Thirteen hundred years ago in a remote Welsh valley a young Irish woman, Melangell, protected a frightened hare being hunted by a local chieftain. From this simple compassionate act of protecting a weak and vulnerable small animal there grew a legend and a place of pilgrimage, Pennant Melangell, perhaps the oldest pilgrimage sites in Britain. The shrine lay dormant for several centuries but, with that strange, and needed, revival of holy places in twentieth century Britain it came alive again as a place of healing and prayer.
I recently travelled to the shrine of St Melangell with a friend and each of us, in different ways, felt the presence of the Risen Lord, the comfort of God.
Was it in the natural beauty of the place? Was it through the prayers of St Melangell? Was it in the church where prayer has been found to be valid? Was it in the laying on of hands with prayer? Was it in the hospitality and the making of connections? I can’t be sure, but the mystical holiness of Pennat Melangell both inspired and enriched me, and stays with me (even through a difficult moment with another motorist on the journey home!)
A worshipper at St Chrysostom’s described Pennat Melangell in her words, as – “One of my most special places in the whole world!” In the eighteenth century the local priest wrote an englyn, a traditional short Welsh poem, which ends:Cwm iachus; nid oes i chwi Ond cam I Ne’ o’n cwm ni. A healing valley; for you there is not More than one step between our valley and heaven.
From a prayer of Canon Donald Allchin: Here, by her life of prayer and devotion Your servant Melangell created a holy place, a place where prayer has been valid. Here heaven and earth come close together, here the small and the frightened find shelter and hope. Help us to live as she lived responsive to your call, wherever it may lead us in our own perplexing time.