St. Brigid's Feast Day is celebrated on February 1st.
Brigid is one of the great saints of Ireland. She was born long, long ago. She had a hard childhood. Her father was a nobleman who expected his family to work very hard. Brigid had to work in the fields, milk cows, make butter and clean the house.
Brigid's mother often prayed or sang hymns as they worked together in the fields. She told Brigid stories about Jesus and about St Patrick who had come to Ireland to tell the Irish people all about Jesus Christ.
Brigid was a very beautiful girl. Some said she was the most beautiful girl in the country. Many young men admired her beauty and her charm. They all wanted to marry her but her father wanted her to marry the son of the King of Leinster. Brigid didn't want to marry. She felt that God wanted her to start a convent. It would be a place of refuge for the poor and a place of prayer and worship. So Brigid, along with her friends, left home. Brigid's father was furious. All the young men were very disappointed.
The group of women, with Brigid as their leader, started to build a convent with their own hands. They sank wooden poles into the ground and laced them together with sally rods. Then they plastered over the poles with hard clay. The little huts were carefully roofed with rushes. Soon, every nun had a hut to herself. The nuns then built two larger huts. One was the chapel where they sang hymns and prayed; the other was a place for meeting and having meals. The people were amazed when they saw what the women had done.
Everyone talked about the convent. They talked about the good work Brigid and the other nuns did. They talked about how hard Brigid and the nuns worked, ploughing the fields, sowing corn and gathering the crops at harvest time, milking their cows every morning and evening, making butter and cheese. The people nearby loved to hear them singing praises to God as they worked.
The nuns helped all those in need. Any poor person who called at the convent was sure of something to eat and drink. They took care of sick people. They often travelled miles to care for the poor and the sick.
Everyone loved Brigid. She was happy and pleasant and cheerful to all. Those who did not listen to St Patrick listened to her. They became Christians.
One day Brigid was called to the bed of an old pagan chieftain. He was dying. She smoothed out his bed and gave him sips of water to drink. Soon he fell into a light sleep. Brigid sat by his bedside to keep him company. To while away the time, she picked up a few rushes from the floor and began to weave them into a cross. The chieftain opened up his eyes and, though he was dying, asked her what she was making. She told him the story of Jesus and his death on the cross. She told him that Jesus loved everybody so much and loved God Our Father so much that he wasn't afraid to die on a cross. She explained that followers of Jesus Christ had a great respect and 1 great love for the cross of Jesus. "As I make this cross out of rushes," she said, "I think of Jesus Christ who died on the cross for me."
"Tell me more about Jesus. Tell me more," said the chieftain.
Brigid spent many hours with him and, before he died, the old pagan chieftain became a Christian.
When Brigid died, she was missed by many people. Irish people have prayed to her for many hundreds of years. They ask her blessing on themselves, their families and their work. They use her name in prayer. "Brid agus Muire dhuit" was one old Irish blessing. Another prayer was: "St Brigid, help us on our journey." Sometimes farmers said, "May St Brigid, the milkmaid with the gentle white hands and the golden brown hair be around you in the fields today", as they drove their cattle out to pasture.
We remember Brigid especially on her Feastday, the 1st of February.
- What sort of childhood did Brigid have?
- How did she learn her first prayers?
- Why did Brigid not marry the son of the King of Leinster?
- What materials did Brigid and the nuns use to build their first convent? Why did they travel around the countryside?
- How did they help the poor and the sick?
- What did Brigid say to the sick chieftain?
- Do you know a prayer that has the name of St Brigid in it?
Saint Brigid's Cross
Brigid wove a cross of rushes
By a dying chieftain's bed.
"Brigid what is that you're making
From the rushes there?" he said.
Brigid said, "A cross I'm weaving
Like the cross where Jesus died."
"Who was Jesus?" asked the chieftain,
"Why was this man crucified?"
Brigid told the gospel story
To the dying pagan king.
Lying silently he listened,
Never saying anything.
Then he kissed the cross of rushes
Saying, "Brigid, thanks to you,
I have come to love this Jesus,
I will follow his way too!"
Finbar 0' Connor
(i) Make up your own prayers to St Brigid.
With Patrick and Colmcille she forms the Trinity of The Patron Saints of Ireland. Saint Brigid was born in Faughairt near Dundalk about the year 450. Her father was a chieftain named Dubhtach and her mother was a bond woman named Brocessa. Her parents wished her to marry but she wished to dedicate her life to God as a nun. About the year 467 she and seven others took the veil from bishop Macaille. Her first religious settlement seems to have been in Westmeath. She later built a monastery at Cill Dara (The Church of the Oak), which became famous as a religious centre of great renown, with a scriptorium and school of metalwork Tradition tells us that while explaining the Passion and Death of Christ to a dying chieftain she took some rushes from the floor and fashioned a cross. The old Irish custom of placing a St. Brigid's cross over the door of dwelling houses and animal sheds began. Brigid was a gifted teacher and is said to have visited Scotland and England .After a long life she died on February 1st 523. Her feast day is on 1st February.
Liturgy for St. Bigid's Day
(Materials needed are rushes, scissors, elastic bands to tie the rushes. Holy water for blessing the crosses).
Today we come to celebrate our great patron Brigid. Brigid captures our imagination as a woman of great generosity, enormous courage, and extraordinary sensitivity to both the human and the non-human world. There are many stories of Brigid’s closeness to nature. Let us share some of these stories today as we make our Brigid’s crosses.
Story of Brigid and Brendan (Reader 1)
One day, Brendan was standing on a cliff looking out to sea and suddenly two whales jumped out of the water and began to fight. A great battle took place and gradually the smaller whale was getting weaker and St Brendan saw that it was only a matter of time before the bigger whale killed him. But just as he was about to be killed the smaller whale shouted out with a human voice calling on St. Brigid to save him. And with that the big whale stopped fighting and went away leaving the small whale unharmed. Now, St Brendan was watching all this and he became very upset. He said to himself 'Why did the whale call on Brigid to save him and not on me? These whales are used to seeing me on the sea; they all know that I am a holy man and that I can get anything I want from God. Why then, did the whale ignore me and call on Brigid?'
St. Brendan could find no answer to this question, so he decided that the only thing to do was to ask Brigid herself for an explanation. So he called his followers and they got into their boat and rowed back to Ireland and proceeded to Kildare to consult Brigid. When St. Brendan met Brigid he told her what had happened and asked her to explain why the whale had considered her to be a greater saint then himself and had ignored him even though he was actually on the spot when the incident occurred.
'Tell me,” says Brigid, 'is your mind constantly on God? Are you constantly aware of God?
‘Well’, says St. Brendan, ‘I am generally aware of God, but I live a very busy and a dangerous life. Often the sea is very rough and storms arise and on these occasions I forget all about God as I am so preoccupied trying to keep afloat.’
‘That is the explanation’, says Brigid, ‘for since the first day I set my mind on God I have never taken it away from God and I never will.’
Leader: (Play some reflective music).
As we continue to make our St. Brigid’s crosses we can listen to the following story.
Reader 2: St Brigid
St. Brigid was a girl who gave, and gave and gave and gave.
It didn’t matter who owned what or how her folks did rave.
She gave away her father’s sword, in every beggar, saw the Lord.
‘You’d try the patience of a saint,’
Her father roared and Brigid felt faint,
but still she worked with might and main
Come winter, summer, wind or rain.
Her God was kind and hated slavery,
She taught His word and fought all knavery.
Her monastery was quite a model
In work and prayer there, none did dawdle,
But music, art and craic abounded,
While Brigid was by love surrounded.
The Kildare oak so strong and sturdy
Was like our Brigid, Christ like and worthy.
Her roots in earth, her hands outstretched
To shelter all, both man and beast.
We know that Spring is here to stay
On February First, St. Brigid’s Day.
Leader: Now we will have some quiet time to reflect on the story we just heard.
(Play quiet reflective music in background.)
Reader 3: Crois Bhride – St. Brigid’s Cross.
St. Brigid was Abbess of the monastery at Cill Dara (the Church of the Oak in the 6th century. Her feastday is February 1st. Tradition tells us that as Brigid explained the passion and death of Christ to the dying pagan chieftain she took some rushes from the floor of the bothán and fashioned a cross. The Old Irish custom of placing a St. Brigid’s cross over the doors of dwelling houses and animal shelters thus began. People believed that in so doing Brigid would look after their households and stock and that full and plenty would be theirs in the year ahead. Later the custom of sprinkling the cross with holy water and invoking the following blessing began: “May the Father, Son, Holy Spirit and St. Brigid bless this cross and all who look upon it.”
This St. Brigid Cross has been blessed with this ancient blessing.
La Fhéile Bhride faoi mhaise agat!
Happy St. Brigid’s Day.
Leader: Now I invite you to bless your St. Brigid’s crosses with holy water.
Concluding Prayer: Prayer to St. Brigid
Lord, you inspired in St. Brigid
such wholehearted dedication to your work
that she is known as the Mary of the Gael;
through her intercession bless our country,
may we follow the example
of her life and be united with her and the
Virgin Mary in your presence,
through Christ Our Lord. Amen.