Brigid, Abbess of Kildare, 523

Saint Brigid of Kildare

Brigid, one of the patron saints of Ireland, is believed to have been born near Uinmeras, a few miles’ distance from Kildare, of parents of humble origin who were baptized by Patrick, bishop of Armagh and apostle to the Irish. (Some legends hold that she was born into a druidic family, her father being the bard, or court poet, to Loeghaire, high king of Ireland.) Brigid appears to have become a nun at an early age and to have founded the monastery of Kildare, contributing notably to the spread of Christianity.

Her miracle stories portray her almost as a personification of compassion, emphasizing the themes of the multiplication (or creation) of food and of profligate generosity in giving.

Folkloric elements have been important in the various Lives that have been written of Brigid and have played a role in her cult as well. Gerald of Wales, writing in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, described a fire kept burning continuously at her shrine for centuries, surrounded by a hedge which no man was allowed to enter and tended by twenty nuns of her community. The personification of brig, Gaelic “valor” or “might”, as a goddess by the ancient Irish whose fire-cult was celebrated on February 1 have led many to identify Brigid with the pagan goddess. It seems likely that such folkloric details were superimposed on the life of a nun and abbess of humble origins who contributed much to the spread of Christianity, not through her own life only but also through the devotion of missionaries who spread the memory of her life and her generosity throughout the British Isles, Europe, and the rest of the world.

Collect

Everliving God, we rejoice today in the fellowship of your blessed servant Brigid, and give you thanks for her life of devoted service. Inspire us with life and light, and give us perseverance to serve you all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The propers for the commemoration of Brigid, Abbess of Kildare, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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