Leeks and St David
St David's life got off to an unpromising start when he was born on top of a cliff during a violent storm. However, since he came from a wealthy (possibly royal) background he was given a good education, thanks to St Paulinus, and eventually became a monk and bishop. He travelled around Wales, Cornwall and Brittany - which formed part of a sort of 'Celtic alliance' that was culturally and politically separate from Saxon England; these regions share many saints. St David founded churches and monasteries, including what is now the Cathedral of St David in Pembrokeshire.
He was involved in the struggle against Pelagianism (a heresy that originated in Britain) and, on one occasion as he was preaching against it during a Synod, the ground rose under him and lifted him up so that all could see and hear him. A dove also rested on his shoulder, a sure sign of God's favour.
But, you may ask, why the association with leeks (sometimes substituted by the more attrractive-looking daffodil)? After all, there are not many saints who are associated with vegetables. There are different theories. Some say that St David got Welsh soldiers to wear leeks in their helmets to distinguish them from the pagan Saxons in battle and that this was regarded as a sign of God's protection - though this could be a later tradition (perhaps associated with the battle of Agincourt, 1415) that was back-dated to the time of St David.
More plausible is the fact that St David lived an austere life, following a diet of water, herbs and vegetables - including the leek. He was known as the 'man of water,' for he drank nothing else and sometimes stood in a freezing cold lake, with water up to his neck, saying his prayers. A strict life that enabled him to reach the age of 147!
So the leek calls to mind the saint's austerities - including his vegetarianism long before it became fashionable - and so is appropriate food for thought as we approach the fourth Sunday of Lent.
St David, pray for us!