Celts to the Crèche: Day 31
St. Non of Wales
Died about March 2, 589AD
On this 31st day of our journey with the Celts to the Crèche, we meet St. Non, whose name means “nun.” She was the mother of the patron saint of Wales, St. David (Dewi Sant). She likely died about 589 AD, even though she may have been born in the 400’s. She may have been a daughter or granddaughter of Brychan, king of Brecon in South Wales.
Legend says that Non was a virgin and was raped by Sant (Sandde), the King of Ceredigion. She became pregnant with David. Another story states that Non stopped into a local church to get a blessing for the upcoming birth. When the preacher found himself unable to preach in the presence of her unborn child, this was taken as a sign that the child would himself be a great preacher.
You may desire to continue reading more about Non or go on to the Meditation towards the end of this page.
Chapel: Non’s chapel stands near the original Celtic foundations on a picturesque cliff top overlooking the gorgeous St. Non’s Bay, about a mile south of St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire. The chapel along with St. Non’s Well is located on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Walk.
Very close by St. Non’s Holy Well, a St. Non’s Chapel was built. Later, farmers began to dismantle St. Non’s Chapel to use for mending their stone fences, so her chapel was rebuilt in 1934.
From St. David’s Cathedral website:
The ruined chapel contains a stone incised with a Celtic round cross dating to the 7th-9th century. It was once built into the wall and was probably originally a grave marker. The chapel is surrounded by a stone circle dating from the Bronze Age, marking this as a site which has been held sacred for thousands of years. Such layers in the landscape speak to us of the power of place.
Holy Well: St. Non’s Holy Well is close to the chapel and it is considered to be one of the main healing wells in Wales as it is famous for curing eye diseases.
From: (Survey of St. David’s by Browne Willis, London 1717):
“There is a fine Well beside it (St. Non’s Chapel), cover’d with a Stone-Roof, and enclos’d within a Wall, with Benches to sit upon round the Well. Some old simple People go still to visit this Saint at some particular Times, especially upon St. Nun’s Day (March 2nd) which they kept holy, and offer Pins, Pebbles, Etc at this well”.
According to the St. Non’s Retreat Centre website:
“Near the Chapel ruins is the Holy Well of St Non which tradition says sprang up at the birth of St David. It is regarded as one of the most sacred wells in Wales. The water is considered to having healing and miraculous powers. Even after the Reformation the well continued to be frequented by the faithful. It was fully restored and rededicated by the Passionist Fathers in 1951.At the same time a small shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary was placed opposite the well.”
Non’s Retreat Centre is on the same promontory as Non’s Chapel, well, and chapel ruins are located. They have various retreats throughout the year with accommodation.
St. Non is also commemorated as a holy woman not only in Wales, but also in Cornwall, England, and in Brittany, France. Non brought Dewi up at Henfeynyw near Aberaeron, Wales and together they founded a nunnery at Llanon nearby.
Later, she moved to Cerniw to be near her sister, St. Wenna. It is said that Non sent out some oxen to drag her portable altar to the place where she would live. The oxen stopped at Altarnon, where she founded a monastery. Non retired to Brittany and settled in Dirinon (Diri in Breton meaning oak trees and Non her name) in Finistère, setting up a third monastery there. She died there on March 3rd. Her shrine can still be seen in the Finistère parish church today. She is listed in the Perpetual Calendar of Cornish Saints as “Mam S. Davy.” There are at least two holy wells to St. Non in Cornwall: at Grampound and at Altarnun which was used for public displays of miraculous cures.
Non died in northwestern Brittany, France and is buried at Dirinon, ten miles east of Brest.
St. Non’s Reliquary in L’eglise Sainte-Nonne in Dirinon, Brittany, France. Photo from Wikipedia
Feast Day March 2 or March 3
What a wonderful example Non’s life is of God turning something horrible in our life into something that blesses and transforms the world. As we journey with Non, a Welsh Celtic saint to the crèche, let us take the truth deep into our souls that Christ can make all things new. That even the worst thing in our life can be transformed by the Creator Spirit into something beautiful and sacred and lovely.
Prayer: O Christ of the Universe, you know the deepest, darkest, most painful place of my life. Some I have done to myself and some have been done to me. Shine the penetrating light of the holy Star of Bethlehem into that secret sanctuary that only You and I know about. May healing begin as I pilgrimage closer to that crèche (manger) where Christ is born anew in my life. May I become a new person, with a transformed soul and mind, and a new way of seeing and experiencing life. I desperately need your help. Heal my broken relationships. Heal my broken heart and broken body. Dry my tears that seem to constantly flow and unplug the tears that need to flow. Shine through me to help others to also find their way to the crèche. Amen
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L’église Sainte-Nonne. Dirinon, Brittany, France.
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