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St. Bride/Brigid by John Duncan (1913)
If your dad owns a jewel encrusted sword worth a great deal of money, what would you do with it if you could lay your hands on it? Lock it up in a vault? Donate it to a museum? Insure if for everything its worth and hang it over the fireplace, secretly hoping someone steals the gaudy thing so you can get the cash? All sorts of options, but if you’re saint, you give it to a beggar so that he can trade it for food for his family.
Brigid had been living with her mother who was a slave in Ireland, but at the age of ten, she was sent away to live with her father. Once there, she started giving away all his possessions to the poor. He became so tired of the practice that he took her to the king to be sold and it was while there that she came across his jewel encrusted sword and gave it away. Dad turned to the king and basically said, “See! This is exactly what I was talking about!” But the king, also a Christian, said to Brigid’s father, “Her merit before God is greater than ours,” and convinced the father to allow Brigid to return to her mother.
Later her mother would be freed and then pledged Brigid to be married, but Brigid desired to remain chaste and serve the Lord, so she prayed that her beauty would be taken from her to make her less desirable. Her prayer was answered, but her beauty was restored once she made her final vows as religious. Who was it that heard her final vows? None other than St. Patrick; however, something curious occurred during the ceremony that was pointed out to Patrick following the service. An attendant informed Patrick that he had used the prayers for making a priest and not a religious, to which Patrick is reported to have responded, “So be it, my son, she is destined for great things.” Brigid and Patrick would go on to become the greatest of friends. Of this friendship, one early biographer wrote, “Between St. Patrick and Brigid, the pillars of the Irish people, there was so great a friendship of charity that they had but one heart and one mind. Through him and through her Christ performed many great works.”
She died of natural causes on February 1st in 525 a.d. and was buried at Kildare Cathedral, likely horrified that her tomb was “adorned with gems and precious stones and crowns of gold and silver.”
St. Brigid is one who did not worry about the things of this world, in fact she gave them all away. Perhaps God does not call us all to give away every possession, but he does call us each to care for the widows and orphans and the poor in our midst. To learn what this means and how to accomplish it, we need only look to St. Brigid as a teacher.
The Saint Brigid Hearth Keeper prayer is written to her. I close with it.
Let us pray:
Brigid of the Mantle, encompass us,
Lady of the Lambs, protect us,
Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us.
Beneath your mantle, gather us,
And restore us to memory.
Mothers of our mother, Foremothers strong.
Guide our hands in yours,
Remind us how to kindle the hearth.
To keep it bright, to preserve the flame.
Your hands upon ours, Our hands within yours,
To kindle the light, Both day and night.
The Mantle of Brigid about us,
The Memory of Brigid within us,
The Protection of Brigid keeping us
From harm, from ignorance, from heartlessness.
This day and night,
From dawn till dark, From dark till dawn.