St. Brigid of Ireland
Today the Church commemorates St. Brigid of Ireland, a fifth century convert to Christanity, inspired by the preaching of St Patrick, who founded a double monastery, of monks and nuns, at Kildare, the first women’s monastic community in Ireland.
Brigid is often called the Mary of the Gael. At about 453 AD, a child was born out of wedlock between Dubhtach and one of his Christian slaves named Brocessa. The slave girl was sent to a cabin at the foot of the Cooley Mountains near Dundalk, Co Louth, to have the child. The baby was a healthy girl, which was no great joy to Dubhtach who wanted a son. The mother was sold to a Chieftain in Connaught, and the child was given to a Druid to be raised and educated.
In keeping with the life planned for her, she became a vestal virgin in service to the Goddess Brid, and eventually high priestess at the Kil Dara (the temple of the oak), a pagan sanctuary built from the wood of a tree sacred to the Druids. There she and her companions kept a perpetual ritual fire, in honor of Brid.
The exact circumstance of her conversion to Christianity are unknown, though it is certain that her Christian mother was a guiding influence.
Brigid changed the pagan sanctuary of Kil Dara into a Christian shrine, which gave its name to the present County Kildare. She extinguished the ritual fire of the Druids, and lit a flame dedicated to Christ.
Brigid’s wisdom and generosity became legend, and people traveled from all over the country to share her wisdom. Her monastery at Kildare became one of the greatest centers of learning in Europe. She continued her holy and charitable work until her death in 525 AD, when she was laid to rest in a jeweled casket at Kil Dara. In 835, her remains were moved to protect them from Norse invaders, and interred in the same grave that holds the remains of St Patrick and St Columcille at Downpatrick.
She is the patron saint of: babies, blacksmiths; boatmen; cattle; chicken farmers; children whose parents are not married; dairymaids; dairy workers; fugitives; infants; Ireland; Leinster; mariners; midwives; milk maids; newborn babies; nuns; poets; poultry farmers; poultry raisers; printing presses; sailors; scholars; travelers; watermen.
Symbols: Abbess; usually holding a lamp or candle; often with a cow nearby.
Read St. Brigit: The Mary of the Gail at the Catholic Culture Library to learn more about St. Brigid.
Quote from St. Brigid:
“I would like the angels of Heaven to be among us. I would like an abundance of peace. I would like full vessels of charity. I would like rich treasures of mercy. I would like cheerfulness to preside over all. I would like Jesus to be present. I would like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us. I would like the friends of Heaven to be gathered around us from all parts. I would like myself to be a rent payer to the Lord; that I should suffer distress, that he would bestow a good blessing upon me. I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings. I would like to be watching Heaven’s family drinking it through all eternity.”