St. David’s Day: A Festival for Catholics

St. David’s Day (1 March) may well become an official Bank Holiday when the National Assembly of Wales is up and running. Welsh Secretary Ron Davies has already stated that the Assembly plans to make it a non-working day for the organisation and it’s likely to be only a matter of time before the rest of the country will get the same privilege.
Such a move would have been welcomed by Archbishop Francis Mostyn who was Archbishop of Cardiff from 1921 to 1939. He wrote the great hymn to St. David and also fostered celebrations in the Catholic Church for the feastday of the Patron Saint of Wales.
That was back in 1932, when a correspondent signing himself ‘Gwyddel’ (‘Irishman’) wrote to the Welsh Catholic Times pointing out that Protestants were proud to celebrate St. David’s Day, while the Catholics seemed to have no enthusiasm for the occasion.
He continued: “The majority of Catholics in Wales are not Welsh, but why do we insist on remaining a people apart.”

The writer went on to refer to the popular opinion which accepts Chapel as synonymous with Welsh, Anglican as English and Catholic as Irish. He asked: “Is it Catholic policy in Wales to celebrate another Patronal Feastday (St. Patrick’s) while passing over and ignoring the national feast of the country in which we live and get our living?” He went on to suggest special Masses in the churches on St. David’s Day, celebrations in Catholic schools, Catholics wearing the daffodil, concerts of a Pan-Celtic nature, to include Welsh songs and dances, and sermons on St. David and Wales on the Sunday night (at Benediction Services) preceding the feast.
The cause was taken up by the Welsh Catholic Times and within weeks Archbishop Mostyn had approved the ideas outlined in the letter and written his hymn to St. David which is still sung with gusto around March 1.

“Oh great St. David, still we hear thee call us
Unto a life that knows no fear of death;
Yes, down the ages, will thy words enthral us,
Strong happy words, be joyful, keep the Faith.”

: John O’Sullivan, a freelance journalist in Cardiff.

Published in The Green Dragon No 6, Spring 1998