Brigid was one the first of the Irish saints to have her life written down. Hers is a controversial place in the church… being so laced with parallels with the pagan goddess of the same name. Yet, there is enough evidence for the life of an actual Christian saint that I believe her story should be included for all Christians. Many sources seem to think that there may have actually been a figure named Brigid who lived in Kildare, but according to Davies and Bowie, “it is likely that imagery and themes associated with a powerful pre-Christian goddess figure became associated with her.”

BrigidImage.jpgIn the fifth century, (according to Irish church tradition) a king,of the race of Eochaidh Finnfuathairt, son of Feidhlijidh Reachtmhar, son of Tuathal Teachmhar, monarch of Erinn, fathered a baby by a slave,a bondwoman of Connacht. That baby, Brigid, was raised as a servant. Being musical and intelligent, Brigid was also known as Bánfhile (“poet-woman”), her father arranged her marriage to a poet. Resolved to belong only to Christ, Brigid found the man another wife, then deserted the castle.

A quote attributed to her:”It is in the name of Christ I feed the poor; for Christ is in the body of every poor man”‘. She was known for her generosity- which gives rise to an amused observation by a later admirer as seen in the sidequote

Well, one must love her.
In thinking of her
There’s no denial
She must have been
A sort of trial
Unto her kin.
The moral, too, seems rather quaint.
WHO had the patience of a saint,
From evidence presented here?
Saint Bridget? Or her near and dear?
-The Giveaway
Phyllis Mcginley

Brigid sought other women wanting to choose to serve only Christ, and with them she organized a community of nuns, the first religious house of women in Ireland, which later became a center of learning and religion for both women and men. The monastic settlement at Kildare, where women were given a special place, became a busy compound within a great stone wall with thatched-roof buildings. She founded a school of art, including metal work and illumination, over which St. Conleth presided. From the Kildare scriptorium came the wondrous book of the Gospels, which elicited praise from Giraldus Cambrensis, but which has disappeared since the Reformation .This and similar settlements became industrious communities, with some of the most beautiful craftsmanship in Europe. The slaves and the poor bettered themselves by becoming artisans. Brigid herself traveled by chariot as an evangelist through the countryside, helping the poor, preaching the gospel, and organizing nunneries. By her death on February 1, c. 453, 13,000 women had escaped from slavery and poverty to Christian service.

So what message may we get from the life of Brigid? The blessedness of giving, of the generous spirit coupled with diligence and industry. A compassion for the poor and the honor of women. All good things to emphasize as winter draws to a close in February.

information gathered together from many sources

3 thoughts on “Brigid”

  1. St. Brigid is my patron saint. If I remember the story my grandmother told me, St. Brigid was the daughter of a king and his slave. Her father was so furious that she was born a girl that he sold her mother to a druid landowner and stuck her with a foster family. He only brought her back when she was old enough to be a proper servant.

    But she wasn’t a very good slave as far as her father was concerned. She was always giving to the poor; and what she didn’t have to give, she gladly took from her father. Her father decided to solve the problem by selling her off.

    When he was in negotiations with a neighboring king, Brigid gave a begger one of her father’s finest swords. Her dad flipped and was going to beat her. But Brigid explained that she gave the sword to God through the leper. Her dad was a pagan and it didn’t impress him much, but the other king was a Christian and he forbade him from beating her. He said something like: “Her merit before God is greater than our own.”

    Poor dad solved the problem by setting Brigid free. He then tried to arrange a marriage for her, but Brigid was having none of it. She prayed that God would take away her beauty so that no one would marry her before she could take her vows. He did and Brigid only regained her beauty after her final vows were said.

    Brigid went on to manage the dairy where her mom was enslaved. She gave away a lot of the milk and butter to the poor. But the dairy did so well under her care that the druid who owned it eventually set her mom free out of gratitude.

    There were other stories too. I think she knew St. Patrick. And I think I remember something about the bishop who administered her vows used the wrong formula and she was actually ordained a priest instead of a nun.

    Anyway, good saint 😛

  2. What I didn’t include here is not that she was ordained a priest, but she was the first and only female bishop. It was recorded an “accident” presumably to prevent precedent.

    You filled in the details quite well …thanks:)

    Collating the info got me thinking more about the quality of generosity this month.

Comments are closed.