Sunday, February 1, 2009

Brigid (453-524)

Bridget (Brigid, Bride, Bridey, or in Welsh, Ffraid) of Kildare was born around 450 into a Druid family, being the daughter of Dubhthach, court poet to King Loeghaire. At an early age, she decided to become a Christian, and she eventually took vows as a nun.

Together with a group of other women she established a community at Kildare (meaning, Church of the Oak). She was later joined by a group of monks led by Conlaed. Kildare had formerly been a pagan shrine where a sacred fire was kept perpetually burning. Instead of stamping out the fire Bridget and her nuns kept it going but gave it a Christian interpretation*.

Bridget as an abbess participated in several Irish councils, and her influence on the policies of the Church in Ireland was considerable.

Brigid's feast day falls on February 1, the traditional pagan celebration of Imbolc. Brigid's day is sometimes still celebrated in Ireland with the making of crosses, woven basket-like from rushes. The crosses are fastened in the rafters of houses and left there throughout the year.

It is said that Brigid, in her travels around Ireland, used to take a handful of rushes from the floor of the place she was visiting (in those days, rushes were a common floor covering), and weave them together into the shape of a cross. When asked what she was doing, she explained that she was making a cross in honor of the Virgin Mary's son, who died upon a cross of wood. She would then go on to tell how Christ came to save mankind by His death. She apparently converted many celts in this manner.

Although there are few written records of Brigid's life, there are a a great many stories about her:
One story recounts a time Seven Bishops came to visit Bridgid in a place she had in the north of Kildare. Her cook Blathnet informed her there wasn't enough food to serve the visitors. Brigit was was without food to give those holy men, and she prayed to the Lord. Then angels came and bade her to milk the cows for the third time that day. So she milked them herself, and they filled the pails with the milk, and the whole of Leinster. And the milk overflowed the vessels till it made a lake that is called the Lake of Milk to this day.

Another story recounts a time when a leper came to Brigit, asking a cow. And Brigit said "Would you sooner have a cow or be healed of your disease?" "I would sooner be healed" he said "than to have the sway over the whole world. For every sound man is a king" he said. Then Brigit prayed to God; and the leper was healed, and served her afterwards.

Manyof these stories concern her adventures on the road. She travelled extensively, tending to the poor and the sick, sharing the good news, and setting up monastic communities across Ireland. Many cures and other miracles are attributed to her. Like Saint Patrick before her and Mother Teresa after her, she spoke of her charity as something she was doing to serve God in the form of loving his creatures..

Brigid died of natural causes at Kildare around 525 A., and is buried in Downpatrick, Ireland with Saint Patrick and Saint Columba

see the Living water from an ancient well thumbnail bio of Bridgid of kildare

* (This was in keeping with the general process whereby Druidism in Ireland gave way to Christianity with very little opposition, the Druids for the most part saying that their own beliefs were a partial and tentative insight into the nature of God, and that they recognized in Christianity what they had been looking for.)

compiled from a number of sources
the graphic is of a Bridgid's cross

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