Page 2, 22nd August 1958

22nd August 1958
Page 2
Page 2, 22nd August 1958 — St. Augustine's mission
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St. Augustine's mission

The

Internati▪ onal

Eisteddfod

S" Here's the Answer ", your answerer puts quite clearly Le/ and accurately the facts concerning the essential Roman-ness of the pre-Augustinian church of these isles. But, unfortunately, he adds a piece of historical apologetic which is completely at variance with certain facts.

I mean the argument that the "British" (sic) refusal to co-operate with St. Augustine "is explained by their bitter animosity to the pagan Anglo-Saxons who had driven the British from their home."

This statement errs in several places: (1) The "British" did not resist St. Augustine so far as they understood his mission. Pope Gregory told Augustine that he committed the bishops already in the land to his personal care, hut the point seems to have been kept in the background and his mission suggested that the bishops should not so much be subject to Augustine as to the parvenu Canterbury.

St. Augustine died in 605 and with him ended Canterbury's jurisdiction (such as it was) over the Britons. The Britons held out till 768 when, at the persuasion of Elfoddw who was able to convince the Britons from Gregory's letter published by Bede in 731 that the archbishops of Canterbury after Augustine had no jurisdiction over them, they yielded.

The pay-off arrived when Benedict XV in 1916 published the apostolic letter Cambria Celtica, which formally separated the Welsh hierarchy.

"Wales, a nation of Celtic origin,

differs so much from England . that it would seem to call for separation in the ecclesiastical order and for the possession of its own hierarchy."

(2) The supposed paganism of the "Anglo-Saxons." Several writers, including Chesterton, have rightly sneered at the Anglo-Saxon stuff. The people of what is now England were in those days corrupted provincials of a Roman province.

They had become more or less barbarised and, slowly and more peacefully than otherwise, came to use a "Saxon" speech except in the south west. Christians were common in some parts especially in Cornwall and much of Wessex.

(3) The Welsh were not driven from what is now England to Wales and Cornwall. If they were driven out, then it is extremely odd that there is no evidence of their advent as refugees. WadeEvans has refuted this "official" history in his magnum opus, "Um Emergence of England and Wales," a work produced with the help of Pere Grosjean, the Bollandist, who is a Welsh speaking Welsh scholar.

(4) The Welsh were for many years during the years of crisis more friendly towards the English than we have been led to believe.

If there were any aggression, it came from the Princes of Powys who pushed eastwards to Baschurch and towards the river Tern. The sane policies adopted by the Welsh princes and the English and backed by Asser amounted to alliances of the same traditional sort as those pursued by Roman Britain in the fifth century,

The Welsh alliance stood particularly well in Alfred's time when Hyfaidd, Helised, Ilywell, Brochfeel, and Ffernfael led Welsh warriors to • fight at Ethandune. Chesterton's Colan of Usk may be one of the two latter, both of whom came from what is now Monmouthshire.

The basic error is due to that remarkable falsification of history we owe to the De excidio and to Bede's shocking misunderstanding of it. SIR'-As one who assisted at the Catholic Centre during the International Eisteddfod at Llangollen I should like to thank Mr. Edward P. Lee for mentioning us in his reply to Miss Walsh. Speaking purely on my own account, however, I take strong exception to his comparing the National Eisteddfod of Wales unfavourably with the Llangollen festival.

Many Welshman agree that the "druidical" ceremonies are undesirable but to call them "flea-pagan" is a little hard. They are more of a pageant than a service and those who conduct them are, in general, outstanding Christians.

The idea that we should be further opposed to them because they are "speaking a language we cannot understand" is intolerable from a menvber of the universal Church. (I am glad Mr. Lee repudiates this view himself, as the name of his house is a Welsh title of Our Lady.) Finally to say that the Eisteddfod is "well flavoured with Nonconformism" is as meaningless as saying that an Irish Feis is well flavoured with Catholicism. The hard truth is that religious Wales is predominantly Nonconformist -we are a bad third after the Anglican "Church in Wales."'

The International Eisteddfod, supposedly free from all this, opens each day with a Nonconformist hymn. It has no "official language."

English, often interspersed with Welsh. is used by the comperes; test-pieces may be sung in Welsh, English or their original language. The Official trophies are inscribed in Welsh only. The hymns are in Welsh.

The greatest honour an Eisteddfod committee can pay anyone is to make him Day President (Llywydd), I cansiot recall a recent Catholic president at Llangollen, but at the National this year Mr. Saunders Lewis, a distinguished convert. presided on the most important day.

The Church has a threefold ministry in Wales; to the Welsh non-Catholics. to resident Catholics (mostly immigrants like myself), and to the summer visitors. Remembering the parable of the lost sheep, there is no doubt which is the most Urgent

It is hard, however, to make serious religious contact with Welsh Protestants. Therefore, I believe that, though the Catholic Centre at I.langollen is valuable (and of great importance to us parochially), the Catholic tent pitched annually upon the National Eisteddfod field is of far greater significance. Finally, may I deplore Miss Walsh's and Mr. Lee's concern with prestige. Is the Church helped by a specifically Catholic choir competing at the International Eisteddfod?

J. P. Brown

Bryn Castel], Geufron, Llangollen.




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