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Saints (St David's Day, 1 March)

By reflecting on the life of St David, to consider the criteria for sainthood.

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Key Stage 3


By reflecting on the life of St David, to consider the criteria for sainthood.

Preparation and materials

  • Ask some teachers to be prepared to give some examples of ‘saintly’ behaviour (see section 5).
  • Ask a student to read the following passage:
    ‘Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me”’ (Matthew 25.34–40).


  1.  Today we are going to consider what might make someone a saint. It may well be that we have some among us who are destined for this position!
  2. St David is the patron saint of Wales and St David’s Day is celebrated on 1 March.

    David was a Welsh bishop who lived in the sixth century. It is said that one day, as he was preaching to a large crowd, the ground on which he was standing rose up to become a small hill, probably so that he could be seen more easily. A white dove was also seen sitting on his shoulder.
  3. We might therefore think that the first criterion for sainthood is the ability to perform miracles.

    Have we any saints among us here, anyone who is good at performing miracles? Some of the teachers might be thinking quietly, ‘It will take a miracle to get this lot through their exams!’ Maybe we have at least some saints in the making among us!
  4. As a young bishop, David advocated a life of piety and hardship. Let’s consider some of David’s own criteria.

    –  Pull the plough by yourselves without draught animals.
    This, I suppose, would mean that you had to be extremely strong and fit. Perhaps some of you fitness fanatics or rugby players could attempt this!

    –  Drink only water.
    No cokes, not even diet ones, no energy drinks, not even a good cuppa tea!

    –  Eat only bread with salt and herbs.
    Ciabattas, Peshwari naan and Tesco’s Tiger Bread might fit the bill. But it’s that word ‘only’ that bothers me. No meat, no fruit, no beer!

    –  Spend the evenings in prayer, reading and writing.
    The odd quiet evening reading with one’s feet up might sound attractive, but every night? No telly, no friends round?

    –  Have no personal possessions, nothing that you could say is yours.
    No computer, no mobile phone, no wardrobe of clothes, no Nike trainers, no ‘Superdry’ jacket, no books, no bed, no favourite staffroom mug.

    Is this really what we should think of as sainthood?
  5. Has anyone ever heard someone say, ‘Thanks. You’re a saint!’?

    (Either have teachers primed to make suggestions or ask pupils for any scenarios.)
  6. It seems that Bishop David had an inkling that his time on earth was short. In his last sermon on the Sunday before he died he encouraged his listeners with this message: ‘Be joyful. Keep your faith. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about.’

    Perhaps these three instructions may be the stuff of which sainthood is made.

    ‘Be joyful’ – a conscious act of the will to choose our attitude to life. Our choices have a great impact on us personally, and also a great impact on the lives of those around us.

    ‘Keep your faith’ – be strong in your faith in God. Don’t let the circumstances of life, or the belief of others sway you from holding on to what you know to be true and right.

    ‘Do the little things’ – perhaps David was referring to the words of his master, Jesus. (Have a pupil read Matthew 25.34–40.)

    Or perhaps David might have been meaning things as small as tidying our bedroom, walking the dog, washing the dishes, phoning a grandparent, befriending a loner, disagreeing with gossip.

Time for reflection

Which of these three instructions do we find most difficult?

Let’s make a choice to carry this out today, to the best of our ability.

Go on, be a saint!

Dear God,
sainthood doesn’t come easily to us!
Sainthood means denying ourselves,
denying what we feel like doing or saying
and going another way.
We need a great power to help us in this.
Thank you for the power you offer us as a free gift.


‘Seek ye first’ (Hymns Old and New (Kevin Mayhew), 442)

Publication date: March 2013   (Vol.15 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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