Today is the feast day of one of my patronesses: Saint Brigid of Kildare!
Brigid was with me before I was ever Catholic, much like Mary. I was drawn to her, I could not have really articulated why. She chose me, I guess you could say. God picked her out to be one of my dear heavenly friends and guides, and she helped lead me to the Church, Deo gratias.
Her story, her life is much-debated and is surrounded in legend. She lived so long ago that not much can be officially verified, but that does not lessen her importance in the history of the Church in Ireland or weaken the virtuous life she had to have lived to be loved for centuries upon centuries and venerated as a holy woman of God.
(Her name, FYI, is pronounced Brig-id, with a hard 'g.' Not "Bridge-id" or "Bridget." (though you will sometimes see her called "St. Bridget of Ireland," which is the anglicized form of her name)
Her name would most likely have been spelled Brigit, still pronounced like Brigid or Brighid. You sometimes also see it as "Brede" or "Bride," being said essentially like it looks - Brede, or usually Bree-id, stemming from a time, I think, when 'g's were silent in Irish Gaelic. I looked this up years ago, when I was tired of not knowing how to say her name.) ^_^
(her name means "fiery arrow," by the way, in Gaelic)
I was drawn to her, shrouded in mystery. I was drawn to her stories, stories of miracles and healing - her kindness to animals, to the poor, to all people. Her special love for mothers, babies, children, midwives. She was a virgin for Christ, a nun - an abbess at her convent at Cill-dara, or Church of the Oak. Sometimes the story is said that upon her birth, an old druid made a prophecy about her saying something along the lines of "I am a father of old Ireland, but little Brigid will be a mother of the new Ireland."
She was widely known for her wisdom and scholarship, no doubt part of why she is patron saint of poets and scholars, among many others things. There is so much to her story, so many beautiful legends and otherwise! I could not even begin to hunt them all down and provide them here for you. I don't even know them all, yet! Or the story of St. Brigid's Cross - a cross woven from rushes. I have one at home, made in Ireland from River Shannon rush, I think. :) I also have a necklace of her cross, which I wore today.
Nor could I find and give you all the myriad of prayers and blessings and litanies invoking her name and blessing upon each other, family, animals, homes, etc. I know I have not seen them all! Many invoke her mantle (cloak), for protection, which was said to have healing qualities. This comes from the following story, I believe...
She is also known as "Mary of the Gael." This is NOT to say she was placed above the Blessed Virgin for the Irish, not at all! No, one is for a story about her, where it says she was one night mystically 'transported' back to Bethlehem on the night of Christ's birth, and helped to care for Him while Mary and Joseph rested awhile, wrapping Him in her mantle. Hence, Mary of the Gael, Foster-Mother of Christ.
The other reason is that for the Irish, she embodied the virtues of the Blessed Mother so well and so beautifully, that they called her thus.
Here are a few links to some info about her, if you would like to know more:
From All Saints Church - has a good bio.
From a very large database of info on Catholic saints - also has a good bio.
From "Catholic Culture" - includes other links to prayers, traditions, etc.
This year's blog post about St. Brigid from Monsignor Eric Barr, and 2008's blog post about her.
This from the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians.
This made me cry when I first read it a couple years ago.
One of the things that REALLY irks me when people try to tell her story, however, is claiming that Saint Brigid of Kildare, who did exist, is really only a "Christianization" of the ancient Celtic goddess named Brigit. Some even say the Church has "revoked" Brigid's "status" as a recognized saint. What a load of rubbish! And how hard is it to understand that St. Brigid only bore the name of the goddess, and is not the "Christian version" of the goddess herself?!? Seriously, people. Just because someone is named "Diana" does not make them a "new version" of the ancient goddess. Or god, as the case may be. Or if they are named for a saint, like Cecilia, obviously does not mean they are the St. Cecilia.
Ridiculous. I'm not even going to call it "logic." -___-
I will not deny that attributes of the goddess Brigit were probably given to Saint Brigid, but that's not hard to see why, either. It's very possible Brigid herself carried these qualities, plus the fact that Ireland was newly-converted. And still in-the-process-of. All of that was still very fresh for people. Nothing wrong there.
Anyway, I hope you take the time to learn some more about my beloved patroness! I leave with one of the prayers I have found:
St. Brigid, Mary of Ireland,
Ask for us all today
The courage to do God's bidding,
Whatever the world may say.
The grace to be strong and valiant,
The grace to be firm and true,
The grace to be faithful always,
To God, His Mother, and you.
of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
Sancta Brigid, ora pro nobis!