Saint Bridgid of Ireland, Abbess

February 1

Today is the feast day of Saint Bridgid of Ireland.  Ora pro nobis. 

Saint Bridgid {her name is correctly pronounced “Brigg-id” or “Bree-id” but almost never is (1)} was born about the year 453, at Fochard in Ulster.  Brigid was the daughter of Dubhthach MacDreimhne and mother Broicsech.

During her infancy, her father saw in a vision men clothed in white garments pouring a sacred unguent on her head, thus prefiguring her future sanctity. While still very young, Bridgid consecrated her life to God, bestowed everything at her disposal on the poor, and was the edification of all who knew her. (3)

One day, the people of the area saw that the house in which the child Brigid was living was on fire. They rushed to the house to put out the flames but found on arrival that there was no fire at all. They concluded that the child was filled with the Holy Spirit. Once, while asleep, the druid saw three clerics, or three angels, coming and pouring oil on Brigid’s head to complete the rite of baptism. The three clerics instructed the druid to give the name Brigid to the child. Brigid was not accustomed to take the ordinary food available to her. For this reason the druid obtained a white cow with red ears and she used to drink the milk of this cow. As Brigid grew up everything under her care increased and flourished. She took care of the sheep, of blind people and of the poor. (4)

Refusing many good offers of marriage, she became a nun and received the veil from St. Macaille. With seven other virgins she settled for a time at the foot of Croghan Hill, but removed thence to Druin Criadh, in the plains of Magh Life, where under a large oak tree she erected her subsequently famous Convent of Cill-Dara, that is, “the church of the oak” (now Kildare), in the present county of that name. (5)   Bishops, priests, and chieftans sought her counsel, and she was so beloved that she became known as “The Mary of the Gaels.” A common blessing became “Brigid and Mary be with you.” (1)

Saint Bridgid died after seventy years devoted to the practice of the most sublime virtues, during which her holy institute had become widely diffused throughout the Green Isle, and had greatly advanced the cause of religion in the various districts where it was established. Like a river of peace, its progress was steady and silent; it fertilized all the regions fortunate enough to receive its waters, and caused them to put forth spiritual flowers and fruits with all the sweet perfume of evangelical fragrance.

The day on which the holy nun was to terminate her course, February 1, 523, having arrived, she received from the hands of a saintly priest the blessed Body and Blood of her Lord in the divine Eucharist, and passed to the eternal vision of the God she had always adored. Her body was interred in the church adjoining her convent, but later was exhumed and deposited in a splendid shrine near the high altar, afterwards to be moved again and placed in the same grave with the relics of the glorious Saint Patrick. Their holy remains, together with those of Saint Columba, were translated afterwards to the cathedral church of Kildare. (3)

About the year 878, owing to the Scandinavian raids, the relics of St. Brigid were taken to Downpatrick, where they were interred in the tomb of St. Patrick and St. Columba. The relics of the three saints were discovered in 1185, and on 9 June of the following year were solemnly translated to a suitable resting place in Downpatrick Cathedral, in presence of Cardinal Vivian, fifteen bishops, and numerous abbots and ecclesiastics. Various Continental breviaries of the pre- Reformation period commemorate St. Brigid, and her name is included in a litany in the Stowe Missal. In Ireland to-day, after 1500 years, the memory of “the Mary of the Gael” is as dear as ever to the Irish heart, and, as is well known, Brigid preponderates as a female Christian name. Moreover, hundreds of place-names in her honour are to be found all over the country, e.g. Kilbride, Brideswell, Tubberbride, Templebride, etc. The hand of St. Brigid is preserved at Lumiar near Lisbon, Portugal, since 1587, and another relic is at St. Martin’s,  Cologne. (5)

St. Brigid (she is often affectionately known as “Bride,” “Bridey,” or “the Mary of the Gael”) is the patroness of dairy maids, infants, midwives, blacksmiths, poets, nuns, and students. Along with SS. Patrick and Columba (Columcille), she is the patroness of Ireland. St. Brigid is depicted in art as a nun with a Cross woven from rushes (see below), with a crozier, with fire (a candle, lamp, or bowl of fire), and/or with a cow. (1)

Research by REGINA Staff


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