Brigid of Kildare

St. Brigid of Ireland icon by Theophilia
St. Brigid Icon © Cecilia Lawrence, 2015. Tapestry above from House of Brigid.

* Try the links in larger bold type for online activities.

Saint Brigid, “the Mary of the Gael,” was born around 450. She learned about Jesus Christ from Saint Patrick and was baptized by him. Even as a child she was known for her great generosity and would give away whatever she had to the poor.

Brigid's Cross

Brigid was called to the bedside of a dying pagan chieftain. She sat by him to keep watch over him in his final hours. While sitting by the dying man, Brigid picked up some rushes from the floor and began to weave them into a cross. The sick man asked her what she was making and Brigid began to explain the story of Jesus to him. Before he died, the chieftain had become a Christian.

For centuries it has been customary on the eve of her Feast Day (1st February) for the Irish people to fashion a St. Brigid's Cross of straw or rushes and place it inside the house over the door.

* Watch this video to learn how to make a Brigid's Cross

or you can follow the pictures at this site.

Brigid's Generosity

Brigid was known for her compassion for the poor. As a child she would give away food, clothing, and even her father's possessions to the poor. Her father decided the best solution to control his overly charitable daughter was to marry her off and pass the problem on to her husband.

Brigid waited in their chariot while her father negotiated her marriage deal with her royal suitor. Her father left his bejeweled sword with Brigid since etiquette demanded he bear no weapons to an audience with the King.

As Brigid waited a leper approached. She had nothing to share with him, only her father’s sword, so she gave it away so the leper could sell it. When the King learned of what she had done, he decided she might be a nuisance to his household. Finally Brigid was granted her wish to become a nun and serve the King of Heaven.

Brigid's Crosier

You often see St Brigid pictured as holding a Bishop's crosier or staff. This was traditional for an abbess of a monastery, but there is more to the story.

Here is the tale from the Book of Lismore.

"Brigid and certain virgins along with her went to take the veil from Bishop Mel in Telcha Mide. Blithe was he to see them. For humility Brigid stayed so that she might be the last to whom a veil should be given. A fiery pillar rose from her head to the roof ridge of the church. Then said Bishop Mel: "Come, O holy Brigid, that a veil may be sained on thy head before the other virgins." It came to pass then, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, that the form of ordaining a bishop was read out over Brigid. Macaille said that a bishop's order should not be confirmed on a woman. Said Bishop Mel "No power have I in this matter. That dignity hath been given by God unto Brigid, beyond every (other) woman." Wherefore the men of Ireland from that time to this give episcopal honour to Brigid's successor."

Brigid's Cloak

Brigid decided to make her home in Kildare. She wished to build a convent there and set out to find the perfect site. Eventually, she found a place that would be ideal for her new convent. The land was beside a forest which would give firewood. It was near a lake where they could fish. However, the land belonged to the King of Leinster who was a greedy man.

One day Brigid met the King of Leinster and a band of horsemen returning from a hunt, she approached the king and told him she needed land. He asked her how much she needed, and Brigid replied that all she asked for was the amount her cloak would cover.

Amused by this strange request, the King agreed, and she laid her cloak on the ground. To his amazement, the cloak grew and spread until it covered the rich, green acres we know today as The Curragh of Kildare. This area is also known as St. Brigid's Pastures.

* Listen to the story of Saint Brigid's cloak.

Here is a sheet to color of Brigid and some of her symbols.

Saint Brigid's Blessing

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.

* You can listen to St Brigid's blessing with pictures and music.

* Now try this quiz to see if you can you remember the words to St Brigid's Blessing.

St Brigid Day

Brigid of Kildare is the patron saint of Ireland, poets, dairymaids, blacksmiths, healers, cattle, fugitives, Irish nuns, midwives, and new-born babies. We keep her feast day on February 1, the traditional Gaelic festival marking the beginning of spring.

Whether you’re Irish or not, you can celebrate Saint Brigid's Day by

  • doing an act of charity,

  • making a Saint Brigid’s cross,

  • or simply praying for Ireland and her people.

A New Tale

Bryce Mulligan has written a new story, called Brigid's Cloak, about Brigid's generosity that you may enjoy.

* You can listen to this story on You Tube.

How much do you know?

1) Who are the co-patrons of Ireland?

2) Brigid was a disciple of which Saint?

3) What does the term disciple mean?

4) Even as a child what was Brigid known for?

5) What is a monastery?

6) What kind of monastery did Brigid build a Kildare, Ireland?

7) When is St Brigid’s Day celebrated?

8) Why is the traditional Celtic first day of Spring set on February 1?

9) What liturgical feast do we celebrate on February 2?

10) What is another name traditionally given to the 40th day after Christmas?

Now check your answers.

Bonus: Listen to this YouTube of the gospel for February 2, the Feast of the Presentation.