Spirituality for Today – February 2011 – Volume 15, Issue 7

Saint of the Month
St. Brigid of Kildare, February 1

An image of Saint Brigid of KildareSaint Brigid of Kildare

Soon after Christianity was introduced in Ireland, Brigid was born. Some scholars say her father was a pagan king and her mother was one of his slaves. Even though early accounts of Brigid's life dwell mostly on her miracles and anecdotes, they still offer insight into her character.

At a young age, Brigid embraced Christianity and was consecrated a nun by Bishop Mel, a pupil of Patrick's. Brigid's holiness dew other young women toward her, and with them, she founded a convent on the site of a druid shrine. Brigid adapted some of the Druid rituals and gave them a new Christian meaning. She named her convent Kildare after the sacred oak of the druids and allowed their custom of an eternal flame to continue burning, but she called it the flame of the Gospel.

Even as a child, Brigid was generous and compassionate, especially to the poor and hungry. At times, it is said, she even gave the clothes off her back to the needy.

According to legend, Brigid also performed several miracles. As a child, she made her cows give milk three times a day, and she once changed bathwater into beer for a thirsty visitor.

Brigid's convent, which she served as abbess, was a double monastery for both men and women. Over time, Kildare became known throughout Europe as a respected center for learning, around which a cathedral-city formed. Brigid eventually added a school or art, which produced magnificent illuminated manuscripts. For example, The Book of Kildare has been praised as the finest in Ireland.

A remarkable woman of her time, Brigid is called "the Mary of the Gael". Hundreds of places are named for her throughout Ireland, where she is greatly venerated.

Come, ye faithful,
from the north and from the south,
from the east and from the sea;
let us hasten to the radiant feast,
glorifying the wise enlightener of the Irish land
and praising her labors.
Clapping our hands, let us cry aloud.
Glory to Thee, O Christ our God,
Who art wondrous in Thy saints!

From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives