Brigid was born around 452 in Ireland. Her father was a pagan chieftain called Dubthach, and he mother Brocessa was a Christian slave. Her mother was sent away and sold but, after Brigid was old enough, she was returned to her father and put in charge of the dairy.
It was not easy for Brocessa to bring up her daughter as a Christian but she certainly succeeded. Brigid was a happy and generous girl who often got into trouble with her father for giving away food to the poor people. In fact, Brigid was known for her generosity and kindness to those in need and there are lots of stories about her giving away flour and milk and even her father’s jewelled sword.
Once she was old enough, Brigid was sought after for marriage but she wanted to enter the religious life instead. It is believed that she asked God to make her undesirable and her face became disfigured until she made her vows as a nun, when she returned to her normal self. She was consecrated to the religious life by St. Mel, a bishop.
No-one was surprised when Brigid became a nun. In those days, nuns would live at home and follow a life of prayer whilst helping out the Church. Brigid thought that nuns could serve people better if they lived in groups so she set up religious communities. One of the most famous and largest was the Kildare Abbey, ‘church of the oaks,’ which was a double monastery for monks and nuns.
Brigid also founded a school of art which specialised in metal work. Brigid touched the lives of many people whom she met and one particular tale tells of her encounter with a dying pagan man. The people sent for Brigid to talk to the man before he died. Brigid did this by weaving a cross of rushes and talked to the man about the cross. The man is said to have believed in God and was baptised before he died.
Brigid died around 524 at the age of 70. She was buried in Kildare and her body was later taken to Downpatrick to be buried alongside St Patrick.
Prayer to St Brigid
You were a woman of peace.
You brought harmony where there was conflict.
You brought light to the darkness.
You brought hope to the downcast.
May the mantle of your peace cover those who are troubled and anxious,
And may peace be firmly rooted in our hearts and in our world.
Inspire us to act justly and to reverence all God has made.
Brigid, you were a voice for the wounded and the weary.
Strengthen what is weak within us.
Calm us into a quietness that heals and listens.
May we grow each day into greater wholeness in mind, body and spirit.
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