MAKING ST DAVID LEWIS KNOWN THROUGH
THE MEDIUM OF CYBERSPACE
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 other countries.
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 East Malaysia.
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,.
We will 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 JOURNEY.
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 visit.
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.
After 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 2010)
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 Usk.
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 Godly-living.
We returned home replenished in faith contented in Spirit.
Article by: Sister Bella. Llantarnam Abbey. (August 2010)
DAY IN HONOUR OF THE 330th ANNIVERSARY
OF 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 Booklet:
‘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 2009)
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 America.
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 Holiness
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, Llantarnam.
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 Post Office.’
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 2009)
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 Jesuit.
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 2008.
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 special occasion.
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 Historical Treasure.
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 always open!”
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.
Our heartfelt thanks to God who gave us good weather and to all who made it such a wonderful occasion.
Saint David Lewis, pray for us.
Saint David Lewis, pray for Wales.
Article by: Sister Celsus. Llantarnam Abbey. (November 2008)
FACES IN THE ROCK
Can you see the faces in the rock?
Look closely and you may see
Faces: one, two, or even three.
In profile, facing the statue of Our Lady,
An eye, nose, mouth, chin and neck maybe.
Look again, facing in the opposite direction,
a young girl, her eyes so deep her hair so white.
The Grotto at Lourdes is a wondrous sight!
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.
Although hardly 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 2008)
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 Abbey
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.
Since 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 2008)
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.
2. His wonderful love for the Holy Mass for which he sacrificed his life.
3. 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 following characteristics.
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.
From 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 me;
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;
this alone suffices for me. (St. Ignatius of Loyola)
Article by: Sister Celsus. Llantarnam Abbey. (February 2008)
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 arrested.
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 memorable event.
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 Lewis see;
In Thoroughgoing Service by Rev. Fr. Gareth Jones.
Article by: Sister Celsus. Llantarnam Abbey. (November 2007)