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|
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)|