It is through Gildas, a historian-monk, that we know most of what we know about the Celtic Church in the sixth century. He was born in 498, within the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall, which he later described as almost worse than useless. He was 43 when he began writing his main work, The Ruin of Britain, which described the collapse of the Church and its corruption in his time. He was a student of St. Illtyd, “the most refined master of all Britain.” He was closely connected to the monastery at Glastonbury, as well.
Hail, holy Gildas, history’s minder,
who saw in his time both decline and fall:
Praise to God alone you chose to render,
for well you knew that all empires call
for service they cannot always return.
You saw the old wall in ruined glory,
and deduced that in time all thrones must burn;
Thank you for saving that sad, old story
when it was still new: now grant us vision
to understand these lowly, passing years
when rulers treat the poor with derision,
and the winter of our discontent nears.
Gildas, guide me to deep understanding
that my deeds add to my nation’s ending.
A prayer for Gildas winds up asking some hard questions about how my wants and needs and desires help contribute to the downfall of my country.