Welsh hearts generally sing as the month of March begins. It is the day we remember the patron Saint of Wales—St. David. His importance goes beyond his native country because he was one of the leaders of Celtic Christianity. For a long time he was the only Welsh Saint honoured by the whole of the Western Church.
Celebrations may be more muted this year but Wales is a resilient place and there will doubtless be celebrations of sorts.
As a spiritual leader St. David has been described as an athlete of the spiritual life who pressed himself to the limits of human endurance. But what he expected of himself he did not demand of others whom he treated with deep compassion, especially the poor and the sick.
On his deathbed, his monks gathered around him and he spoke his final words to them
Lords, brothers and sisters, be happy and keep your faith and your belief, and do the little things that you have heard and seen me do.”
The little things which characterized David’s own approach to life were (a) to respect others (b) to live in lowliness, which can be read as meekness and humility, or to live a life of simplicity, and (c) be at home to others. This is about practicing the deeply held monastic ideal of hospitality in which Christ is recognized in everyone.
These are important virtues today when so many are isolated, lonely or, because of lockdown, in dark and sometimes dangerous places.
Loneliness is one of the scourges of the pandemic so it is even more important to reach out and enfold people with kindness and love, even if it is by phone, email, shopping, just being nice to them and so on. On my daily walk I meet strangers and neighbours and we exchange a few words. People who never used to speak to each other are now reaching out in friendliness. That’s about the hospitality of the heart. This hospitality is based on recognizing the worth of others. This involves looking for and rejoicing in the image of Jesus Christ in others. It enriches theirs and our day.
One of David’s early biographers with a personal knowledge of him said that he was constantly feeding a multitude of orphans, wards, widows, needy, sick, feeble and pilgrims.
Drawing on the example David set, a modern writer on Welsh Spirituality, Patrick Thomas wrote:
“In any community apparently insignificant acts of habitual kindness and self-forgetfulness which display a fundamental respect and love for others can generate stability, unity and wholeness. On the other hand, acts of unkindness or contempt, however superficially trivial, can quickly lead to the disintegration of a society as feuds develop and are fuelled by an unwillingness to forgive.”
Seemingly Insignificant acts of kindness which takes us outside ourselves is at the heart of what St. David meant when he spoke of doing the little things.
Respect, Lowliness and Hospitality towards others, beginning with random acts of kindness combined with selfless care, would be a good way of building up loving and caring communities.
It would also, as with St David, bring us closer to God whose acts of habitual kindness towards us we call grace.