Saturday, 20 March 2010


I just want to let the friends of this blog know that I won't be posting for several weeks. I am taking two, possibly three, weeks off to spend some time with some very ill members of my family. An occasional prayer for my family would be very much appreciated if you would be so kind.

Please don't forget ST DAVID LEWIS, the LAST WELSH MARTYR. I will be back soon, please God. Thanks for all your interest, comments, and support. Take care and God bless you.

Friday, 19 March 2010


On this, the Feast of St Joseph, we will explore briefly a link between St David Lewis and St Joseph.

The Sisters of St Joseph were founded at LePuy, France, in 1650 by Fr Jean-Pierre Medaille of the Society of Jesus. Fr Medaille was a noted teacher of philosophy who distinguished himself as a preacher and by his wonderful zeal for souls. The constitutions which Father M├ędaille wrote for the sisters are borrowed from the rules of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits to which Fr Medaille belonged.

This congregation had its martyrs! During the reign of terror, several Sisters of St. Joseph died for the Faith, and several others escaped the guillotine only by the fall of Robespierre. Among the latter was Mother St. John Fontbonne, who in her notebook records the names of four Sisters of St. Joseph imprisoned with her at St-Didier, five others in the dungeon of Feurs, and twenty in Clermont and other parts of France. The first use Mother St. John made of her liberty was to try to reassemble her dispersed community. The Sisters regrouped and reformed in various places and while all are Sisters of St Joseph as founded by Fr Medaille, they now carry the name of the place where they were reformed. Hence you will find The Sisters of St Joseph of Lyons, Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy, etc. Our link with St David Lewis is through the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy.
In 1179, a Cistercian Abbey was founded at Llantarnam. It was a daughter house of Strata Florida. Owing to a 14th century fire and, two centuries later, the Reformation, little remains of the original Abbey. During the Reformation, the Abbey was dissolved. The property was acquired by William Morgan, a devout Catholic, who turned the Abbey into his family home. For generations, the Morgan Family held to their Catholic Faith and kept a chapel in their home where Catholics of the area could attend Mass. They were also instrumental in establishing the Jesuit College of St Francis Xavier at the Cwm, near Monmouth. St David Lewis a Welsh Jesuit, who was executed at Usk in 1679, lived for a time at Llantarnam with the Morgan Family. His Aunt was Lady Frances Morgan. Fr Lewis ministered to the Catholics of the area, saying Mass at the Morgan home, hearing Confessions, performing Baptisms, Weddings and generally tending to the needs of the persecuted Catholics. When the wave of persecution, generated by the Titus Oates Plot of 1678, broke over the country, Fr Lewis moved out of Llantarnam Abbey. He wished to prevent trouble being brought to the Morgans so, while continuing to serve the Catholics around Llantarnam, he moved into a cottage near the Abbey. It was here, on 17th November 1678, that the courageous Jesuit, Fr David Lewis, was arrested as he prepared to celebrate Holy Mass. He was tried and convicted of high Treason, that is, of being a Catholic priest and saying Mass. After a period of incarceration in various prisons, Fr Lewis was martyred at Usk on 27th August 1679.

In time, Llantarnam Abbey passed to various owners and in 1946, the “Residential & Agricultural Estate of Llantarnam Abbey” came on the market. The Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy, who were in need of larger premises, purchased the Abbey. That year, on 26th October, the Feast of Christ the King, Holy Mass was joyfully celebrated there for the first time in two hundred and sixty-eight years. The celebrant was Fr John Cahalane, Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Angels, Cwmbran.

St Joseph, the protector and foster father of the young Jesus, is the patron of the wonderful women who live at Llantarnam Abbey. Through their varied ministries, they spend their days living the word and the love of God. St Joseph is the quiet man of Scripture. Not one word of his is to be found in Scripture. We aren’t told much about him either, except that he was a just man and a righteous man. A man of great faith and trust in God, he did God’s will in all things. Today, St Joseph is the Patron of many countries and the Church rightly proclaims him Patron of the Universal Church. At Llantarnam Abbey, St Joseph is loved and revered by the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy. They display many reminders and representations of their Patron Saint and there is a particularly beautiful statue of St Joseph in the well kept grounds of the Abbey. Nor is St David Lewis forgotten at the house in which he lived and celebrated Holy Mass. A portrait of the Martyr hangs in a place of honour at Llantarnam Abbey and the good Sisters treasure a relic of the Saint which they are proud to possess.

Today we honour St Joseph on this, his special day. Let us go to him in humble prayer and seek his aid in living faithful lives, open always to the will of God. Let us ask, too, the help of St David Lewis as we try to live our faith in a world where many have forgotten God.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


Oliver Plunkett was born in Loughcrew, County Meath, Ireland in 1629 to well-to-do parents. Desiring to become a priest, he set out for Rome in 1645. In 1646, he was admitted to the Irish College in Rome.

In 1654 Oliver Plunkett was ordained a priest and delegated by the Irish Bishops to act as their representative in Rome. Because of the extremely strict Penal Laws in force in Ireland at that time, it was many years before Fr Plunkett could return to his homeland. He served as theological professor at the College of Propaganda Fide and there, on 9th July 1669, he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh and was consecrated on 30th November at Ghent by the Bishop of Ghent, assisted by two Bishops, including the Bishop of Ferns.

The Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 brought King Charles II to the throne and the new King wished to rule with tolerance for all his subjects. So, in March 1670, the Archbishop finally returned to Ireland. He received the pallium on 28th July 1670. Now that he was home, Archbishop Plunkett began the reorganising of the ravaged Catholic Church. He built schools both for the young and for the clergy and, in 1670, he established a Jesuit College in Drogheda. The Archbishop refused to sign the Test Act of 1673 and the college was razed to the ground and Plunkett went into hiding, travelling about in disguise.

In 1678, things became even worse for Catholics, particularly for Catholic priests! In England, the foul Titus Oates had concocted the fictitious Popish Plot and anti-Catholic hysteria was sweeping the country. Despite having a price on his head, Archbishop Plunkett refused to abandon his flock. He was arrested in Dublin in December 1679 and imprisoned in Dublin Castle. He was tried at Dundalk for conspiring against the state but this was unproven. The powerful and extremely anti-Catholic Lord Shaftsbury feared that Oliver Plunkett would never be convicted in Ireland so he had him moved to Newgate Prison in London. Even though the first grand jury found no true bill, the Archbishop was not released. At the second trial, which was claimed to be a kangaroo court, he was, as expected, found guilty of High Treason “for promoting the Roman faith” and he was condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

On 1st July 1681, Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland, was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. Originally, his body was buried in two tin boxes. Exhumed in 1683, his remains were moved to various places before finally coming to rest at Drogheda, Ireland (his head), Downside Abbey, England, and Lamspringe, Germany.

Archbishop Oliver Plunkett was beatified in 1920 and canonised in 1975. St Oliver Plunkett was the last Catholic Martyr to be executed in England.

Sunday, 14 March 2010


This post is a little out of the ordinary for this blog but , on this Mothering Sunday, I wanted to post something especially for mothers. This lovely Irish song, sung by the equally lovely Bridie Gallagher, really says it all - "A MOTHER'S LOVE IS A BLESSING". To all mothers, thank you and a very Happy Mothering Sunday.

Thursday, 11 March 2010


This post was prompted by a comment from Pedro at Pedro The Fisherman Blog. The Catholic Church in Abergavenny is in possession of some plate, including a chalice, which was used by St David Lewis. Other than that, the following is all that I can discover about the whereabouts of the confiscated plate of Fr David Lewis.

On Sunday morning, 17th November 1678, Fr David Lewis S J, was preparing to celebrate Holy Mass. Just before daybreak, six of John Arnold’s dragoons arrived at his cottage in Llantarnam. The dragoons were led by Roger Seys, William Bedloe and William James, and they had been sent by the arch priest hunter, Arnold, to arrest the priest. The ultimate destination was Monmouth Gaol but first the party was to stop at the house of Charles Price of Llanfoist. Price was another Justice of the Peace and one of Arnold’s henchmen.

When Fr Lewis was taken from his cottage, those who had arrested him also took away all the altar furnishings, vestments, and anything considered “popish”! A report sent to the Privy Council asked for instructions as to what should be done with “all his robes, crucifixes, wafers, books and several other things”. The reply was that they should proceed according to the law, and all objects were to be burnt, “if they shall find the same to be popish or superstitious.”

The following is a list of items confiscated and kept by Charles Price of Llanfoist;
One large silver and gilt chalice and paten,
One pair of small silver flower pots,
One small thurible and cover,
One small silver plate for cruets,
One silver cruet,
One silver bell for the altar,
One small pair of silver candlesticks,
Several small pieces of silver belonging to a crucifix,
One picture of the Virgin Mary, with a silver and gilt inner frame

Charles Price was a rapacious man, hungry for power and wealth. Despite orders from the Privy Council, he was very loath to part with the plate taken from the home of Fr Lewis. In April 1860, the Treasury ordered Thomas Morgan, the Sheriff of Monmouth, to take delivery of this collection of plate from Price and give it to the constables as a reward for their diligence in priest hunting! However, Price still clung to his booty and, when an enquiry into the matter was conducted after the accession of King James II in 1685, the stolen articles were still in the possession of Charles Price.

Sunday, 7 March 2010


This is a lovely song from Sister Miriam Therese Winter and The Medical Mission Sisters. They were in the forefront of the new style of music that became popular in the Catholic Church in the 1960s. This is a very lovely song and appropriate for this Lenten season.

Is there a song to ease our sorrow
to lead us along into tomorrow
to show us how, to live in our now
Father Thy Will be done
Father Thy Will be done

What have you done for my friends
how have you called, how have you lived
how have you died, how did you give
how have you tried


What have you done for my Son
have you been called, have you received
have you been right, have you believed
have you been tried

Thursday, 4 March 2010


One of the principal witnesses at the trials of both Fr Philip Evans and Fr David Lewis was a disreputable character named Mayne Trott, of Llanvihangel Crucorny.

Born around 1629, Mayne Trott had been successively Court Dwarf to the Kings of Spain and of England. After the Restoration of the Monarchy, Trott was in the service of King Charles II of England but, because of his unsavoury conduct, he was banished from Court. Trott himself denied this and maintained that he had left Court of his own free will and was still welcome to go there whenever he pleased.

Mayne Trott had converted to Catholicism upon his marriage to a wealthy relative of Fr David Lewis. He soon went through her fortune and after her death he reverted to Protestantism. Having been banished from Court, he had to depend on the charity of others and thus he became a useful tool of the zealous anti-Catholic and priest hunter, John Arnold, and was now a tenant and servant of Arnold’s. Of course, because of his married life as a Catholic, Mayne Trott was able to supply his master with information as to the affairs of the Catholics in South East Wales.

At the trial of St David Lewis, Judge Atkins asked; “Mr Trott, what have you to say of the prisoner? Did you ever hear him read Mass? Was he reputed commonly a Jesuit, or Popish priest?” Trott replied; “Yes, my lord, he was commonly reputed so, and I have heard him often read Mass and I saw him marry Mr Gunter’s daughter to Mr Body.” Fr Lewis, who had trained as a Lawyer, was conducting his own defence and he pointed out to Judge Atkins and the court that, because of Trott’s straitened circumstances, “it is rather poverty and hope of gain, than anything else, that brings him here to accuse me.” To this Judge Atkins replied “Paupertas ad turpia rogat” (poverty leads to dishonesty).

In November 1679, three months after the execution of St David Lewis, there was a Pope-burning in Abergavenny. Instigated by John Arnold and his minions, the spectacle was led by Mayne Trott, armed with a blunderbuss. Shortly after this, 50 year old Mayne Trott dropped dead in a London street.

Monday, 1 March 2010


1st March is a very special day. It is the day on which all red blooded Welshmen (wherever they are) celebrate the feast of their Patron Saint, St David. At the special St David’s Day Mass today, the schoolchildren will be decked out in something typically Welsh. There will be a sea of red Welsh Rugby Shirts, yellow daffodils, tall black Welsh Hats, Leeks and Red Dragons! The children always make their own special contribution to the Mass with their singing and readings. All in all, the St David’s Day Mass is lovely and the presence of the children makes it even lovelier!

Legend has it that St David of Wales was born around 462. He was the son of a chieftain in Cardigan and St Non. He was baptised by St Ailbe, Bishop of Munster.

Sometime after David was ordained a priest, together with three disciples, he went to a place called Hodnant in Welsh. In Irish it was known as Mynyw. It is now called St David’s and there they founded their monastery. The Rule David drew up for himself and his monks was exceedingly strict. David acquired the nickname ‘Dewi Ddyfrwr’ or ‘David the Waterman’, because of his daily practice of immersing himself in cold water for long periods of prayer!

The fame of David’s sanctity soon attracted many followers. He died on 1st March, but the year is not certain. As he lay dying, David admonished his monks, “Brothers, be joyful and keep the faith. Do those little things you have seen and heard from me.” He was buried in his own church and his shrine became a popular pilgrimage site. In mediaeval Britain, for penitential purposes, two pilgrimages to St David’s were equal to one pilgrimage to Rome. In the year 1140, William of Malmesbury stated that Pope Callixtus granted the same indulgence to those who went twice to St David’s as to those who went once to Rome.

Today, St David’s Shrine may be found in the beautiful St David’s Cathedral, built on the site of his former monastery. Over the centuries, the original shrine was desecrated several times and, during the Reformation, destroyed. In the 1800s some bones, thought to be the saint’s, were discovered under the floor of Holy Trinity Chapel. They are now in a splendid oak casket and pilgrims still come to honour the Patron Saint of Wales.
Related Posts with Thumbnails