful prayer Sweet Jesus, receive
my soul expresses his great trust and confidence in the Holy Name to
whom he commends his spirit. As we thank God for giving us St. David Lewis
as our local saint and martyr, let us cultivate a great devotion to him and
pray to him for help in all our needs, especially for the courage to be
always faithful to our Catholic faith.
Saint David Lewis, Pray for us.
Saint David Lewis,
Pray for Wales.
Article by: Sister Celsus. Llantarnam Abbey. (April 2008)
LENT: A TIME TO PRAY WITHOUT CEASING.
Jesus tells us to pray without
ceasing and never give up (Luke 18:1) but many people say that this
is impossible as they have little or no time for prayer in their busy life.
But where is the place for prayer? Jesus said that He, the Father and Holy
Spirit would come and make their home with us. So to pray, we dont have to
go anywhere! That doesnt mean not going to Church at least once a week to
join everybody else in prayer and worship, but it does mean that we can pray
constantly where ever we are since God has made His home with us and we can
turn our thoughts to him at all times. The Old Catechism gives us a
wonderful, concise answer to the question, What is Prayer? And I am sure
many of us will still remember the answer, Prayer is the raising up of the
mind and heart to God. If we respond to that we could certainly solve the
problem of not having time to pray!
What we need is prayer that is rooted in our daily
living, and a life that flows from prayer, living prayer, unceasing prayer.
The Booklet Living Prayer published by the
Apostleship of prayer has offered an approach to
prayer The Daily Offering which is simple and
profound and have helped millions of people for more than one hundred and
fifty years. By making the Daily Offering slowly
each morning, we can raise up our minds and hearts to God for a short time,
in that way making Him the centre of the day. We can, therefore, make all
our activities, whether in the home or in the office, the school or where
ever we spend our day into acts of unceasing prayer.
Living prayer is certainly a
very useful little booklet for most of us, as we live out our busy lives
with very little time for formal prayer, and will greatly help us on our
Lenten journey. The Apostleship of Prayer is a Jesuit Publication and is, no
doubt, inspired by the example of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the
Society. St. Ignatius of Loyola understood the need for unceasing prayer.
His Society had dropped the solemn chanting of the Divine Office around
which the lives of the older Monastic Orders revolved. The whole stress of
his Society was to be on active, dedicated service to God anywhere in the
world, but St. Ignatius, by composing the following Daily Offering ensured
that all would be done for The Greater Glory of God
which was to be the Motto of his life and of his Society.
TAKE, O LORD
and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my
understanding and my will;
all that I have and possess You have given to
and to You I give it all back.
It is all Yours;
Dispose of it
according to Your Will.
Give me only Your love and Your grace;
alone suffices for me. (St. Ignatius of Loyola)
Article by: Sister Celsus. Llantarnam Abbey. (February
Ceremony for a Martyred Saint, David Lewis.
David Lewis was born in Abergavenny in 1616, was
brought up a protestant but later became Catholic. In 1638, he went to Rome
to prepare for the sacred Priesthood and following ordination, he entered
the Jesuit Congregation. In 1648, he finally returned to the Jesuit Mission
at the Cwm in South Wales. As a Catholic Priest, who said Mass, Fr. David
Lewis had a price on his head; arrest,
imprisonment and cruel execution. Regardless of danger, he laboured day and
night for the next thirty years, celebrating Mass and administering the
Sacraments, helping the poor as far as he could. Indeed he was commonly
called Tad y tlodian Father of the Poor. Eventually, on
Sunday 17th November 1678, he was arrested as he was preparing to say
Mass at Llantarnam. Following his trial, he was condemned to death, which
took place on 27th August 1679 at Usk. St. David Lewis was canonized 25th
October 1970 by Pope Paul V1.
The place where Fr. David Lewis was
The place of his arrest was a Smithy which is no longer
in existence, but a large iron ring in the pavement marked the site. This
ring was still in place even when the building was used as the village Post
Office. It does seem providential that it should have remained intact during
all the years which had elapsed since 1678. A mystery or
a miracle? A metal cross had been placed beside it, but this was
taken away when the road was widened in the 50s and had not been replaced.
With the closure of the Post Office, the present owner, Mr John ONeill,
wishing to preserve the memory of St. David Lewis, arranged for it to be
removed to the side where he and his wife lovingly created a beautiful
Remembrance Garden which is well worth seeing. Only one thing was missing,
a Plaque to explain its meaning.
A Plaque in the Making.
After much reflection and prayer, friends of St. David
Lewis decided to consult Councillor John Cunningham, MBE KSG, who
immediately took up the project. With the support of Mr Paul Murphy MP and
the co-operation of Cwmbran Historical Society, he organized and generously
provided for the manufacture of a very suitable Plaque to commemorate that
Unveiling of the Plaque. 17th November 2007.
Contrary to all expectations, the Plaque was ready to
be unveiled on the very date of the arrest of Fr. David Lewis,
17th November 1678. The Service was arranged to
begin at 10.30am and, thanks to all the prayers offered, the sun shone on
the crowd of people who had come from all parts of Cwmbran and beyond; Sr.
David Lewis had driven from Devizes, Wiltshire, to be present at this
Service in honour of her Patron Saint. Mr Stephen Brooks, JP KSS presided at
the large, open-air gathering and welcomed all present on behalf of the
Parish of Our Lady and St. David, Cwmbran. Rev. Fr. John Meredith, MA Parish
Priest, officiated and the Service of Blessing, Prayers and Homily were
beautiful and most appropriate for the occasion. Rev. Peter McLaren gave the
Reading which had inspired the last words spoken by Fr. David Lewis before
his execution. The Parish Choir led a hymn in his honour, composed by Sr.
Canisius, Llantarnam Abbey, to a good Welsh tune Hyfrydol.
The unveiling of the Plaque by Rev. Canon Robert
Reardon, Vicar General, was greeted with prolonged applause. It is truly a
wonderful tribute to our local Saint, and the lovely souvenir cards
distributed by Mr John.M.A.Gray. will preserve the memory of this blessed
occasion for all who were privileged to be present.
BBC Wales, Reporters and Photographers have given
excellent coverage to the event which will make the name of Saint David
Lewis known near and far as a result. The morning ended with a visit to the
Shrine of St. David Lewis at Llantarnam Abbey, and a welcome cuppa provided
by the Sisters to bring this glorious ceremony to a fitting conclusion.
The martyrdom of Saint David Lewis was the witness to
his living faith. He accepted all the cruelty he was subjected to for the
same reason that he lived his life for God, for the Church, for the Mass,
for the people of South Wales. We also are called to live in the same way.
Let us ask him to help us to be strong in our faith.
Saint David Lewis,Pray for us.
Saint David Lewis,
Pray for Wales.
N.B. The Plaque and
Remembrance Garden can be seen at the Old Post Office, opposite St. Michaels
Church, in Llantarnam Village on the Abergavenny Road out of Newport.
For a full account of the life and times of Saint David
In Thoroughgoing Service by
Rev. Fr. Gareth Jones.
Article by: Sister Celsus. Llantarnam Abbey. (November