According to tradition, Brigid was born in the year 451 AD in Faughart, just north of Dundalk in County Louth, Ireland. Because of the legendary quality of the earliest accounts of her life, there is debate among many secular scholars and Christians as to the authenticity of her biographies. Three biographies agree that her mother was Brocca, a Christian Pict slave who had been baptized by Saint Patrick. They name her father Dubhthach, a chieftain of Leinster.
The vitae says that Dubhthach’s wife forced him to sell Brigid’s mother to a Druid when she became pregnant. Brigid herself was born into slavery. As she grew older, Brigid was said to have performed miracles, including healing and feeding the poor. According to one tale, as a child, she once gave away her mother’s entire store of butter. The butter was then replenished in answer to Brigid’s prayers. Around the age of ten, she was returned as a household servant to her father, where her habit of charity led her to donate his belongings to anyone who asked.
In both of the earliest biographies, Dubhthach is portrayed as having been so annoyed with Brigid that he took her in a chariot to the King of Leinster to sell her. While Dubhthach was talking to the king, Brigid gave away his bejeweled sword to a beggar to barter it for food to feed his family. The king recognized her holiness and convinced Dubhthach to grant his daughter freedom.
It is said that Brigid was “veiled” or received either by St. Mac Caill, Bishop of Cruachu Brig Ele (Croghan, County Offaly) or by St. Mél of Ardagh at Mág Tulach (the present barony of Fartullagh, County Westmeath), who granted her abbatial powers. Brigid, with an initial group of seven companions, is credited with organizing communal consecrated religious life for women in Ireland. She founded two monastic institutions, one for men, and the other for women. For centuries, Kildare was ruled by a double line of abbot-bishops and of abbesses, the Abbess of Kildare being regarded as superior general of the monasteries in Ireland. Her successors have always been accorded episcopal honor. Brigid’s oratory at Kildare became a center of religion and learning and developed into a cathedral city. Brigid is credited with founding a school of art, including metalwork and illumination. According to the Trias Thaumaturga Brigid spent time in Connacht and founded many churches in the Diocese of Elphin.
Her friendship with Saint Patrick is noted in the following paragraph from the Book of Armagh: “inter sanctum Patricium Brigitanque Hibernesium columpnas amicitia caritatis inerat tanta, ut unum cor consiliumque haberent unum. Christus per illum illamque virtutes multas peregit” (Between St. Patrick and St. 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.)
Tradition says she died at Kildare on 1 February 525. The Catholic Church records Brigid’s date of death as 521 and has assigned 1 February as her feast day, which was originally a festival called Imbolc, marking the beginning of spring. From 2023 it will be a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, the first named after a woman. Brigid is celebrated for her generosity to the poor.
- “Story of St. Brigid”. St. Brigid’s GNS, Glasnevin.
- Jump up to: “Following Brigid’s Way – The Irish Catholic”.
- Bitel, Lisa (2019). “Saint Brigid of Kildare: Life, Legend and Cult by Noel Kissane (review)”. The Catholic Historical Review. 105 (2): 351–353. doi:10.1353/cat.2019.0062. ISSN 1534-0708. S2CID 211664373.
- “St. Brigit (or Brigid)—Wonders of Ireland”. http://www.libraryireland.com. Retrieved 9 January 2022.
- “Bethu Brigte”. celt.ucc.ie.
- Wallace, Martin (1995). A little book of Celtic saints. Belfast: Appletree Press. ISBN 978-0-86281-456-4. OCLC 60232845.
- “St. Brigit of Ireland”. Monastic Matrix.
- O’ Donavan, J. (1856). Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland. Vol. 5. Dublin: Hodges, Smith, and Co. p. 1249.
- “St. Brigid of Ireland”. Catholic News Agency.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). “St. Brigid of Ireland“. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- Sellner, Edward (2006). Wisdom of the Celtic Saints. Bog Walk Press. ISBN 0-9706511-3-9. OCLC 63178559.
*Information retrieved from Wikipedia.org 31 January 2022.
ALSO ON THIS DAY
1516 – Erasmus dedicates his New Testament to Pope Leo X. His work is politically risky, so he assures the pontiff, “We do not intend to tear up the old and commonly accepted edition [the Vulgate] but amend it where it is corrupt and make it clear where it is obscure.”
1656 – Authorities in the New Netherlands (New York) decreed that all “conventicles and meetings” held in the province, “whether public or private,” are “absolutely and expressly forbidden”; and that “only the Reformed Divine service, as this is observed and enforced according to the Synod of Dortrecht,” should be held.
1822 – Mother Javouhey sailed from France, bound for Senegal as a missionary. Through her strong character, deep love of people, and powerful faith, she accomplished much good in Africa and in South America.
1903 – Sir George Gabriel Stokes died in Cambridge. A brilliant and innovative mathematician, he was also known for his faith and delivered the Gifford Lectures in 1891, taking as his theme natural theology.
1916 – At the appeal of Basil Malof, a committee met in the United States to consider providing religious instruction to East European prisoners of war held in Western nations. Successful ministry followed.
1918 – Hymnwiter, author, and evangelistic worker Ada Ruth Habershon best known for her hymn “Will the Circle be Unbroken?” died in London, England. She was associated with C.H. Spurgeon and D.L. Moody.
*Information retrieved from ChristianHistoryInstitute.org 31 January 2022.
*Picture in header is St. Brigid’s Holy Well and Shrine. Photo by Can Pac Swire.