Our holy Father Congar is believed to have been the grandson of Geraint, King of Dumnonia (South-West England), who was killed at the battle of Llongborth in about 522, fighting alongside the famous King Arthur. He probably came from Llanwngar, near St. David's in Wales.
Coming through the revelation of an angel to what is now Congresbury in Somerset, the saint, as we read in his 12th-century life, "continued for a long time in this place, which pleased him well, wearing a cilicium (under-garment of goat's hair), living a blameless life, fasting and praying continually. Every morning he plunged himself in cold water, staying in it till he had said the Lord's Prayer three times, after which he returned to the church and remained there in vigil and prayer addressed to the Creator of all things. But at the ninth hour he took some barley bread, though he never had a full meal. His body became emaciated, and to see him you would think him fever-stricken. Most dear to him was the eremitical life, after the example of Paul, the first hermit, and St. Anthony."
St. Congar drained the marshy land in the district and in about 530 founded a monastery. One day, while he was standing in the churchyard surrounded by his monks, "he wished that a yew-tree might grow there, to provide shade from the summer heat, and, with its spreading branches, to ornament the churchyard. As he formed the wish, he fixed in the ground the staff he was holding in his hands, which was made of yew. He let go of it, and, when he put his hand on it again, he could not pluck it out. Next day it began, in the sight of a crowd of bystanders, to bear leaves, and afterwards grew into a huge spreading tree..."
Great numbers came to visit the saint, and the monastery became a flourishing center. However, the saint sought solitude, and, leaving his weeping flock, he returned to his native Wales, where on the instructions of an angel and with the help of the local king he established himself on a mountain in Glamorgan. Some modern authors have speculated that this retreat across the Severn may have been necessitated by the defeat of the Christian Britons by the pagan Saxons at the battle of Dyrham, which took place not far from Congresbury in 577.
Late in life, St. Congar joined himself to his nephew, St. Cybi. Together they left South Wales and went to the monastery of St. Enda on the isle of Aran, off the west coast of Ireland. Congar was then so old that he was unable to eat solid food, so his nephew bought a cow for him so that he could have milk for his food. Later they moved again to the peninsula of Lleyn in North Wales, and then to the island of Anglesey, where St. Cybi's cell at Caer Gybi can still be seen.
According to the 12th-century life, St. Congar then made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he died. According to Breton tradition, however, he died on his way back to Britain, at Morbihan in Brittany, where his feast is still celebrated on May 12. What is undisputed is that his body rested, at least until the 14th century, at Congresbury.
Holy Father Congar, pray to God for us!
By Vladimir Moss. Posted with permission.
(Sources: Gilbert H. Doble, The Saints of Cornwall, Oxford: Holywell Press, 1970, part V, pp. 3-29; Baring-Gould, Lives of the British Saints, vol. II, pp. 248-253; H.M Porter, The Celtic Church in Somerset, Bath: Morgan Books, 1971, pp. 35-39; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978, p. 90)
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