Saint Brigid of Kildare

by Kim Long

How many of us who have chosen a Confirmation saint with no real knowledge of the strength and insight they hold for us? That is certainly the case between St. Brigid of Kildare and myself. I will confess that I chose her to please my mother, but as my Catholic life has unfolded she has revealed herself to be a woman of many gifts.

Who was she? Born in Ireland around 451, she is reported to be the child of Brocca, a Christian slave, who was reported to be baptized by St. Patrick, and Dubthacth, a chief of Leinster. From a young age, she was known for her purity and piety. Later she prayed for her beauty to be taken away to dissuade any suitors. Legend has it that she was rendered physically unattractive, but as soon as she took her vows to be a nun, her beauty was restored.

Hospitality St. Brigid is known to have worked many miracles, and two of the most well-known center on hospitality and feeding the hungry. Her mother worked in a dairy and Brigid frequently gave away the produce to feed the hungry and poor. The produce always multiplied. From a very early age she was known for giving away anything that would help people and it was always “miraculously” replaced.

Woman of Learning Brigid desired above all things to serve God in the world around her. She also had enough sense to know she needed helpers. Ireland’s Christianity in those days was a monastic one, the nuns and monks engaged in hard physical labor and many hours of prayer. She founded a dual monastery in Cill Dara, which we know today as Kildare. Built atop an earlier pagan site where there was already a tradition of flame tending, Brigid and her sisters kept the fire burning to symbolize the light of Christ.

Gerald of Wales visited Kildare in the 12th century and gave witness that the flame still burned. It is believed to have done so until the 16th century, when the monasteries were suppressed.

The sacred flame was re-lit in 1993 by the head of the Brigidine Sisters. It still burns today – I have seen it myself and visited with some of “the good sisters” in that order.

Standing in their home in Kildare and receiving a blessing from them was one of the holiest moments of my life. I thought back to the day of my Confirmation so many years ago and was struck by how perfect St. Brigid was as my choice for a spiritual leader. I also thought back to all the bonfires my children and I gathered around and the stories we told. The light of Christ burns as brightly as we allow it to, whenever we are open to it.

Patronage and Spirituality The phrase Celtic spirituality can be a bit “charged.” I found this out after working on the Brigid feast at St. Mary of the Pines for a couple of years. Some people feared I was leading us into the waters of the New Age.

One of St. Brigid’s quotes is “Christ dwells in every living thing.” This is an old concept and a holy one. This quote from the Book of Lismore gives us more insight into her personal spirituality and piety:

“Abstinent, she was innocent, she was prayerful, she was patient; she was glad in God’s commandments; she was firm, she was loving; she was a consecrated casket for keeping Christ’s body and His blood; she was a temple of God, her heart and mind were a throne of rest for the Holy Ghost.”

Not exactly a woman with whom one trifles, nor doubts their devotion to the one God, Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit. She was a woman who saw the hand of God and the heart of Christ in everything and every place around her. This is one of the legacies of the early Celtic Christian communities whose lives were not easy, who worked hard and found solace in the smallest of things. A wonderful lesson for each of us.

St. Brigid’s feast day is formally celebrated on February 1, but at St. Mary’s we celebrate it annually on the last Sunday in January. All are welcome to celebrate with us.  •

Saint Brigid Celebration at St Mary of the Pines

January 27: Celebrate the life and mission of St. Brigid of Kildare with a Bilingual Rosary at 8:30 a.m. (Irish and English) and Mass at 9:00 a.m. Immediately following Mass there will be an Irish brunch served along with singing, dancing and a children’s corner. If you are Irish by birth or marriage and would like to participate in the entrance procession, please call Kim in the parish office, 318-687-5121. 

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