She lived from: 450 – 525 A.D.
Feast Day: 1st February
Related Article: St Jerome
“Christ dwells in every creature”. St. Brigid.
Brigid was born in Dundalk near County Louth in Ireland. Her father was a pagan chieftain and her mother was a Christian, originally from Portugal. Brigid was named after the Goddess of Fire who was one of the most powerful goddesses of the pagan religion. Her father was quite cruel and kept both his wife and Brigid as slaves. She spent her early life cooking, cleaning, washing and feeding the animals on her father’s farm.
Brigid was inspired by the preachings of St Patrick and she became a Christian. She decided that she wanted to spend her life working for God by looking after the poor, sick and elderly. Her father was so angered by her actions and realised that she would be best suited to a religious life by living in a Convent. News of Brigid’s good work spread and soon many young girls from all over Ireland joined her at the Convent. Brigid went on to found many Convents and the most famous one was in County Kildare.
About 470 A.D. she founded a double monastery for nuns and monks. She became the Abbess and was deemed a wise and prudent superior. The Abbey of Kildare became one of the most prestigious monasteries in Ireland and was famous throughout Christian Europe.
She founded an art school which taught painting, metal work and illumination i.e. the skill of applying gold to pieces of art. Within the monastery the famous illuminated manuscript – the Book of Kildare – was created.
You may have read about St Brigid’s Cross and the making of it is one of the traditional rituals in Ireland to celebrate the beginning of early Spring. The cross is made of rushes.
They are hung at the front door and in the rafters to protect the house from fire and evil. According to tradition a new cross is made each St Brigid’s Day and the old cross is burned to keep fire from the house. Legend records that a pagan chieftain in Kildare was dying and Brigid was asked to come and visit him. She came along and sat with him. Whilst there, she noticed that there were some rushes on the floor which she weaved into a cross. As sick as he was, the man asked her what she was doing and she began to explain the significance of the cross. As time progressed, he converted to Christianity and was baptised. Since then the cross of rushes has been venerated in Ireland.
She died in 525 A.D. at the age of 75 and was buried before the High Altar of her Abbey church. After some time, her remains were exhumed and transferred to Downpatrick to rest with two other patron saints of Ireland i.e. St Patrick and St Columcille. Her skull was extracted and brought to Lisbon in Portugal by two Irish noblemen. She is the female patron saint of Ireland and is also known as Mary of the Gael which means Our Lady of the Irish.
“Christ lives in each one of us.” St Brigid
Today St Brigid is welcomed back each year on her Feast Day when homes are cleaned in anticipation of Spring.
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Thanks for reading and God bless,