Saint Brigid (453-523), one of three patron saints of Ireland, is celebrated today, February 1. Brigid was one of the most remarkable women of her times, and while her life and the extravagant miracles attributed to her are the stuff of Celtic legend and poetry, there is little doubt that her extraordinary spirituality, limitless charity, and overflowing compassion and generosity toward those in distress were real. Considered a saint by most while she lived, her life, works, and piety inspire us still today.
Born to a Irish noble father, Brigid’s mother was a Christian slave in his service. Sold shortly after Brigid’s birth, Brigid was raised by her father. At an early age, Brigid’s temperament was marked by kindness and gentleness toward all creatures and living things. She was known throughout the country as a special child, with a kind word and smile for everyone. She heard Saint Patrick, who would later baptize her, preach, and never forgot it. Putting into practice the teachings of Christ, Brigid became infamous for giving away her father’s possessions to the poor and needy, including a precious jewel-encrusted sword given to him by a Scottish king. When Brigid explained that she had “given the sword to God” through the leper who received the sword, the king forbade Brigid’s father to punish her, stating, “Her merit before the Lord is greater than ours.”
As Brigid approached marrying age, and became more and more beautiful, her father arranged a number of marriages for her, but she refused each one, stating, “I have chosen the noblest Prince of all… and He is Christ our Lord.” She subsequently prayed to become ugly, so as to discourage suitors. Her prayers were answered, as her previous beauty disappeared, and she was able to remain a virgin for Christ.
The monastery became a “double monastery,” housing both nuns and monks, and Saint Brigid and Bishop Conlaeth ruled the community as equals, a powerful (and unusual) position for a woman at the time. She was considered the equal of bishops, many of whom visited her from neighboring areas, seeking her counsel, and sitting at her feet. During her tenure, she built four additional monasteries, over thirty homes for religious orders, and a school of art famous for illuminated manuscripts of Biblical works.
Saint Brigid traveled the countryside, not seeking the conversion of souls like Saint Patrick, but rather visiting the sick, poor, and needy. She prayed incessantly for them, ministering to their needs, and anointing the dying. On one such occasion, visiting a delirious pagan chieftain, Brigid sat by the man’s bedside, on the ground which was covered with straw. Unable to convince him of the Gospel, given the lack of clarity of his thoughts, Brigid began weaving the straw into a cross. He grew calm, his mind clear, as she explained the message of Christ, His death for us, His resurrection, and our redemption. The chieftain accepted the word of God, was baptized, and died shortly thereafter. Saint Brigid’s cross became a symbol throughout Ireland for healing and safety in the home. Many homes in Ireland continue to bear the cross on their walls and mantles, with this prayer recited:
May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell. Bless every fireside, every wall and door. Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof. Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy. Bless every foot that walks its portals through. May Brigid bless the house that shelters you. Amen.
Saint Brigid’s Prayer for a Feast in Heaven
I wish I had a great lake of ale for the King of kings,
and the family of heaven to drink it through time eternal.
I wish I had the meats of belief and genuine piety,
the flails of penance, and the men of heaven in my house.
I would like keeves of peace to be at their disposal,
vessels of charity for distribution, caves of mercy for their company,
and cheerfulness to be in their drinking.
I would want Jesus also to be in their midst,
together with the three Marys of illustrious renown,
and the people of heaven from all parts.
I would like to be a tenant to the Lord, so if I should suffer distress,
He would confer on me a blessing.
Day 32 of 365
Prayer Intentions: To be reflections of Christ’s love to the world
Requested Intentions: The rest and repose of a dearly departed friend (J); Reconciliation of struggling marriages (A); Reconciliation and healing in personal relationships (N); Safety for friend deployed to Afghanistan (S); Safety of friend/ relief worker in Haiti (L); Health and safety of new daughter (J); Renewal of loving Christ-centered relationship (A).
Special Intentions: Novena to Our Lady of Prompt Succor, for those who are struggling in the face of personal trials and tribulations, unemployment and financial stress, natural disasters (including the poor of Haiti), poverty, war, and exploitation. May Our Lady of Prompt Succor hasten to help us!
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."