Tuesday, February 1, 2011


February 1 we celebrate St. Brigid of Kildare.  There are plenty of interesting tales about her, some of which are due to a connection made with a Celtic goddess of the same name and with female druids who had lived in the spot where her monastery eventually was located.  She had a reputation as a spiritual guide and friend and is best known as the abbess of that monastery, which included both women and men.  The book noted below says, "She is known for many leadership traits: patience, prayerfulness, inclusivity, and most of all, compassion.  The latter quality was the basis of her spiritual power and of her ministry as a soul friend" (69-70).  That is the kind of leadership I would like to learn and to which we all should aspire.

Brigid is also noted for giving things away to the poor, whether or not those things were hers to give, which rather reminds me of stories of our own Sr. Rosemary, who once gave away sisters' boots to people in need and sold Sr. Mary Eleanor's knitting project, still in process, while she wasn't around.  The daughter of a slave, Brigid once nearly got sold for giving away her father's sword to a beggar; fortunately Sr. Rosemary was in no such danger.

Brigid is said to be the patron saint of farm animals, healers, midwives, smiths, and probably quite a number of other things as well. My Facebook friends posted a picture of her holding a beer stein with the information that she was the patron saint of ale, which was conveniently left out of most of the books in our convent library, to my amusement.  She is often pictured with a flame in her hands because her nuns kept burning an eternal flame, a sort of holy fire, and because many stories about her involve flames.

While doing my noon reading, I found the most wonderful set of little stories about her, from which some of the information above is taken, and I'd like to share my favorite with you.

 * * * 

Brigit of Kildare:  Brigit is Ordained a Bishop

Brigit and certain virgins went to take the veil from Bishop Mel.  He was very happy to see them.  Because of her humility, Brigit held back so that she might be the last to whom a veil should be given.  A fiery pillar rose from her head to the roof of the church.  Bishop Mel said to her: "Come, holy Brigit, that a veil may be placed on your head before the other virgins." Then, it happened that, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, the form of ordaining a bishop was read over Brigit.  Mac Caille, Bishop Mel's assistant, said that a bishop's rank should not be conferred on a woman.  Bishop Mel replied: "But I do not have any power in this matter.  That dignity has been given by God to Brigit, beyond every other woman." Therefore the people of Ireland from that time to this give episcopal honor to Brigit's successor." 

Wisdom of the Celtic Saints 
Edward C. Sellner
Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN, 1993
p. 71-72

Information from the first part may be found on p. 69-75.

(collage by Jan Richardson)


  1. But according to the post entitled Saints of Suds ("When The Saints Go Malting In") at BeerHistory.com,

    "Probably the best known Irish saint after Patrick is Saint Brigid (b. 457, d. 525). Known as "the Mary of the Gael," Brigid founded the monastery of Kildare and was known for spirituality, charity, and compassion. St. Brigid also was a generous, beer-loving woman. She worked in a leper colony which found itself without beer, "For when the lepers she nursed implored her for beer, and there was none to be had, she changed the water, which was used for the bath, into an excellent beer, by the sheer strength of her blessing and dealt it out to the thirsty in plenty." Brigid is said to have changed her dirty bathwater into beer so that visiting clerics would have something to drink. Obviously this trait would endear her to many a beer lover. She also is reputed to have supplied beer out of one barrel to eighteen churches, which sufficed from Maundy Thursday to the end of paschal time. A poem attributed to Brigid in the Brussel's library begins with the lines "I should like a great lake of ale, for the King of the Kings. I should like the family of Heaven to be drinking it through time eternal."

    So, it must be true!

  2. I love Brigid! She is one of my favorite saints. Great post Sr. Sarah! And may I say that I believe you are well on your way to establishing the kind of leadership you admire in Brigid, particularly the bit about ministry as a soul friend.

    A great book to read if you can obtain a copy is a novel about Brigid called, "Brigid of Kildare: A Novel." I am certain over half of it is not true, but it is a fun and captivating read! I've included the amazon link below.


    Really cool image of Brigid by the way that you chose for this post!