Friday, August 28, 2009

Sunday's (30th) Pilgrimage at USK and Martyr St David Lewis

St David Lewis, SJ Priest M (RM)

He was born at Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales, in 1616; He died at Usk, August 27, 1679; beatified in 1929; He was canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. David was the son of a Protestant school master and a Catholic mother. Amazingly enough, he was the only one of the nine siblings to have been raised as a Protestant--but that did not last for long. After studying law at the Middle Temple in London, he accompanied a nobleman's son to the Continent as his tutor. While visiting Paris, David was converted to Catholicism.

By 1638, he was studying for the priesthood at the English college in Rome. Two years after his ordination in 1642, he joined the Jesuits, who sent him to the English mission for a short time, then recalled him to Rome to serve as the spiritual director for the English college.

'CHARLES BAKER' his alias and the CWM

In 1648, David was sent to Wales, where he used the alias Charles Baker and a farmhouse at Cwm (Monnow Valley) in southern Wales as his headquarters for the next 31 years. This same inconspicuous building was the College of Saint Francis Xavier, the centre for Jesuit missionary activities in western England and Wales. When the persecution of Catholics was unleashed by the liar Titus Oates' fictitious Plot, David escaped Cwm but was betrayed by a servant and captured at Llanfihangel Llantarnam, preparing for Mass betrayed by six disgruntled parishioners, who had been intimidated. Llantarnam was a former Cistercian House and a centre for recusant Catholics. It is now occupied by the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy and remains as a monstery.

Following a two-month imprisonment at Monmouth, he was tried at Usk and then interrogated in London.He returned to Usk and was imprisoned in a former Franciscan house, which had become the gaol. Although no evidence could be found to link him to the conspiracy, he was convicted of being a Catholic priest,to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. The love local people had for him, however, was not confined to Catholics.The hangman disappeared and the blacksmith engaged as executioner was intimidated to disappear. A Protestant held the hand of the 63 year old Father David 'The Father of the Poor'(Tad y Tlodion) as he was known and refused to let him go until he was dead. There being nothing gained from further cruelty, with relief the mayor ordered him to be buried and Father David was taken on a bier and carried with reverence to the priory Church in Monmouth, where his body was found earlier this century as an extension was made to the priory church, a former Benedictine nunnery,whose last superior was Mother Ellen Williams. He was buried with great honour as the local saint in Usk just outside the endtrance to the church and fresh flowers are left there most days.

There is a prominent grave stone giving the details of his canonization in Latin and English. The annual, well-attended pilgrimage to Usk, which begins with Mass at St David Lewis and St Francis Xavier, with a processional Rosary to Saint David's grave The Catholic Church was built close to the site of the martyrdom, near the toll house at the poster shown above.


(Tune Hyfrydol)
Holy Martyr, David Lewis,
Monmouth Countys glorious Saint.
Father of the Poor they named you,
When you lived and toiled in Gwent.
Priestly work was undertaken,
Danger-fraught from dawn till dusk.
Gladly still you served your people,
Till you died for them at Usk

From your capture at Llantarnam,
Through your time in Monmouth Gaol,
Threats and tortures could not shake you,
For your faith would never fail.
Bravely then you faced the gallows,
Crudely fashioned for your death,
Further torment someone spared you,
Till you drew your latest breath.

Great and glorious David Lewis,
Staunch and steadfast in the strife,
Bless your people here in Monmouth,
Those for whom you gave your life.
Help us to be strong, courageous,
Loyal to our loving God,
To Him then will glory flourish,
In the places you have trod.

Composed by:
Sister Canisius. Llantarnam Abbey


Lord, we thank you for the gift of Saint David Lewis as our local Saint and Martyr. He was faithful to Christ even to the point of accepting martyrdom for His sake. Help us to do all we can to promote devotion to him. Increase our own faith, and by his prayers, grant us the courage to follow his example of love and the grace of conversion for all who seek the truth. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
Saint David Lewis, pray for us.
Saint David Lewis, pray for Wales

TOMORROW's PILGRIMAGE BEGINS AT 3pm at the Catholic Church, St David Lewis and St Francis Xavier, at USK.Pilgrims will, after the Mass-this is the 330th year of the martyrdom, process to the tombstone at the priory church and then there are refreshments for all pilgrims back at the Catholic Church.(30-08-2009) These posts stay a long time and the date varies for different years. The Feast day is 27/08.

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