Thursday, April 29, 2010

St Derfel, Patron Saint of Cwmbran and the Arthur Connection

St Derfel in a stained glass window at Llanderfyl, near Bala in North Wales.


New Statue of St Derfel,by David Lloyd, carved for the 'Ancient Cwmbran annd the Cistercian Project'. Unveiling of the new statue, showing Derfel as a soldier on his Feast Day, April 5th.

Early Life

Derfyl is recorded as being the son of Hywel Mawr ab Emyr Llydaw by Alma Poppea and the brother of Dwyfael (Iolo) or Dwywai (Myv Arch) Arthfael and Hywel Fychan. Arthfael was the original founder of the llan church of St Peter in the Moor or Peterstone, where the lighthouse still stands. Hywel the Elder (Farchog-the Bearded) is buried at Llantwit Major and both Arthfael and Dwyfael,Derfyl’s two brothers were holy men trained at Llanilltyd Fawr or Llantwit Major and later went with their cousin Cadfan to Bardsey Island-‘The Island of 20,000 saints.’

There is also a tradition from Britanny (Armorica or Roman Gaul) of another brother, St TUDWAL , bishop of Treguir, whose mother was Alma Pompea. Arthfael later became a man of great importance of the Church in Brittany.

Note how the Welsh (Romanised Celts were still supporting Roman names-Alma Poppea.)

‘GADARN’ (Cadarn)

Derfel or Derfyl is usually called ‘Cadarn’ or ‘THE MIGHTY’. We see from his upbringing at Llantwit Major, that he was a religious man and was more inclined than his brothers to fight for the right to stem the Saxon influences and invasions. The invading Saxons were pagans and it is possible he went in search of a martyrs crown, and fighting for the cross may have been his direction. Certainly the Welsh kings at that time were fighting among themselves-something which contributed to Arthur’s own death at Camlann.

Arthrwys (Arthur) was not a king but a Dux bellorum as the Romans would have called him, a warlord of noble birth-son of Uther and Welsh legends do speak of him as a foster brother of Kai (Kay) and Bedwyr (Bedivere). It is fashionable to rubbish the Prior Geoffrey of Monmouth for his romanticising this whole period into a King and a lot of mediaeval knights, but to be fair, it is also said by some scholars that Geoffrey must have had recourse to a book, which became lost in the subsequent years of Monmouth Priory’s existence, which was much depleted by the great plague.

Digression to talk about ‘Real’ Arthrys (Arthur)

One thing we do know ,though, is that Arthrwys was a Christian and fought against the Saxons at Badon (Mons Badonis) under a banner of the Virgin Mary and her Son, and won, saving those areas for Christianity for at least another fifty years.

The Second thing which has been written about, regarding the role of the Christian Arthrwys and his war band, is the ‘clearing out ‘ of the early Welsh monks at Glastonbury and their Abbot COLLEN up to North Wales, taking with them many of the ancient artefacts, some say the original mysterious Grail, the ‘Royal Blood’ of Jesus of the House of David.

Jesus and Uncle Joseph of Arimathea (Ho Rama Thea) and the Glastonbury Connection

And I will give the wicked for his burial, and the rich for his death; for he practised no iniquity, nor craft with his mouth.’(Isaiah 53)

1)Only a male member of Jesus’ family could have claimed Christ’s body.(so it is likely that Joseph was an uncle or family member of Christ's)

2)Only a rich and important person could have come into Pilate’s presence to claim it. Joseph had been to Caerleon (ISCA SILURUM-Usk of the Silures) before on a tin trading mission for the Emperor Vespasian and was a miner. (notice in the Bible it says that the cave, the grave in which Christ was placed was one’ Which he had hewn himself’.(Matthew 27 verse 60)

3)In the wave of persecutions following on Christ’s death, William of Malmesbury says St Peter sent St Philip into Europe with Joseph of Arimathea and the Welsh Triads tell that Archiviragus (Caractacus’ family) gave them land at Garth Madrun (Talgarth) and land for a monastic settlement at Glastonbury.(Ynys Witrin)

The family remained at Talgarth and married into the local nobility, and became part of the family of Brychan, one of the three holiest in Wales (Triads)(after which Brecon was named.)


So Collen went to North Wales with the monks and settled on Dinas Bran. Collen established his won church at Llan-gollen. We might ask why the monks were cleared out-was it because they did, in fact have the famous artefact in their possession which they wanted to preserve from the Saxons at all costs? We may never know. It is likely , however, that there was a very good reason, and certainly Teilo, Padarn, and Illtud had the title ‘Guardians of the Grail’in Welsh sources. Was the choice of the fortress Dinas Bran a reason for this removal, apart from one of safety?

In the Welsh records, Arthrwys (Arthur)was betrayed by his nephew Mordred who had the affair with Gwynhafr, his 'white' queen. So there was no romantic French Knight!Fashionable for a Norman prior to add French interest! It was this adulterous relationship which sparked natural hatred between Arthryws and his nephew not all the ‘witchy’ things thrown in to make a good story. Gwynhafr, if Geoffrey is to be believed, ended her days at St Julians in the Monastery which had been built over the site of St Julian Julianus’s monastery. It seems that Derfel would have been one of these unsung heroes of Wales who preserved the faith in these deeds.

The Battle of Camlann

This was Arthrwys’ last battle against his nephew Mordred in which both died. Arthrwys and his band’s status was so high that his memory endures. He appears to have been the only committed Christian Chieftain and his legendary fight against the Saxons was revered by all the Welsh. In fact you could argue he was brought down by heartbreak and the sin of those near to him. Arthrys clearly also had a dedicated little army, inspired by his leadership and only seven of these survived the battle.Derfel was one.


This is a German term meaning ‘tired of life’ and after the dying Arthur is carried away by boat to be buried at Glastonbury (it seems at some stage-his wife is removed there later-it seems the Saxons were Christianised by then) Derfyl was heartbroken at the death of his leader and decided to embrace an earlier vocation and return to Llantwit Major for rest and recuperation and some time as a novice .He was probably inspired by that monastery's founder, St Illtud, who himself had been converted to Christianity by Trevethin and Caerleon's Saint Cadoc, who showed him the way of war was not the Christian way. Illtud, a Breton, became a great scholar and founded his monastery at Llan illtud Fawr)

St Derfel comes to Cwmbran and establishes two holy places, 'llans'

After his early training,he quickly received his holy orders and travelled to the Eastern Valley of Gwent to begin his Llan there, living as a hermit and then in a small community.

Saint Dials

In Latin, Derfyl is known as ‘Saint DUELLUS’ and so his first Chapel, now demolished and lying under the present ex police college, near Greenmeadow was one of his very first llans. Going out on the 'mass',the mission to ‘Baptise all men in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost’, and leaving some brothers there at St Dials, he travelled on up to the Mynydd Maen and there they established another holy place, and that place became a place of pilgrimage for centuries and was much larger, perhaps in scope than St Dials.

The Chapel was a sort of L shape with surrounding buildings, probably on the site of the present Llanderfel farm , where the brothers toiled to produce food, looked after sheep ,most probably ,the llan down at St Dial’s probably producing other crops, as corn was unlikely to have grown on the Mynydd Maen(The Stone Mountain). The brothers also kept cattle and, indeed there are reports of many people bringing in their cattle for blessing ad healing when they were ill.

The Opus Dei

They must have felt very close to God up there on the mountain, close to heaven. The office of the day was often sung in the chapel-the psalms learnt by heart and often accompanied by the harp. There may have been a book of gospels but Bibles, which the church had compiled a century earlier were not in common use expensive to produce, so religious learned the teachings by heart and able to read and write down the prayers at places like Llantwit Major, which would have had one. This was a common thing with the older bards, whose memories were prodigious.

This is also the case today in monasteries that monks can remember any number of psalms, which they sing day in and day out in praise of God-and in Latin. This was the common language of the Church throughout the world, although Derfel would have talked to the people about God in the ancient British language, and evangelised and explained this.The quality of the monk Gildas' Latin is very fine, much better than St Patrick's, who always found scholarship difficult.

It must have been wonderful in the stillness of a summer evening, hearing the hymns, sung to a harp from the top of the Mynydd Maen (Often called Twm Barllwm)with the sounds of the sheep and cattle in the background, looking way over to the River Severn (Roman River Sabrina-Celtic ‘Hafren’)When animals or people were sick, they consulted Derfel's monks. St Illtud his teacher was a renowned farmer and agriculturalist and also taught farming to his students, something very important for survival.Illtud had a gift for crop growing and animal husbandry, and Derfyl now passed all this on in his ministry to the people of Cwmbran.

Llanderfyl, North Wales

Derfyl’s brothers Dwyfael and Arthfael were both by now on the Isle of Bardsey, and families were very strong in Wales. It is likely then, that some of the brothers moved up from Llanderfel in Cwmbran , with Derfyl to North Wales, near Bala, where they established another llan. Here they did just that and it is from this St Derfyl’s now Anglican Church that you can see the tired and battle weary , broken hearted Derfyl being presented to the Virgin and the Child Jesus as an icon of the Church.(see above)

The Meaning of the Imagery of the Virgin

(The Old Testament describes the Ark of the Covenant which represented God as containing

1.The ROD OF AARON, showing the HIGH PRIEST

2. GOD’S WORD in the 10 Commandments tablets.

3) An URN with THE MANNA the physical food which God sent to save the Israelites from Death.

The Ark of the Covenant was destroyed when the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed by the ROMANS as foretold by Jesus. It has never been found. This was because the 'New Ark' had arrived.With the 3 o'clock Crucifixion and death of our Lord, there was thunder and lightning and the 'veil of the temple' was torn in half, symbolising that the barrier had gone between earth and heaven. The Church had been established and Chris's teaching was on the earth to point people to God.

New Ark

The human girl, Mary was a Vessel of God and carried in her womb, the ‘New Ark of the Covenant’

In her Womb (New Ark) was was contained



3 THE EUCHARIST the physical body and blood of Christ, with which he remains on earth until the 'end of Time'.(Matt 28:28 and St John 6:54-58)

Mary and Jesus, therefore are usually portrayed together in works of art. In addition this was the understanding of Mary by all at the time.

Derfyl’s ‘Ceffl’ at Llanderfyl

Like Teilo, Derfyl was portrayed as riding a stag. In the times when anything connected with Mary or the saints was dragged out of churches and destroyed, Derfyl’s statue was dragged out of both Llanderfyl in North Wales and also the statue at Llanderfyl and taken to London to be burned, and fulfilling a rather horrible prophecy. (Post on this coming soon)The Faithful of Cwmbran, and Llanderfyl supported all their ‘llans’ by offerings to God of ‘kyne, oxen and horses’ in return for the service of Derfel and his community-they were not offered to Derfel himself. It seems Derfel became a patron saint of these animals (praying for their health) in this farming community.

Last Days of Derfyl Gadarn

Approaching old age, Derfyl set out again for Bardsey with some brothers and there some Welsh writers have said he was Abbot of Bardsey when he died.(See Fisher/Baring Gould who quote Owen Jones that a place near Blaenau Ffestiniog callsed Llyd Dorfyl was his residence in his military days in that area 'Cymru' 1875, i, p 407)

Summing Up

In the early church of the Romanised Celts, people were named as saints by popular acclaim and the agreement of the Bishop of the diocese. Derfyl fulfilled all the requirements of a saint.It would have been Bishop St Teilo or St Euddogwy (Oudecceus) who declared him a Saint. St David was canonised by Pope Callixtus in the twelfth century for defending the Church's teachings and his day was kept as a principal feast throughout the Church in Europe until Henry VIII.

1.Fought for the Faith under a Christian Lord

2 He helped to safeguard the Christian tradition (and possibly more!) in with Arthryws, Bedwyr and Kai removing Collen and the Glastonbury brothers from danger (and some of those at Garth Madrun-reputedly of the family of Jesus, after Joseph of Arimathea(Ho Rama Thea)who was granted land there)

3 Had studied the Christian heritage and scriptures as taught at Llanilltyd.

4 He embarked on his ‘Green Martyrdoms’ in his missions, establishing his ‘islands’ in the manner of St Augustine of Hippo, and living in the Kingdom in the World, being a ‘Beacon of Light for Christ’ evangelising in a Life of Service to others.
He felt he had to atone for all the killing he had seen and done and hoped to build for a better humanity.

He died, shriven by the holy Church as was the practice at the time on Bardsey Island,the island of 20,000 saints which even today is difficult to visit, and where later a Benedictine Monastery was set up to pray for these saints. (Later torn down)

The Saints of the Valley

He truly is a good patron Saint for Cwmbran, and with our other surrounding patrons, Saint Cadoc (at Trevethin (Llangadog Trefeurthin)and Caerleon ,St Tegfedd of Llandegveth, St Non and St Michael the Archangel patron ofhangel of Llantarnam, one of which we can be proud.

Early Welsh Poem - (I dedicate it to St Derfel)Quoted from 'Celtic Spirituality (Welsh Poems)from 'The Classics of Western Spirituality (Oliver Davies-published by Paulist Press-Wonderful book!)

The first word I say
In the morning when I rise
'May Christ's Cross be my armour about me'

I shall put on the Lord's Protection today
A sneeze I hear
It is not my God;I will not believe in it

I shall arm myself splendidly,
And not believe in superstition, for it is not right.
He ,who created me will give me strength.

My mind is set on a journey.
My intent to put out to sea
A beneficial plan,a gift it will be.

A crow shall raise its wing.
Intending to go to Rome.
A beneficial plan it will be fine.

Saddle the bay mare with white nostrils!
Eager to run, with a rough coat
King of Heaaven, we will need God's aid.

Earth's company is burdensome, and thick the briar's leaves
Bitter the drinking horn of sweet mead.
Lord of Heaven, smooth out the way of my journey.

O Royal Offspring, Victorious Redeemer!¬
Peter Head of Every Nation
St Brigid, bless our journey! (excerpt from a Welsh poem)

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Easter Monday this year was bitterly cold and windy and we made our way down to Polzeath hoping for some beautiful Spring weather to see the Church of St Enodoc,which was for hundreds of years after the Reformation buried in the sand dunes.This beautiful church has thank fully been restored to glory (though not completely-because sadly the rood screen has been roughly sawn down by Cromwell's minions)and , originally cruciform in shape there have been some interesting additions after it became an Anglican parish. In fact it is excellently cared for and kept and completely surrounded by a thick hedge , marking the deliniation of the ancient llan. Outside the cirrcular llan (or Lan in Cornish) boundary was the world and the earth. The inside of the lan, which would hold a church and living quarters for the clergy and their families was heaven, which would have been sanctified by forty days clearing, fasting and praying the office-the Celtic office being (I understand from references to the usages of St David of Wales)much longer than they are today. The families wwould work hard to keep the surroounding fishing and farming going to feed the llan. In Saxon times the little Lan would have been overrun and possibly the people would have fled to the coast and to Wales to seek refuge with the other 'Romanised Celts-' British people who had been thoroughly Romanised and Christianised.

St Gwethenoc or Brychan Brycheiniog's daughter

I have mentioned King Brychan Brycheiniog and his many daughters and granddaughters, sons and grandsons.Most of the female saints of Cornwall are of his family. Reputedly his family was one of the three holiest in Wales, with the Welsh genealogies claiming links with a branch of the family of Joseph of Arimathea (Ho Rama Thea)and many of the Welsh, Cornish annd Breton saints worked to proclaim the gospel of Christ and live out their vocations amongst the poorest people-going wherever they were led in their green and White martyrdoms. The Life of St Nectan gives the patron of this parish as St Eneda (Ceingair) mother of KENHEUDER who also apppears in the copy of St Nectan's Hagiography read by William of Worcester at St MICHAEL's MOUNT at Marazion. The one of Brychan's Children I have posted about before CYNYDR of Glasbury and Llangynydyr in Ancient Gwent.He was the son of Brychan's daughter CEINGAIR.However there is another contender for the land, and from a native Cornish saint, brother of St Wenwaloe of Wonnastow, which I wrote about earlier in Lent.

Saint Gwethenoc was known as an ABBOT and he and his brother were as I have written sons of Fracan and Gwen. They were Cornish, fled to Brittany, and then came under the tutelage of St Budoc (after whom Bude is named)Wethenoc is Gwethenoc in a later form and in Breton he has becomme Goueznou the welsh dd and Cornish 'th'becoming the z in Breton.Gwethenoc was also an ordained priest from the seminary at St Budoc's.

The life of the brothers is in a MS in the Paris National Library (MS Lat 5296 f 62)The life of Gwethenoc and another brother James is also spoken of in the Life of St Winwaloe which I have already posted on the Wonnastow post.St Winwaloe was born, however afterthe family had fled the Saxons to France. St Budoc was living the life of a hermit on the island of Brehat at the time, having also moved from Cornwall to Armorica (roughly Gaul or Brittany)who had a school there. It could be that given the Celtic hero saints travel, that they trained other missionaries who returned to Cornwall, perhaps after the Christianisation of England and the Saxons. There are miracles associated with Gwethenoc. Whist still student priests, their eyes alighted on a blind beggar abd they annointed his eyes with spittle,and made the sign of the cross over them and the legend says the beggar regained his sight. James encountered a leper who held out his hand for alms and James kissed the disseased palm in compassion. The brothers all went off to Landouart and founded a small Llan there and Gwethenoc was the director.

The Snake Bite

One day,when they were harvvesting a harmless grass snake bit one of the brothers in whose sheaf it lurked. He was in deadly alarm, not knowing it was not poisonous and thought it was miraculous he was none the worse for the bite!

Success of the Monastery

The monastery became crowded and so they retired for a ore quiet life, but it was Gwethenoc who left and care of the monasterary was left to James, St Winwaloe haveing perhaps lift on a mission back to South Wales. They established a monastery was known as St -Jacut-a-la Mer.Gwethenoc and James then ruled together as Abbots and became so famous that even whilst they were alive, sailors in danger implored their aid. When they did so, the heavenly twins seemed to appear in light upon the vessel on at the head and one at the stern and went about handling different parts of the ship 'quasi curiosi' and copnducted the vessel into port. St Jacut a la Mer is on a peninsula near Poubelay in Cotes du Nord.One night , they dreamt they saw St Patrick, who informed them,that in heaven, they would occupy thrones on a level with his own.So all three brothers St Gwethenoc , St James and St Winwaloe were very closely connected with the sea and shipping, which is why I tend to think that the church on the cliffs is more likely dedicated to or founded by them. In 1434,in Bishop Lacey's register, St Enodoc is called Capella Sti. Gwinedociand which is described as the Chapel of Guenedouci in an inventory of the goods of the chapel made in 1607-13.

Feast Day Confusion Bishop's official date July 13th in Catholic times.

william of Worcester gives the commemoration of St Wethenoc from the Bodmin Calendar on November 7th but we can't be certain it is the same saint, although it looks as if it may be. At St Enedoc the saint's feast day was held on July 24 but in 1434 Bishop Lacey officially named the day as July 13th.It was a church served by Bodmin Priory and also called 'Sanctus Wenodocus'. In Anglican times it havve become St Guenedowe. Other names also ensued 'Sinking Nedy' or' Sinkinny' as the church appeared to sink into the sand dunes.(sinkin in) Then it was called 'Edith Chap' in the 18th century and by 1720 @St Enedock'After 1836 and the renovcation it was given its current spelling. You have to walk to this church as there is no motor vehicle access. WQalkers from Rock follow the tenth fairway and from Trebetherick there is a footpath signposted, byt you have to park in the official car park.

The church is beautiful in good weather, with view of Dayer Bay and the inlet of Padstow on the other side.However on days of terrible weather it can be most unpleasant, as the guide book says it was on the day of St John Betjeman's funeral.

There used to be a collection of mediaeval stone bowls flanking the pather to the church door. These were stolen recently, rather sadly abd in commmon with churches throughout the country security measures have had to be taken to protect other important articles being stolen. As I walked over tho the church and it's boundary 'lan'hedge, I came to the porch and opn my right hand side was the headstone devoted to Sir John Betjeman.The former poet laureate spent many happy years at Trebetherick and his gravestone attracts many visitors to the church, where his mother is also buried. There is also a tablet on the south wall of the aisle dedicated to his father.

Inside the Porch

A very early Celtic style cross-with the cross shape across the 'Sun of Righteousness'.is to be found in the porch. It is of the 'wayside type' and ay have been on of may on route to the cchurch. In 1863 a restoration was carried out by the vicar Rev Hart Smith and completed in 1864. A contemporary wrote,k the sands had been blown higher than the eastern gables , the wet came in freely , the high pews were mouldy green and worm eaten and bats flew about!

Shape of the Church

Originally it was cruciform, but various different spaces had been built on. The Church would have once had a marvellous brightly coloured rood screet, which seems to have been sawn down either during Elizabeth's time or by the Cromwellians. The remains are quite beautiful, but the pictures of the saints have idsappeared. There is a Norman lancet window, a 13th century tower and stumpy broach spire. There is a 15th century arch and a south aisle. the three bay aisle is separated from the nave and chancel by a modern screen (in front of the organ) The rood screen has been repainted and regilded according to the orginal decoration.There is a bracket piscina of Norman origin. At Holy Mass, this was where the chalice and patten were washed after mass, their remains being washed directly into the earth. On the other side is an Aumbry where sacred vessels were kept.


We have no information about bells in Catholic times, but in 1607 there were two bells in the tower, inscribed 'Alfredus Rex',Later a small new bell from the wreck of the Immacolata of Borletta was installed in 18765. It had been wrecked off the Doom Bar.St John Betjeman called its sound a 'tinny tremor' in his powem 'Sunday Afternoon Service in St Enedoc, Cornwall'.

'Little Sunday'

St Enedoc's (Gwethenoc's) Feast on September the Ninth-(Nearest to the Feast of St Michael') In the 20th century early years it was known as 'Goosy Sunday' as Goose was traditionally eaten on the Feast of St Michael.The views around the church are amzing and many of the passed souls in the churchyard are mariners, sailers, fisherman and especially wrecked seamen. Which brings me to a most insteresting memorial in the Church, carved by renowned Sculptor Philip Chatfield.In the graveyard are reminders of the power of the sea and the dangers of the Doom Bar, the sandbank which straddles the mouth of the Estuary. The guidebook gives 'Sacred to the memory of Chris Bartlett,mariner of Brixham who was unfortunately drowned on the DUM BAR on 22nd of March 1824 aged 30 years., and a sad mmemmorial to one of the crew of the 'Peace and Plenty' of Lowestoft that foundered in 1900.

Philip Chatfield, Survivor of the Maria Asumpta which sank off the'Rumps'back in 1984.

I shall tell the story in more detail later on. Amongst the many sailors who perished off the Doom Bar, were three members of the crew of the Maria Asumpta. They are commemmorated in this magnificent relief inside St Enedoc's Church. Interviewing Philip Chatfield at Nicholaston House Hermitage last week, he told the full story of the wreck which I am planning to put into a podcast , however the people who died, the ship's cook,an 18 year old girl and a young crewhand are remembered here, where so many other drowned sailors lie and the picture tells the story of the brig.

St Gwethenoc and his brother James and St Winawaloe were all seamen and lived and died by the sea.So it is apt that these three are comemorated and remembered here in this beautiful church in the hope of Resurrection. I visited on Easter Monday. The smell of the lilies, tulips and daffodils was intoxicating and fresh in this beautiful building, final home to so many, including John Betjeman. who wrote:

O lichened slate in walls, they knew your worth
Who raised you up to make this House of God
What faith was his , that dim, that Cornish saint,
Small rushlight of the long-forgotten church
Who lived with God on this unfriendly shore,
Who know I-Ic made the Atlantic and the stones
And destined seamen here to end their livves.
Dashed on a rock, rolled over in surf,
And not one hair forgotten. Now they lie
In centuries of sand beside the church......

Afternoon Service at St Enedoc's Church,Cornwall_________________________

The Visit of Pope John Paul II in 1984. His Homily for the People of Wales at Pontcanna Fields, Cardiff

Here is Pope John Paul's homily to the people of Wales at his visit in 1984.In it he mentions Caerleon, home of the second century Christian Martyrs Julius, Aaron and Bishop Amphilabus all saints who died for the faith-as did many subsequent Welsh People.I was at uni when the papal visit happened so was not there, but hope you enjoy Pope John Paul's homily as much as I have.The Mass took place at Pontcanna Fields. Canna was a female Welsh saint and it is fitting that the Mass happened here. Whilst it is sad the present pope has not come to Wales, Wales is devout and Welsh people will flock to see him wherever he is.


St Julius Julianus of Caerleon and Newport and how Bishop St Amphilabus may have appeared. St Julius was killed with swords and Bishop Amphilabus was stoned to death at St Albans where he had fled from Caerleon and had been hidden by St Alban who was also beheaded.Holy Martyrs of Wales. Picture of St Julius is in St David's Cathedrral at St David's in Menevia (Pembroke)

Dear friends in Christ,

Today we Bishop of Rome greets the people of Wales for the first time in their own beautiful land. It is a great joy for me to be with you here in Cardiff. I thank God for the privilege of celebrating the Eucharist with you, uniting with you in giving glory and praise to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

Gathered at this Mass are representatives from every Catholic parish in Wales and members of the Church who have come from England. I also greet those representing the other Christian communities of Wales. In the love of Christ I greet you all.

The people of Wales have an ancient tradition of allegiance to Christ. From the earliest Christian times, you have proclaimed your love of Christ and you have sought to express this love through service to others and fidelity to the word of God. The seed of God’s word first came to you from Rome; once planted, it took root, flowered and bore fruit. It found expression in your literature and left its imprint on your history. And it has remained alive in the hearts of every generation from Roman times down to the present age. It is this same Gospel which I proclaim to you today - the Gospel of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of history and the Bread of Life for a world in need of salvation.

The readings of the Mass today invite us to reflect on the mystery of the Eucharist. This great mystery was foreshadowed in Old Testament times when God provided the Israelites with manna in the wilderness. In the first reading, we hear the words Moses spoke to the people: “Remember how the Lord your God led you for forty years in the wilderness . . . he fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to make you understand that man does not live on bread alone but that man lives on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8, 2-3). God taught the people that he alone was their Lord. He alone was the one who would lead them out of slavery. He alone was the one who would care for them amid the hardships and sorrows they would encounter on the way to the promised land. When they were hungry and thirsty, he gave them manna from heaven and water from the rock.

What was foreshadowed in Old Testament times has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He gave his followers food for the journey of faith when he entrusted to the Church the gift of the Eucharist. Jesus himself is the new spiritual food, for the Eucharist is his body and blood made present under the appearances of bread and wine. He himself says in the Gospel: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst” (Io. 6, 35).

Here in Wales, the Eucharist has held a place of prominence in the Church from the earliest times.

This is shown by the Christian symbols of the Eucharist which have been discovered in the archaeological excavations at the Roman fort of Caerleon. Happily this great heritage has continued from the early beginnings down to the present time. This fact should not surprise us, since the Eucharist holds such a central place in Christian life and since the mystery of the Eucharist is so closely linked to the mystery of the Church. For every generation in the Church, the food which nourishes the people of God is the Eucharist, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What a beautiful prayer is recorded in today’s Gospel. After Jesus speaks to the people about the true bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world, they cry out: “Give us that bread always” (Io. 6, 34). This prayer expresses a deep hunger on the part of the people, one which goes beyond the hunger for food. It is a hunger which arises from the depths of the soul and from the desire for love and fulfilment. It is a longing for wholeness and salvation and a yearning for fullness of life - it is a hunger for union with God. Christ is God’s answer to this prayer. God’s response to the deepest hunger of the human heart. All the anguished cries of mankind to God since the fall of Adam and Eve find fulfilment in the Son of God become man. Jesus still says: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst” (Ibid. 6, 35). May this same prayer - “Give us that bread always” - often be our prayer too. From our First Communion until the day we die, may we have a deep yearning for Christ, the true bread which gives life to the world.

And now I would like to speak to these little ones who are about to receive Holy Communion for the first time.

Dear children: Jesus is coming to you in a new way today, in a special way. He wants to live in you.

He wants to speak to you in your heart. He wants to be with you all through your day.

Jesus comes to you in the Eucharist so that you will live for ever. Holy Communion is not ordinary food. It is the bread of eternal life. It is something more precious that gold or silver. It is worth more than anything you can imagine. For this sacred bread is the body and blood of Jesus. And Jesus promises that if you eat his flesh and drink his blood, you will have life in you and you will live for ever.

You come to the altar today with faith and prayer. Promise me that you will try to stay close to Jesus always, and never turn your back on him. As you grow older, go on learning about Jesus by listening to his word and by talking to him in prayer. If you stay close to him, you will always be happy.

Dear parents of these children: your love for Christ has made this day possible. For you are your children’s first teachers in the ways of faith. By what you say and do, you show them the truths of our faith and the values of the Gospel. This is indeed not only a sacred duty, but a grace, a great privilege. Many other members of the Church share in this task, but the main responsibility for your children’s religious formation rests upon your shoulders. So try to make your homes genuinely Christian. Help your children to grow and mature as Jesus did at Nazareth, “in wisdom, in stature and in favour with God and men” (Luc. 2, 52). Allow no one to take advantage of their lack of experience and knowledge. As you share with them in their personal pilgrimage to God, may you always be united in prayer and worship and in humble love of God and his people.

Dear teachers in our Catholic school: you too deserve an honoured place in our celebration today. Together with the parents, you help to prepare the children for the worthy reception of the sacraments and for a more active role in the Christian community. You bring them to a reverence and knowledge of God’s word and you explain to them the doctrine of the Church. And thus you introduce them gradually into the riches of the mystery of salvation.

You are heirs of a great tradition, and the People of God is in your debt. As you carry out your important mission in that special community of faith which is the Catholic school, may you have a deep love for the Church. May your love for the Church radiate through all your various activities and be reflected in the way you faithfully hand on the sacred deposit of the faith.

Beloved brother priests: this is a day of joy for you also, for these little ones are members of the parishes in which you have the privilege to serve. Together with their families and teachers, you introduce the children to the wider Christian community and help them to grow to the fullness of maturity in Christ. To them and to the whole parish, you seek to give a shepherd’s care. May you be the best of shepherds and model your lives on our Lord and Redeemer.

I known that your Bishops are anxious to develop throughout England and Wales practical programmes of adult education in the faith. I urge you be in the vanguard of those efforts, which are so important for the vitality of the Church.

I also encourage you to make the worthy celebration of the Eucharist the first priority of your pastoral ministry. Recall the words of the Second Vatican Council: “The other sacraments, as well as every ministry of the Church and every work of the apostolate, are linked with the Holy Eucharist and are directed towards it. For the most blessed Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth, that is, Christ himself, our Passover and living bread” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5). No other work you do is of greater importance for the Church or of greater service to your people. For the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the source and summit of all Christian life. Ensure that the Mass is celebrated with deep reverence and prayerfulness, and make every effort to foster the active participation of the laity. Bear witness to the Church’s faith in the Real Presence of Christ by your own daily visit of Eucharistic adoration (Cfr. ibid. 18). And through the liturgical renewal that was willed by the Council, may all your parishes become communities alive with faith and charity.

My brothers and sisters, in Christ, every time we gather for the Eucharist, we take part in the great mystery of faith. We receive the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation. This is the cause of our joy and the source of our hope. As we speak of life and the Bread of Life, let us also remember those who have died in conflicts through the world: in the conflict in the South Atlantic, in the conflict between Iran and Iraq, in every place where human blood is shed. And in the power of the Blood of Christ may we all find peace, reconciliation and Eternal Life. Amen.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


In Kosovo, this video shows a procession of the Faithful, who had their churches trashed and country laid waste in the recent wars-their LENT. Gradually thy walk through it all to the HEAVENLY city and it becomes an Easter proccession with the Bride and the Lamb entering it. It is a joyous Easter Procession , giving us hope for the future.

So we have also trawled through a long Lent and a long winter, colder than we have experienced for some time! At the same time our hearts have been heavily laden with the sins of priests of our church who have been sinful and wreaked havoc with the lives of young children at the beginning of this century.This is always CRIMINAL and WRONG, and there is no excuse for them. They will have had their judgement by God by now.

Not all the abuse was sexual-some was physical, as was usual, unfortunately at this time. It is only in recent times that beating such children has become illegal , and unfortunately with the influx of family breakdowns and sometimes immature people , as we have seen sadly in the case of Baby P and many others, this does continue behind locked doors.

All organisations contain people who abuse children whether it is hidden or not and Pope Benedicts campaign to defrock priests within the Catholic Churrch, when they came to his notice, was hampered by others terrified of the church's reputation being harmed, and by the disappointing reaction of Pope John Paul, who, as a good and holy man , decided to extend more compassion upon Fr Murphy for example (who was terminally ill and did die shortly after the decision was made)than Father Murphy had for his victims. The then Cardinal Ratzinger was furious 'The other side won' he said-pointing out that this treatment would be seen to be 'hiding' the abuse.It is ironic why he of all people should be held rresponsible, while it was he who was trying to laicise those priests.

I am not taking anything away from the experiences of the families who have been through this experience. I know the agonies of all this and the lasting legacy it leaves, and God will deal with those who have perpetrated these crimes and seemingly got away with it .(These crimes were all a long time ago) And indeed I remember rreading about similar cases in schools (statistically more abusse goes on amongst the teaching profession than any other apart from within the family-but would we smear a great an noble profession by intimating that the profession 'hides' this cases and somehow all teachers are involved? No.

Nor would we smear other churches with cases of Child abuse on a large scale in the early part of the twentieth century.A friend of minne was abused by her Jehovah's Witness leader a long time ago and this, unfortunately happens everywhere.

The Pope is,as an octagenarian , a great pope, who has worked tirelessly to unify Christians-not for personal agrandissment but for Christ, who wanted us to be one. The Catholic Church IS counter cultural. Christ would have had a lot to say about the worship of money, dubious morality, neglect and abuse of children (and abuse means not giving children enough love, enough stability) to flourish. Some of our bishops have become lax and distant in promoting the Law of God rather than that of men and they have to toe a difficult line.

I was dismayed that Archbishop Rowan is now wading in to try and stop loyal traditional Anglicans 'defecting' to the Ordinariat that the Pope has set up to provide a space for traditional Anglican worsship. Worse still that the media in the UK is jumping on the bandwagon trying to 'smear' the Holy Father himself, who himself disagreed with the decision not to deal with these priests. You have to wonder whether there are agencies within the church itself out to get at Pope Benedict-what a heavy cross he has to bear this Easter.

Innocent yet accused by an unthinking chattering class out to taint the whole church with the actions of a very small number of sinning priests seemingly in all countries.-so this does seem to be ann orchestrated campaign! This is the message of the Passion and we arre seeing thiss spiritual battle going on. The allegations in Germany began when an alleged victim tried to blackmail the church over an instance of abuse.Having been refused, as his parents had made no complaint and it was his word for it, it sseems he decided to go the compensation route. Most of the priests parishioners protested as he was a hugely popular priest. Some of the priests have now been removed, and no doubt as police make more enquiries they will be rooted out. But don't blame Benedict-he wanted this scandal removed for some time and has doubtless been unpopular amongst some of the bishops because of it.

The evil within the church is real annd manifest, but for the rest of it in it, whilst we are Christ's hospital for sinners, we do try to maintain the teaching of the church and are a powerful source for good inn the world.

We founded the first hospitals and schools.
We still educate people all over the world more than any other organisation.
Our charities and missions are all over the world.
The word DOLE comes from the monasteries, which before Henry VIII stole them and sold them cheaply to his friends provided social help-orphanages, infirmaries, apothecaries etc.
Think of the Priests Wing in Auschwitz where Priests hiding Jews and not going along with the 'Great Atheist' Hitler's plans , were gassed along with the Jewish people.
Think of the stability of family and the Church's defence of it as a place of Love and security.
Think of all the Catholic hospitals in the world-especially in the Third World.

All the millions of men and women battling alone in far away places with honour and love serving their fellow man, as the great Celtic age saints of our Isles did and relinquishing all they possessed to give to the poor-like Mother Theresa of Calcutta for example.

This is the institution being attacked as a whole.We are the Church. Procedures are in place in the British Isles for all such criminal activities to be reported directly to police. None of these cases are recent and the reason for them now is because of the success of Pope Benedict and his trip to the UK. Britain has thrived on anti-catholicism for centuries since the reformation. English people always loved their church. The royal divorce and Henry's desire for a younger wife prompted this thing in Britain, which caused the schism and countless deaths with ensued.

Neverthless while our monarch and parliament was Christian, it maintained its Christian values and orthodoxy and distinctive worship. Parliament is now anti-Christian treating Her Majesty with contempt, and trying to force its cultural values onto the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. This will indeed prompt true Christians to decide which side they are on. When Moses came down with the tablets to find the Chosen People of God dancing around the Golden Calf, he called those to him, who were with God and for him. Those who came over to Moses and pledged themselves to God were saved-the others destroyed. (exodus 32 v 19-29). Now largely atheists are in control of parliament, they will try to invole their law against the Law of God. We have to get by as best we can but need to stand firm in the faith, confident that in spite of these terrible sinners in the church that Christ is the Kingdom, Christ is our Body and Christ on our side. Christ himself said of those who led children into sin or abused them

St Matthew tells us (18 v 6-10)

'Anyone who welcomes the little child like this in my name welcomes me. But anyone who is the downfall of one of these little ones who have faith in me would be better drowned in the depths of the sea with a great millstone around his neck. Alas for the world, that there should be such causes of falling, indeed there must be, but alas for anyone who provides them!'....See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.'

Unfortunately it is a black and white thing. The Beast of the media is attacking the church by means of the impurity and actions of a small minority of its own ministers who, seemingly have lost their fear of the Vengeance of God.What were they doing being priests?


Why is the Media so quiet about the disappeared children-the Ben Needhams and Madeleine MaCann's kidnapped and disappeared to the eternal agony of their own parents. Thousands of these children disappear all over Europe and yet this is hushed up. Obviously powerful money is at play. You would think a scandal of this magnitude would be written about until all these perpetrators are found and rooted out. This is true 'hiding' the truth and it would probably surprise people to know that paedophiles arre found in large numbers in all walks of life. Sad but true. But they have no right to be in the Church trying to persevere in holiness. I feel our new brrand of priests in seminaries which are now filling up again will be very different.

We now thankfully have procedures to protect our children in the future and hopefully will reach out to reassure and help the healing of those who have been affected by their terrible unpriestly behaviour.There is nothing to help child victims within families and abusive casual relationships such as Baby P's and all such other cases from immature behaviour , uncontrolled anger and weak mothers. We should pray for ALL such abused children.

The many terrible sins of the ex priests and deceased priests have become more stripes on Christ's back. The Holy Father's Good Friday speech to exhort priests to be more holy is timely, but it is also for us to support and strengthen and nourish our priests with our own faith and holy lives.Above all we must nourish our children in holiness, goodness, compassion, endurance in suffering,courage in morals, perseverence in sticking to the Truth of the Gospel and Church's teaching of it, and protect them at all costs from predatory adults wherever they may be found. If you have a good relationship with your child, they will tell you things before they go too far , and you must act with wisdomm and courage.

Jesus said:

(Matt:13:10+).....Because to you it is granted to understand the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not granted. Anyone who has, will be given more and will have more than enough, but anyone who has not enough will be deprived even of what he has. The rreason I talk to them (the people) in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case what was being sspoken of by the Prophet Isaiah is being fulfilled.

Listen and Listen-but never understand!
Look and Look but never perceive!
The people's heart has grown coarse,
Their ears dulled, they have shut their eyes tight to avoid using eyes to see
Their ears to hear
Their heart to understand
Changing their ways and being healed by me.

But Blessed are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! In truth, I tell you, many prophets and upright people longed to see what you see and never saw it, to hear what you hear and never heard it'.

And so I wish you a Happy and Blessed Vigil and Easter and I pray for those of you who have been in the desert with me during Lent, will come with great rejoicing to the Father and Resurrected Lord this Easter.

Mary See you all after the Festival with some new super posts.