30 Jan 2011

February 1st - Feast of St Bridget - Muire na nGael - Secondary Patron of Ireland


February 1st is in Ireland the feast day of a beloved saint, Bridget of Kildare and is viewed as the start of Spring and the beginning of the new agricultural year. St Bridget's day honours our second national patron saint after St Patrick and gives her due honour.

Tradition holds she lived 452AD-524AD as is know in tradition and affection of the Irish as Mary of the Gael. She is said to be the patroness of babies; blacksmiths; boatmen; cattle; chicken farmers; children whose parents are not married; children whose mothers are mistreated by the children's fathers; Clan Douglas; dairymaids; dairy workers; fugitives; infants; Ireland; Leinster, mariners; midwives; milk maids; nuns; poets; poor; poultry farmers; poultry raisers; printing presses; sailors; scholars; travellers; watermen

Pious tradition holds she took her vows from Saint Mel of Ardagh (nephew of St Patrick), who also granted her abbatial powers. She followed Saint Mel into the Kingdom of Teathbha, which is made up of sections of modern Meath, Westmeath and Longford. This occurred about 468. Brigid is known for being the only “female bishop” of the early church. It is said that upon receiving her vows Saint Mel was inspired by God to make her a bishop. Brigid's small oratory at Cill-Dara (Kildare) became a center of religion and learning, and developed into a cathedral city. She founded two monastic institutions, one for men, and the other for women, and appointed Saint Conleth as spiritual pastor of them. It has been frequently stated that she gave canonical jurisdiction to Saint Conleth, Bishop of Kildare, but, as Archbishop Healy points out, she simply "selected the person to whom the Church gave this jurisdiction", and her biographer tells us distinctly that she chose Saint Conleth "to govern the church along with herself". Thus, for centuries, Kildare was ruled by a double line of abbot-bishops and of abbesses, the Abbess of Kildare being regarded as superior general of the monasteries in Ireland. Brigid also founded a school of art, including metal work and illumination, over which Conleth presided. The Kildare scriptorium produced the Book of Kildare, which elicited high praise from Giraldus Cambrensis, but which has disappeared since the Reformation. According to Giraldus, nothing that he had ever seen was at all comparable to the book, every page of which was gorgeously illuminated, and he concludes by saying that the interlaced work and the harmony of the colours left the impression that "all this is the work of angelic, and not human skill". Brigid is at times known as "the Patroness of Ireland" and "Queen of the South: the Mary of the Gael" by a writer in the "Leabhar Breac". Brigid died leaving a cathedral city and school that became famous all over Europe. In addition, Brigid is highly venerated by many Eastern Orthodox Christians as one of the great Western saints before the schism between the Eastern and Western Churches. Her feast day, as in the West, is February 1, although churches following the Julian calendar (as in many Orthodox countries) celebrate her feast on February 14, the corresponding date on the Julian calendar. Her body was found with those of Saints Patrick and Columba, in a triple vault in Down-Patrick, in 1185, as Giraldus Cambrensis informs us: they were all three translated to the cathedral of the same city; but their monument was destroyed in the reign of King Henry VIII.


The blog Under the Oak has a great devotion to St Bridget and has some further posts about:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for linking to my blog. I am glad the posts were of interest and congratulate you on your well-written piece above. Wishing you and all your listeners the blessings of Saint Brigid on this her feast day.

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