Life in David’s community

Daily Reading for March 1 • David, Bishop of Menevia, Wales, c. 544

The monastic community built in the Lord’s name a fine monastery in the place that the angel had previously shown them. When this was finished the holy father decreed such austerity in his zeal for the monastic ideal that every monk toiled at his daily work and spent his life in manual labor for the good of the community. . . .They place the yoke upon their shoulders and are unflagging as they dig the ground with mattocks and spades; they carry in their holy hands hoes and saws for cutting, and by their own efforts provide for all the requirements of the community. They scorn possessions, reject the gifts of the wicked, and despise wealth. They use no oxen for plowing; each one is his own ox and his own wealth both to himself and to his brothers. . . .

When the labor in the fields was done, they would return to the cloisters of the monastery and would pass the rest of the day until vespers reading, writing, or praying. When evening came and the bell was rung, everyone left what they were doing. Even if someone heard the bell when they had only just begun a character, or had only half completed it, he would quickly rise and leave his work, making his way silently to the church without any idle chatter. When they had sung the Psalms, in unity of heart and voice, they devoutly remained on bended knees until the appearance of the stars in the heavens marked the close of day. When the others had left, David alone remained to pour forth secret prayers for the state of the church. Finally they gathered at the table and refreshed their tired limbs with their suppers, though not too much, for an excess even of bread fosters self-indulgence. . . .

When they have given thanks to God, they go to the church in accordance with canonical rule and devote themselves to vigils, prayers, and genuflections for around three hours. While at prayer in the church, no one was so bold as to yawn, sneeze, or spit. When this is over, they prepare for sleep.

From “The Life of St. David” by Rhigyfarch (ca. 1095), quoted in Celtic Spirituality, translated and introduced by Oliver Davies, a volume in The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1999).

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