The Welsh Celtic Faith of St Cadfan
Celtic faith, and forms, and prayers, enjoyed something of a resurgence during the last Century. All sorts of theologies and outlooks have found inspiration from both the past and the present expressions of a faith we all regard as indigenous to these islands (though it is interesting to reflect that the` keltoi` were our experience of the people otherwise known as The Gauls or Gaels who in turn find their roots in the peole of Galatia to whom Paul wrote his epistle)
Mostly our interest in Celtic spirituality centres around Scotland, Ireland and Northern England, around Lindisfarne and Iona. My own `way in` came through discovering that I am named after Colm, the Dove, whom we call Columba. But there is a rich vein of Welsh Celtic spirituality too.
David is the best known of the Welsh Celtic worthies. But there is a whole catalogue of Godly men and women whose memory is preserved in names of Churches, and places (the prefix Llan means `the sacred space of.........`). One of whom is Cadfan, who in the sixth century established the `clas` in Tywyn West Wales and founder of the monastic settlement on Bardsey Island.
As frequent summer visitor to West Wales, and thus the interaction between, land, sea and sky, and the interweaving of now, and then, earth and heaven, between here and there, symbolised in the Celtic knots, I too when there am caught up in the desire to pray in amongst the glory of creation, aware that I live my everyday life with all its trivialities and enormities in the presence of Father. Son, and Holy Spirit. The Celtic Cross is properly in situ here as well emphasising that at the centre of human existence there is a Cross.
Pilgrims following in Cadfan’s footsteps make their way from Tywyn to Bardsey, and I am fascinated by the nature of the original route, long before there were roads or bridges, and drovers tracks, fords and beaches were the primary way.
The Twelfth Century Parish Church in Tywyn is the only Church in Wales named after Cadfan. Two stone artefacts therein are worthy of note. The first is the earliest known record of the Welsh language as it emerged as a distinctive form of Celtic communication. The second is a prayer sundial one of only two one the Alba mainland, though there are several more in Ireland. It is really quite humbling to think that more than a thousand years ago there were those of our Christian forebears for whom this was a call to regular daily prayer. How much we need to abandon our sophisticated neglect of time with God of the 21st century to rediscover some of the simple lessons with which these Christians were familiar then.
Not far from Tywyn lies the Dysynni Valley, at the head of which lies the Parish Church of LLanfihangel-y-Pennant. Nowadays devotees of The Bible Society know this lace as the starting point for the Mary Jones walk to Bala. How wonderful that such an obscure location should be the inspiration for a world wide movement which has touched the lives of millions. But whenever I am there I reflect too upon the faith present in the valley long before Mary Jones lived, and the people who will have prayed for days when the Word of God would be made widely available throughout the world. And I think of Cadfan and those Christians who stood and prayed with him, and who by their intercessions re-shaped their land.
Malcolm Clarke. Rev M B Clarke MA BA Hinckley URC November 2010
The Welsh Celtic Faith of St Cadfan by Rev M B Clarke MA BA is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.