ST. BRIGID OF IRELAND (B. 451 – D.527AD)
Most revered of all of Ireland’s early female saints, Brigid was born of pagan\Christian parentage, and raised in the fosterage (early Irish practice of youth education) of a druid. She converted to Christianity at age 17. Noted for her prayerfulness, compassion, humility, and generosity, she founded the earliest known Celtic double monastery, housing both men (renowned for a school of art in illuminated manuscripts) and women (expert in wool industry and weaving of cloth).
She professed a profound belief in “anam cara,” or soul friends, unique persons God offers us as companions on our pilgrim road. This extended to the idea that love and intimacy were essential to a sound marriage, also quite unique for her time.
Exceptional in another aspect, St Mel of Ardagh, inebriated by her virtues or by ‘spirits’, ordained her a bishop and she was respected as such. A perpetual fire was kept in her honor from her time till extinguished by King Henry VIII’s order in 1540 of the Dissolution of Monasteries. Recently it has been rekindled.
In this icon she is noted for her beauty, holding the crosier (based on the famous Lismore crosier), symbolic of a Bishops staff and shepherds of men. Her clothing is the fine wool work of her sisters. She also holds a ‘Brigid Cross,’ an ancient solar symbol traditionally made to welcome Spring (Feb.1, in Ireland). Dawn barely touches the sky over her right shoulder, a time when the veil between worlds is very thin, and her perpetual fire burns through the night.
Also known as ‘Brigid of Kildare’ (“Kildare”= church of the oak) and ‘Bride’ (“bright or exalted one”).
Her feast day is February 1.