Last Saturday saw the first parish pilgrimage of the year, as a small group of parishioners headed out of the city into the Vale of Glamorgan and Llancarfan, with its medieval church and wall-paintings.
With Sunday being the commemoration of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, we anticipated the feast of St Cadoc, celebrating on the site of his monastery, at ‘the church of the stags’.
We were welcomed with great warmth, and very much enjoyed the historical talk from Sam Smith, who was both entertaining and informative as he guided us through the medieval wall-paintings, dominated by the incredible mural of the Holy Great-Martyr, George.
The wealth of surviving medieval details in the church – woodwork, masonry, wall painting – in addition to the architecture of the church in its valley, beside the stream, bore witness to centuries of continual prayer and devotion on this ancient site, founded in the Age of the Saints.
After the wonderful talk, we gathered behind the fine medieval screen of the Lady Chapel, where we chanted a simple moleben, with a canon to St Cadoc, even having charcoal and incense being brought from the sacristy for our use. It was lovely to have a few Llancarfan parishioners with us, and we hope that in the future, we may be able to celebrate the Liturgy on the site of St Cadoc’s ascetic labours.
Though a prince and son of the local King Gwynllyw and Queen Gwladys of Glywysing (both saints), St Cadoc (c. 497 – c. 580) dedicated his life to asceticism and the monastic life and the monastery that he founded at Llancarfan became a great seat of Christian learning, a nursery of asceticism and school of holiness.
With the monastics living in its daughter-houses and cells, Llancarfan became an important monastic centre, with St Cadoc considered a founding-father of the monastic life in Wales.
St Cadoc’s travels linked Wales with Ireland and Brittany, in addition to distant Rome and Jerusalem, and the contrasting poverty of his hermit-retreat on the island of Flatholme in the Severn Channel.
Llancarfan was a place of fellowship between St Cadoc and other great saints of our land, including St Illtud and St Gildas the Wise.
According to tradition, when he was too old to serve as abbot, St. Cadoc retired and withdrew from Llancarfan, and whilst visiting Beneventum (Weedon in Northamptonshire), he was killed by a pagan as he celebrated Liturgy.
It was a great blessing to mark the feast with prayers in the llan of St Cadoc, and to honour him on the site of his own ascetic struggles.
We hope and pray that this visit will be the first of many, and encourage parishioners and friends to make the journey through the narrow lanes of the Vale to seek the blessing of St Cadoc and enjoy the treasures of Llancarfan church.
Our thanks go to the parishioners who greatly honoured St Cadoc, their patron, by the warmth and generosity of their welcome.
Venerable Father, Cadoc, pray to God for us!