Moine puis évêque au Pays de Galles (✝ 600)
Moine puis évêque au Pays de Galles, il attachait beaucoup d'importance à la prédication qui était à ses yeux la condition essentielle de la connaissance de la foi qui pouvait conduire son troupeau au salut, parce qu'elle était le Chemin de la Vérité pour recevoir la Vie de Dieu.
À Llanelwy, au pays de Galles, au VIe siècle, saint Asaph, qui fut disciple de saint Kentigern, puis abbé et évêque du lieu qui prit ensuite son nom.
Asaph of Wales B (RM)
Died c. 600; feast day formerly on May 1. The small town of Saint Asaph in northern Wales was once the scene of a busy and thriving monastery of Llanelwy founded by Saint Kentigern of Scotland by the riverside. Kentigern was probably built it after returning from a visit to Saint David. With him was Asaph, his favorite pupil, whom he left behind at Llanelwy as abbot to consolidate his work. Others say that it was Saint Asaph who founded the abbey after having been trained by Kentigern--the truth is shrouded by time. There is, however, certainty that Saint Asaph founded the church of Llanasa in Flintshire.
An interesting account exists of Llanelwy's establishment. "There were assembled in this monastery no fewer than 995 brethren, who all lived under monastic discipline, serving God in great continence." A third of these, who were illiterate, tilled the ground and herded the cattle; a third were occupied with domestic tasks inside the monastery; and the remainder, who were educated men, said the daily offices and performed other religious duties.
A distinctive feature was its unbroken continuity of worship, for, like the Sleepless Ones, the monks of Llanelwy divided themselves into groups and maintained an unceasing vigil. "When one company had finished the divine service in the church, another presently entered, and began it anew; and these having ended, a third immediately succeeded them." So that by this means prayer was offered up in the church without intermission, and the praises of God were ever in their mouths."
Among them, we are told, "was one named Asaph, more particularly illustrious for his descent and his beauty, who from his childhood shone forth brightly, both with virtues and miracles. He daily endeavored to imitate his master, Saint Kentigern, in all sanctity and abstinence; and to him the man of God bore ever a special affection, insomuch that to his prudence he committed the care of the monastery." A later medieval writer penned about Asaph's "charm of manners, grace of body, holiness of heart, and witness of miracles." Still little is actually known about him.
The story has been handed down to us that one bitter night in winter when Kentigern, as was his custom, had been standing in the cold river reciting from the Psalter, and had crawled back to his cell, frozen and exhausted, Asaph ran to fetch hot coals to warm him. Finding no pan, however, and being in great haste, fearing that the shivering abbot might die, he raked the glowing coals into the skirt of his monk's habit, and ran with them, at great risk and discomfort, and cast them on the hearth of the saint.
That story is typical of his spirit, for he was devoted both to his master and to the welfare of his monks. We are not surprised that Kentigern, with every confidence, left the monastery in his care. Under Asaph's leadership it flourished, and when Asaph was made bishop, it became the seat of his diocese. The goodness of one man spread and infected many others with holiness, including many of his kinsmen, e.g., Deiniol (September 11) and Tysilo (November 8). Today on the banks of the River Elwy stands the cathedral that bears his name (Attwater, Benedictines, Gill).
First Bishop of the Welsh See of that name (second half of the sixth century). No Welsh life of him is extant, but local tradition points out the site of his ash tree, his church, his well, and his valley, Onen Asa, Fynnon Asa, Llanasa, Pantasa. All these sites are in Tengenel, near Holiwell indicating probably that the saint once had hermitage in that neighbourhood. The want of a Welsh life, however, is in part compensated for by Jocelyn of Furness's life of St. Kentigern, or Mungo, the founder of the Diocese of Glasgow. This saint during his exile (c. 545) betook himself to Wales and there founded the Celtic Monastery of Llanelwy (the church on the Elwy), as the Welsh still call the town of St. Asaph. Of the building and government of few Celtic monasteries do we know so much as about Llanelwy. The church was built "of smoothed wood, after the fashion of the Britons, seeing that they could not yet build of stone". The 965 disciples, of whom Asa was one, were divided into three groups: 300 of the unlettered farmed the outlying lands, 300 worked in the offices around the monastery, and 365 (the number corresponds to the days of the year) attended to the divine services. Of these the oldest assisted Kentigern in the government of the diocese, and the rest were subdivided into three choirs. "As soon as one choir had terminated its service in church, immediately another entering commenced it: and that again being concluded another entered to celebrate." The founder, after the manner of other Celtic saints, used frequently to pray standing in the icy cold river, and once, having suffered very severely under this hardship, he sent the boy Asa, who was then attending him, to bring a fagot to burn and warm him. Asaph brought him live coals in his apron, and the miracle revealed to Kentigern the sanctity of his disciple. So when the old man was recalled to Strathclyde, after the battle of Ardderyd, in 573 (the only definite date we have in the life), Asaph was consecrated bishop to succeed him, and became the first Welsh bishop of the see. The feast of his deposition is kept on 1 May, but we possess no further details of his life, nor do we know the year of his death.
Pollen, John Hungerford. "St. Asaph." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 11 May 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01766a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph P. Thomas.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.