ST. BRIGID: Second Patron of Ireland
450 – 525 or 523
One of the most celebrated, popular and beloved saints in Ireland is St. Brigid. She was born in 450 at County Louth near Dundalk, Ireland. She was born of humble prudent Scottish stock. Her father was Duothac, a pagan Druid chieftain, and her mother Brocca, a Christian slave in his court.
Born out of wedlock (which is why she is patroness of children of unmarried parents) her mother was sold just before her birth on condition that the child be returned to him which is why Brigid grew up together with her father’s other children but still as a slave.
Brigid was also called BRIDE of Ireland because of her intense desire to only be Christ’s spouse. Ever since she was a little girl her Christian mother taught her all about Jesus and Mary whom she grew to love very much and longed to serve with her whole heart and being. This is why when her father insisted on her getting married to a poet who enjoyed a great social standing she desperately prayed to the Lord to help her. Aid came in the form of a terrible deformity when one of her eyes split open and melted in her head. Frustrated at being thwarted her father allowed her to take the holy veil which she had desperately wanted.
Meanwhile Brigid had seven good friends who were about her same age (18 years) and had the same longing to belong entirely to God. So Brigid convinced them saying, “Let us live together in community as the monks do.” (At that time in Ireland while St. Patrick had founded many monasteries there was still no convents for girls who longed to consecrate their virginity to God.) “Let us go to Bishop Mel of Armagh. He will receive our vows in Christ’s name.” He did and thus did Brigid found the first convent in Ireland. When she received the veil her deformity miraculously disappeared restoring her original beauty.
Brigid founded so many convents in so short a span of time. It is thanks to her father who in the meantime had come around so completely that he gave her the financial support and political backing she needed. Whether in the end he became a Christian himself is not known for sure but is believed to be so.
It is also thanks to the Irish bishops whom she befriended who encouraged her missionary labours and gave her their backing and support. Through them Brigid got to know how St. Patrick thought and so she strove to imitate him travelling all over Ireland founding numerous convents. The most famous of all the convents she founded was the double monastery she established in about 470 at Cill-Dara called at first The Church of the Oak because it was beside a great oak tree. It later came to be known as The Abbey of Kildare.
A double monastery is composed of nuns and monks living together but in separate quarters. Usually the nuns were of high social standing aided by monks who performed the liturgical services and helped carry out the heavy manual work. This form of monastery was not uncommon in both Britain and Germany.
Brigid who was abbess of the monastery for many years worked hard to develop it into a remarkable house of learning as she loved and encouraged studies. Thus the Abbey became a great center of scholarship, learning and spirituality. Around it grew Kildare, a cathedral city. A famous school of art was also founded by Brigid at Kildare.
It was because of her fame as a spiritual teacher that the place also became a center for pilgrims who sat at her feet and her followers absorbing their spiritual teachings. It is no wonder that Brigid is a patron of scholars.
Brigid died on February 1. Her feast is celebrated all over Ireland, Wales, Australia and New Zealand. Recently her feast day has been proclaimed a national holiday for women in Ireland. While St. Patrick is hailed as the principal patron of Ireland, Brigid is known as Ireland’s second patron.
St. Brigid is the patroness of poetry, healing and metalwork, knowledge, life, wisdom and hearth. She is also patroness of dairy workers and of all the good women in Ireland.
SOURCES of REFERENCE: Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Vol. I – pp 225 – 229; Lives of the Saints – pp. 56 – 57; The Lion Treasury of Saints – pp 104 – 105; and others.
St. Brigid and St. Patrick developed a close friendship sharing a so- called “friendship of charity.” St Patrick is said to even have baptized her.