Friday, August 04, 2017

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Brigit Poems by Mael Brigde at The MotherHouse of the Goddess

I am happy to say that The MotherHouse of the Goddess, the school which hosts my Brigit courses, has published two of my poems on its blog. You can follow this link to read “Brigit – Keeper of Cattle”, and the following to see “At Your Healing Well”.

Thank you, Kim, for your appreciation and support of my work and devotion to Brigit.

(For those interested in the courses, the introductory course is called Discovering Brigit, and the month-long activation course is Stepping Into Brigit. If you enroll in the first (for $15 US), you will have an opportunity to continue to the second course at the end, and will be rebated most of that money in the enrollment process.)


From their website:

About the MotherHouse of the Goddess

The MotherHouse of the Goddess is a Gathering Place for seekers of sacred living, particularly modern women. We share resources on Goddess and Women’s Spirituality and mindful living, provide online courses, and promote and organize events online and offline. The MotherHouse is the hub for blog posts and information for those who are seeking everyday sacred living, mindfulness, empowerment, and community for Goddess Spirituality and the Divine Feminine. Seasonal articles, living mythology, tools and practices, and transformational stories are all a part of our exchange.
Wise Women, Wild Women, Priestesses, Shamans, Teachers, and Guides are all involved and more joining as our offerings and content increases. Make sure you pop over and meet our contributors! We also welcome submissions – click here for more info on how to write for MotherHouse.
The Mission of the MotherHouse of the Goddess is:
  • To provide a safe and nurturing space online for modern women to gather, share, study, and connect.
  • To empower Women to seek and connect with the Goddess within and without and live authentic lives of power.
  • To incorporate the practices and qualities of the EveryDay Sacred and Mindfulness into our daily lives.
  • To make Goddess in all of Her forms accessible by providing well-researched information on Goddess Spirituality, Goddess Myths, correspondences and ritual practices, as well as ways to connect in modern day.
  • To give opportunities for Women and those interested in Goddess Spirituality to connect with Teachers and explore the Divine Feminine in all aspects of their lives.
  • To inspire Women to create their own rituals, prayers and poems for Goddess and their sacred experiences.
  • To laugh, sing, dance, share stories, validate each other, blossom, and reach for the stars all in Her name.
  • To plant the Seeds of Goddess throughout the world.
**While many of our offerings are directed to women, all are welcome.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

TSLC: St. Brigid's Story (Video)

I am of two minds about this video. Maybe three. It is clearly a rather slick advertisement for a chain of seniors' communities, but I suppose many other things I have posted have been advertisements of a sort--for a statue line, or books, and so on. Even a dairy at one time. Like the dairy, I have never visited these seniors homes and have no idea if they are great or awful. But nevertheless I like the video. I like the photography and I like the message of caring. So here she is.

From their website:

Trinity Senior Living Communities is a leading advocate of the holistic, individual-first brand of senior care. We provide resident-centered care for more than 35,000 seniors a year at communities in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Connecticut, Ohio and Maryland. We also provide consulting and management services to other faith-based, senior living organizations.
Our Sanctuary™ communities are small, consistent neighborhoods of residents and care partners who work, grow and share life experiences together. As part of the Sanctuary™ model of care, we help residents live their best lives now — with fulfillment, purpose and meaning in every day.
We honor the sacredness of every resident and the holiness of our work through uncompromising standards and services. We encourage fellowship and independence while serving seniors and their families with dignity and respect. Our residents are valued and empowered to make decisions that affect their lives. Our care partners and associates live out their calling: caring for our senior residents and guests.
Based in Livonia, Mich., Trinity Senior Living Communities is a member of Trinity Health.
(Trinity Health PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) is a member of Trinity Health, one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

LAD Saint Bridget Spinner

A sweet gag from Facebook:

NEW! From Ladfleg products. The perfect gadget to keep the childer quiet at the Clonard Novena.

Well done, LAD! And thanks, Amy Lynn, for drawing this to my attention.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

“Bríg Brethach, ‘Bríg of the Judgements’” by Katharine Simms

A presentation often quoted when the subject of Brig Brethach comes up is “Bríg Brethach, ‘Bríg of the Judgements’” by Katharine Simmsthe “doyenne of studies of Gaelic Irish society in the later Middle Ages” (1).

This paper can be downloaded here.

(1) Four Courts Press.

Image: La Justice’, Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin (1860-1943). Public domain.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Children's Book Review: “Brigid and the Butter” by Love and Stott

Review Brigid and the Butter: A Legend about Saint Brigid of Ireland 
  by Pamela Love (author) and Apryl Stott (illustrator) (2017) 
  Pauline Books and Media. 
  30 pp. For children ages 5-8 years.

What a delightful picture book! I was pleased when I learned of its existence. I have read, reviewed, and enjoyed three other picture books about Brigit so I looked forward to discovering another person’s—or rather pair of persons’—perspective on her young life. I was not disappointed.

Brigid and the Butter is the first Catholic offering I’ve encountered in the Saint Brigit picture book genre, which have included one specifically Orthodox book and two that tell the saint’s tales from an “Irish Legends” perspective and from an almost magical perspective in which young Saint Brigit goes to Bethlehem to help out Joseph and Mary in the birth of Jesus. (For my review of these books please go here.)

In Brigid and the Butter the first thing I notice of course is the art of Apryl Stott. The cover shows a comely, open-faced young girl with a bowl of butter, cattle in the pasture behind her, and a painted framework round the whole that mixes Irish knotwork with another style of art inlaid into it—beautiful though a little out of keeping with the setting. Flipping through the book without reading, to get an idea of the flow of the story and to steep in Stott’s imagery, I grew more excited—her paintings are rich and generous and well designed, and even the non-reader is quickly drawn into a land where there are great cattle looming over us, finely arching thistles growing up along a page, and an earnest young girl caring for the cattle and setting to work making butter.

I have few criticisms of Stott’s lovely work, apart from a neglect of research into the times depicted. The hut, for instance, looks like something from a different land (England, perhaps?), unlike what would be expected in Iron Age Ireland, when Brigid lived. The cattle would be at home in a modern cowyard but are not the native cattle of Ireland—and so on. Those elements, if done correctly, would have added to the charm of the book and its usefulness in teaching children about 5th century Ireland, but even as it is, the art is outstanding and supports the story of the book very well.

Pamela Love has drawn together a number of elements to tell a story that is both entertaining and educational, mostly in terms of its spiritual teachings. The child who reads the book will learn a little of what life was like for a youngster in Brigid’s time, for instance that children were expected to work independently and hard (potentially dangerous work, too, if you check out the size of and the horns on those critters). She handles a herd of animals much larger than herself, caring for them in many ways, and does the exhausting work of making butter from their milk. Butter comes from milk?! From a cow?! Amazing! And this is how it’s done. By hand?!

Add to this that the girl is briefly mentioned to be a slave. It may come as news to a child that Irish children have ever been slaves—in our uneven coverage of the topic we have tended to give the impression that only African people were ever captured as slaves, but of course slavery exists even today and has been an important and legal part of many cultures all across the world. This mention might give a teacher or parent an opportunity to talk to a child about slavery. But it is not explored in the book, and indeed if you forget that one introductory line you may think from the following story that Brigid and her mum lived unmolested on their own in a pretty, well equipped house and had a good herd of cows. You would notice, though, that they seem to have very little to eat.

And that is the crux of the story. Hard-working Brigid churns the butter and comes up with only a little for herself and her mother (who we never meet). There is no mention that most of the churnings and indeed most of the milk would have gone to the master; the impression is that only a teeny bit of produce comes from all that work, and I can only assume this is to simplify the story, but I do think it leaves it a little bit unanchored. If we saw that the results of Brigid’s hard work were mostly carted away and then she was left with only a little there would be a stronger impact—although even the smallness of the butter is a literary device, as there is no indication in Brigid’s Lives that she and her mother were poorly fed, only that they were hard-worked. No matter, a small opportunity lost but possibly needless clutter avoided.

So, back to the crux of the story, which is that with only a small amount of food for herself and her mother, Brigid is faced with a situation where someone with even less has asked for help, and she must decide what to do. An elderly, skinny woman comes to the door asking for food. Brigid offers to let her wait for her mum to return, saying she might bring food and they could share it with her, but the woman is in a hurry. Brigid says all they have is butter, with nothing to put it on, and the old woman gets a look of longing and says how much she loves butter and how it’s been ages since she’s tasted it.

Earlier in the story Brigid has heard Saint Patrick tell the story of the loaves and fishes. In it a young child brings a tiny offering of bread and fish, all he has, to Jesus, and Jesus makes of it enough to feed a great crowd. Brigid thinks of this when considering what to do with the butter. She and her mother had eaten nothing all day and she had been looking forward to tucking into the butter, whether her mother brought other food back with her or not. Now she was faced with the difficult choice of preventing a hungry woman from finding enough food to carry on and facing that deepening hunger herself. Her instinct is to be inviting and generous, but her feeling of self-preservation makes her reluctant to just give it all away.

Suddenly she understands that “helping others could be difficult”. What had seemed like a nice idea in the story was actually a hard reality in day to day life. She has a little conversation in her head with Jesus, a kind of natural prayer where she acknowledges that unlike him, she isn’t able to feed thousands, but that she can help the one person right in front of her. Thus, the elderly woman walks happily away, all the butter and even the bowl tucked nicely in her bag. Brigid is a little worried that her mother will be upset, and she asks Jesus to provide for them so that they, too, will have something to eat.

As was nearly always the case in the Lives of Brigid when she has acted in this fashion, her generosity ends up not being as costly as it at first appears it will. She turns back to the table and there two bowls of butter stand, each more full than the original. The young girl who has taken a risk with her own and her mother’s bellies in order to help someone else is rewarded with enough food for several days, and gives thanks.

I like how gently and humanly this story is told. There is no hectoring, no sense that she was a bad girl even to think of not giving, but that this was a difficult life decision that each of us faces—in fact we face such decisions thousands of times in our lives. Will we be generous today? Will we reserve enough for ourselves? What makes sense in any given situation? The complexities of such ethical decisions aren’t gone into here, nor should they, but the beginning of the conversation is opened up. The idea is put before a child that even when we ourselves have very little, we are capable of giving, capable of helping someone else, and that we might consider this when faced with a decision of whether or not to give help.

I like that Brigid and the Butter can be read as it is and enjoyed quite simply, with no pressure to have big heavy Teaching Discussions, or can become the starting off place for several different conversations, then or later, round the dinner table perhaps, on the different kinds of responsibilities children face, on slavery, on miracles, on generosity, on taking care of ourselves and our own families, on cattle rearing and making butter, or on the Biblical stories referred to in the text. (A family that is into history might even look into whether or not Saint Patrick and Saint Brigit could ever actually have met, as they were said to have done in some of her later Lives.)

The story is followed by a portrait of the grownup Brigid and a few paragraphs about her later life, and then by a short prayer to Saint Brigid:

“Saint Brigid, you gave food to someone who was hungry although your stomach was also empty. I want to be generous, too. Pray for me so that, like you, I may do what I can to help others. Help me to care for people in need, even when it isn’t easy. Amen.”

A prayer we could most of us benefit by.

The book ends with writeups and photos of the author and illustrator but also, wonderfully, of the Catholic Sisters who run Pauline Books and Media, as well as a brief catalogue of some of their children’s books. I am left with the sense of a very joyful and loving group of women, and I am well pleased that I have this book.

For a sneak peek into the first few pages of the book, follow this link.

For a review by a Catholic father of three (so you can get the kids’ response, and not just some fusty old adult’s), check out Steven R. MacEvoy’s blog.

What Would Brigit's Church Have Looked Like?

Many of us have read and been impressed by Cogitosus's wonderful description of the church at Kildare when he was a monk therea hundred years or more after the death of Saint Brigit.

It gives us a sense of a huge and active monastic community with a church large enough to accomodate the female and male monastics as well as the local lay Christians. But Saint Brigit and her eight sisters arriving in the fifth century into what came to be called Kildare would have built a much humbler "cell", perhaps like this recreated Patrician church of the same century. Those of you who read Heather Upfield's recent post about Saint Bride will be familiar with the idea.

According to the Ballintubber Abbey website:

Wooden Church-replica of Patrician churches (5th Century): 

These “Dairteachs” or wooden churches served as places of reflection on the Word of God or on nature, in the early Irish Church. Baptism and the Eucharist were more often celebrated in the open air, around wells and in groves in the tradition of our pre-Christian ancestors.

This is a small but clear image. Do enlarge it on your screen and have a look at greater detail. Not much protection from the elements, and smoke would have hung low in such a structure if fire or incense were litit's no wonder that most ritual was done outside.

Image: "Wooden Church-replica of Patrician churches (5th Century)." From Ballintubber Abbey website. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Ancient Ireland: Course and Free Downloads of Classic Studies

Rekindling an awareness of the Laws, Culture, Mythology, and Heritage of Ancient Ireland

The Brehon Law Academy provides links to a number of important resources for the study of ancient Ireland, videos, as well as books like On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish by Eugene O'Curry. It also offers a low cost course called Ancient Ireland: Culture and Society, which looks very good, and seems well appreciated by the people who have so far taken it.

Lovers of Brigit being generally lovers of ancient Ireland, or at least seeking an understanding of it so that she may be understood, may wish to have a look.