SAINT BRIGID of IRELAND (c.451-525), virgin, foundress and abbess – Patron saint of Ireland, dairy workers, religious sisters and scholars
Today the Church honors Saint Brigid of Ireland, a woman who embraced the Christian faith in the midst of the religious practices of Druidism in her country, and who contributed significantly to the spread of Christianity throughout Ireland.
Brigid was born about the year 451, the daughter of a Druid father and a Christian mother. Even though her childhood was difficult due to the conflicting cultures of Druid paganism and Christianity, Brigid decided at an early age to follow the Christian way of life, and, in order to refuse an arranged marriage and retain her virginity, she took vows as a religious sister.
Together with a group of other women, she established a religious community and founded the Abbey at Kildare (or as it was known in the days of Druidism, Cill Dara), a town southwest of Dublin, Ireland. She was later joined by a community of monks. Kildare had formerly been a pagan shrine where a sacred fire was kept perpetually burning. Sister Brigid and her fellow sisters extinguished the pagan flame and then relit it as a Christian symbol, dedicating the flame to Christ as the Light of the world.
As an abbess, Sister Brigid participated in several Irish councils, and her influence on the policies of the Church in Ireland was considerable, for Brigid’s wisdom and generosity became renowned as legend, and people traveled from all over the country to benefit from her counsel.
Her abbey at Kildare became one of the greatest centers of learning in Europe. She continued her holy and charitable work until her death on February 1, 525, when she was laid to rest in a jeweled casket at the abbey.
In 835, her mortal remains were moved to protect them from Norse invaders, and were eventually re-interred in Downpatrick Cathedral in Northern Ireland on June 9, 1186, together with the remains of Saint Patrick and Saint Columba – all three being revered as Ireland’s patron saints – the ceremony of interment being overseen and celebrated by the local cardinal, fifteen bishops, and numerous abbots and ecclesiastics.
We commemorate her feastday on February 1.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org, kildare.ie and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for Virgins)
“Lord, hear the prayers of those who recall the devoted life of the virgin, Saint Brigid. Guide us on our way and help us to grow in love and devotion as long as we live.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”