St David: Do the Little Things
1 March is the day that St David, the patron saint of Wales, is remembered. It is not likely to have been the saint’s birthday, but it is recorded that he died on 1 March 589. Some have claimed that he was 100 years old when he died.
David was not the saint’s given name. Non, his mother, named him Dewidd and he is usually known by Welsh people as Dewi
Dewi’s earliest official biographer named David’s father as Sant, the Prince of Powys, and his grandfather King Ceredig who founded Ceredigion. The old stories tell that Non, Dewi’s mother, was a nun and David was conceived when she was raped by his father. See our story about Dewi’s birth.
Educated at a monastery, Dewi became a missionary. He preached all over Wales, the South-West of England and Brittany, founding a number of monasteries and churches in these places. It is said that he re-dedicated the abbey at Glastonbury where he donated an alter set with a valuable sapphire.
When Dewi set up his monasteries, he and his followers followed a very simple and austere life. They ate mainly leeks and drank only water. They ploughed their own fields without the aid of animals.
It is said that Dewi brought back a pink stone from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem which is now in an altar at St Davids Cathedral This now famous church was built on the site of his original monastery.
Dewi was reported to have performed many miracles in his long life. It is said that using the sign of the cross he cured his tutor’s blindness and he brought a child back to life with his own tears. At Llanddewi Brefi, with a dove sent from God upon his shoulder, it is told that a hill rose to lift him up so a large crowd could all see him and hear him.
The miracle worker and preacher has been the patron saint of Wales since the 12th century. There were about 60 churches at that time that were dedicated to him in Wales and his shrine was so important that Pope Callistus II decreed that two pilgrimages to St Davids were equal to a single trip to the Vatican.
Dewi’s last words to his faithful followers were given at his last sermon on the Sunday before he died: ‘Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things that you have heard and seen me do.’
‘Gwnewch y pethau bychain‘ – ‘Do the little things’, taken from that sermon, is still associated with him.