Monday, 10 June 2013

New EWTN series on the history of the Catholic Church in Wales

Wales, The Golden Thread of Faith

A St Clare Media – EWTN – Latin Mass Society of England and Wales co-production

The Golden Thread of Faith is a documentary mini-series on the history of the Catholic Church in Wales. It tells a story hardly ever told: that for the majority of its existence Wales was Catholic, and happy to be so, - a fact ignored or downplayed by the media. But this could be any country that was once Catholic but had its faith taken from it by the so called Reformers.
This is one of the reasons that I approached EWTN with a concept for the documentary series. Besides the fact that the Catholic history of Wales is a story seldom told, it is such a fascinating story, full of the romance, wonder and spirituality of the Celtic world and yet it is a true story. Most surprising of all perhaps is that a major part of this story is Catholic. Another reason was that the Celtic Church of the sub-Roman era is today once again being portrayed as either schismatic or even, proto-protestant, - a trick one used by Protestants of the Reformation. Again, this is simply not true; the Welsh had a great loyalty to the successor of St Peter, the Pope. They used Latin for the Mass and when one looks at the inscriptions on the Celtic Crosses they are in Latin, as are the magnificent Celtic Gospel books like the book of Chad or the Book of Kells.
            I wanted in this documentary to explore the sheer richness of Catholicism in the history of Wales. EWTN were very interested and could see the potential. However, it was clear that it would need a partner or two as the series would be made away from EWTN’s USA base.  The partners would provide some of the finance and technical skills. The series was quite ambitious and would include location shots, interviews, graphics, maps, illustrations and several docu-drama sequences. EWTN already have an excellent marketing and promotional organisation in Britain called St Clare Media who would act as the senior partner. And as I am a member of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales (LMS) it was natural for me to approach the Society and ask them would they like to be co-producers. This meant putting up half of the finance but had the advantages of publicity for the LMS and the Traditional Latin Mass, which they agreed to. The technical side of the project would be provided by Lux Communications and Lux TV of Bratislava, Slovakia. Lux TV was set up by the Bishops’ Conference of Slovakia after the fall of Communism. In the nineties some members of TV Lux were sent to the USA to train in TV production.

However, we had limited resources, - how we would have loved the budget secular

Map graphic - from episode one
documentaries have! - so we had to double up on our production disciplines. I would provide the screenplay, graphics, illustrations etc and be the producer/presenter and also the van driver - really a general dogsbody, but it was fun. Marek Polacek of Lux Communications was the director, and doubled as sound man, assistant editor and translator. Michal Benko of Lux Communications was the cameraman/editor and also produced a limited amount of animation for some of the graphics and maps. Michal is also an excellent cook which kept some semblance of civilisation during our mad dash around Wales filming in a campervan.

Although I am not Welsh I have lived in Wales for many years and became aware of its rich Catholic history. I was born in Cornwall (known as Kernow in Cornish) which was also once known as West Wales and is situated in the far south west of England. The Cornish and the Welsh originated from the same Romano-British Christian peoples who were left after the Roman legions were recalled to Rome in AD410. Therefore, I was keen to weave in some events from Cornish Catholic history, such as the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549. The Cornish rebelled against their Protestant overlords due to the banning of the Latin Missal and the imposition of the English Book of Common Prayer. Subsequently, they were brutally suppressed and many of their priests were hanged, fully vested, from their steeples.
            The first episode of the series starts as we finish the final episode with the annual LMS pilgrimage to St Winefride’s Holy Well in North Wales. It was providential that this year the LMS had

Romans (still from episode one)
secured Bishop Rifan of Campos as the celebrant so we had a Traditional bishop and a Pontifical High Mass to film. We then cut-back to Roman times and the invasion of Britain. An important factor is that the Romans removed the druids who were the pagan priestly cast of the Celts. The druids had galvanised the resistance to the Romans and had a strong hold over the people with their superstitious practices and most importantly human sacrifice. To tell this story we were lucky to secure the services of a Roman re-enactment group called the Roman Military Research Society. We also managed to film at a reconstructed Roman fort called The Lunt near Coventry in the English midlands. There we filmed a reconstructing of the martyrdom of Ss Julius and Aaron, the proto-martyrs of Wales, and a limited reconstruction of the Boudiccan revolt. Toward the end of the first episode were able to discuss the coming of the Anglo-Saxons and who King Arthur really was - if he existed - and the Age of the Celtic Saints. An important point I wanted to make was that the Celtic Church was in fact Catholic. They used Latin for the Mass and liturgy and were very loyal to the Pope in Rome. This tends to be glossed over these days almost as if the Celtic Church was proto-protestant or schismatic. However, when one sees the Latin inscriptions carved into Celtic crosses and the beautifully illuminated Celtic Bibles all written in Latin, it makes you understand the strength of the loyalty Celtic Catholics had for Rome.

St Gildas (Still from series)
EWTN is the biggest religious broadcasting channel in the world; it has an audience of 150 million. I urge Catholics to get involved and support this channel. The world is full of secular channels which unashamedly push and promote their nefarious agendas; we must pray for them, and at the same time support our own. I would never encourage anyone to get a TV live just to watch EWTN because you would need to pay a licence fee which will fund the very channels that are doing so much damage.
            The first episode of Wales the Golden Thread of Faith goes out on EWTN tonight the 11th June at 9pm in the UK. This chronicles from Roman time to the age of Saints. The second episode will be broadcast on 12th June and covers the thousand year span from the Age of Saints to the Reformation.  The final episode, from the Reformation to the present day, will be on Thursday 13th, all at 9pm. EWTN goes out on Sky channel 589 & 0147 or you can watch it by live streaming at  Apologies yesterday I got the dates wrong.


  1. A truly wonderful program we need more like this. Well done EWTN, every parish in Wales and indeed Britain needs a copy the DVD, it made us feel proud to be Catholic. At last the truth of Britain’s Catholic history is beginning to shown to the world.

  2. Wonderful documentary Stefano. Thank you so much. Keep them coming.

    1. Thank you Chloe, you may be interested The Crusades, on EWTN 8th October

  3. i love WAles. Been here nearly a year- shame that the faith has nearly gone from here... and no thanks to the bishop egan of the north, now retired a total apostate!

    1. Protestantism which was the last religion of Wales, needs a form of mass hysteria to sustain it. And there has over the last 250 years of so been various revivals to keep the faith alive, however because there is very little spiritual depth to Protestantism it will always fade again to be replaced some decades later by another revival, perhaps less in intensity than the last. Until we are where we are at the moment - at low tide. There was once a BBC TV programme on the Faith in Britain as a whole called the Sea of Faith, it was a shocking cold programme hosted by an Anglican atheist cleric called Don Cupitt he based him programme around the Matthew Arnold poem called Dover Beach, here is a portion of it

      The Sea of Faith
      Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
      Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
      But now I only hear
      Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
      Retreating, to the breath
      Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
      And naked shingles of the world.

      Let's hope when the tide turns it will be Catholic
      perhaps we will do a post on this sometime.

    2. How di I get DVDs of the Welsh history?

    3. for the UK for the USA

      Also you may be interested in

  4. For the first 1,500 years of Christianity there was no “Catholicism” as it is known it today, simply because there were no other forms of Christianity to distinguish it. There was only the “one, holy, catholic church” (“catholic” means “universal”), which was the body of Christian believers all over the western world, united by common traditions, beliefs, church structure and worship. I liked your blog, Take the time to visit the me and say that the change in design and meniu?

  5. Thank you for your comment, although it's not absolutely true to say that there were no other forms of Christianity than Catholic, there were hundreds of heretical sects through this time such as Gnostics Bogomils, Cathars etc etc. In fact the term Catholic meaning as you say "Universal" came into being in the second century to distinguish it. You may be interested to see our latest documentary "The Inquisition" which touches on this in its first episode called A History of Heresies" see trailer