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.


  1. Hi Tracy

    A Happy Feast Day to you, too. Thanks for visiting, it is always good to hear from you. God bless you.

  2. Very nicely done! I learned a great deal here today! Thank you!!! God Bless!!!!! Cathy

  3. Good Morning GrandmaK
    Thank you. I am pleased you found this post informative. I won't be posting for a few weeks as I have some very ill family members and I am taking a few weeks off to visit them and have some time with them. Hopefully, I will be back posting soon, so please don't forget us here. I would appreciate a little prayer for my family too if you would. Thanks again and God bless you.


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