St Brigid of Ireland February 1
St Brigid of Kildare – a reflection on one woman and her ministry
The first of February marks the Feast Day of St Brigid of Kildare (C. 450 – 523) one of the three patron saints of Ireland and a role model for women in ministry.
St Brigid was born in Ireland and, although much about her may be the stuff of myth and legend there being little written about her contemporaneously, it is clear that her influence was far reaching as may be seen from the wealth of places in Ireland bearing her name. She is also commemorated in Scotland and in England where there are 19 church dedications to her. In Australia there are a number of schools in the Brigidine tradition honouring her name and saintliness.
So, what were her achievements that led her to be so venerated and why does she become for us today a role model for mission and ministry?
Brigid founded the first nunnery in Ireland in Kildare. It became a double abbey where, as abbess, she oversaw both nuns and monks. The abbey became a centre for religion and learning.
the Anglican Cathedral in Kildare
She became famous for her generosity and hospitality and many stories testify to this. The story goes that in seeking a blessing for her nuns from Bishop Mel of Ardagh he saw the Spirit of God descend upon her. He pulled her over to him and laid his hands on her saying ‘God has ordained Brigid’
She is an interesting role model for the full place of women in the ministry and mission of the Church. From the sources for her life, we can see that – despite the legends and the myths – Brigid was celebrated for many reasons:
● She converted to Christianity at great personal cost, giving away her personal and inherited wealth.
● At a young age, she gave her life to God, choosing to serve God and to serve the poor.
● She balanced wisdom and common sense – something most of us find lacking in equal measure, most of the time.
● She was a spiritual guide to both men and women.
● She is known for her humility.
● She served the wider church as the principal pastoral figure in a large geographical area.
● She built the church, laying both the physical and mission foundations.
● She was one of those Celtic saints who insisted that a vital component of the spiritual life is having a soul friend (anam cara).
More than anything else, though, Brigid is known for her hospitality. When the poor and the infirm came to her in their multitudes, she provided for them, tending to the poor, the lowly and the forgotten, living out the Beatitudes. She saw that the needs of the body and the needs of the spirit are inter-twined” …. per. Patrick Comerford
The stories of her life and achievements bear closer consideration and reflection.
A Collect for today
by the leadership of your blessed servant Brigid
you strengthened the Church in this land:
As we give you thanks for her life of devoted service,
inspire us with new life and light,
and give us perseverance to serve you all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Patron Saint of Water and Wells
At St Brigid’s Well in Kildare
St Brigid’s Prayer
I’d like to give a lake of beer to God.
I’d love the Heavenly Host to be tippling there
for all eternity.
I’d love the men of Heaven to live with me,
to dance and sing.
If they wanted, I’d put at their disposal vats of suffering.
White cups of love I’d give them with a heart and a half;
sweet pitchers of mercy I’d offer to every man.
I’d make Heaven a cheerful spot
because the happy heart is true.
I’d make the men contented for their own sake.
I’d like Jesus to love me too.
I’d like the people of Heaven to gather
from all the parishes around.
I’d give a special welcome to the women,
the three Marys of great renown.
I’d sit with the men, the women and God
there by the lake of beer.
We’d be drinking good health forever and every drop would be a prayer.
It is said Brigid was consecrated as a bishop. Here is a modern piece in the Celtic style