01Feb Feast of St Brigid, Secondary Patron of Ireland

Job 31:16-20; 24-25; 31-32. An account of Job’s lavish generosity towards the poor and needy; clearly reflected in St Brigid’s many works of charity.

Luke 6:32-38. In Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” Jesus gives his ideal of unselfish generosity – giving of oneself, in imitation of the creative love of our heavenly Father.

St Brigid of Ireland

(abbreviated from www.newadvent.org/cathen/02784b.htm )

Born in 451 or 452 of princely ancestors at Faughart, near Dundalk, County Louth; d. 1 February, 525, at Kildare. Refusing many good offers of marriage, she became a nun and received the veil from St Macaille. With seven other virgins she settled for a time at the foot of Croghan Hill, but moved then to Druin Criadh, in the plains of the Liffey Valley, where under a large oak tree she erected her subsequently famous Convent of Cill-Dara, that is, “the church of the oak” (now Kildare), in the present county of that name.

The most ancient life of St Brigid is the metrical account by St Broccan, (d. 650). Then Cogitosus, a monk of Kildare, wrote the “Second Life” in the eighth century. An interesting feature of Cogitosus’s work is his description of the Cathedral of Kildare. The Round Tower of Kildare probably dates from the sixth century. Although St Brigid was “veiled” or received as a nun at Croghan, by St Macaille, it appears that she was professed by St Mel of Ardagh, who also conferred on her abbatial powers.

About the year 468 St Macaille and St Brigid followed St Mel from Ardagh into the country of Teffia that included portions of Meath, Westmeath and Longford. St Brigid’s small oratory at Cill-Dara became the centre of religion and learning, and developed into a cathedral city. She founded two monastic institutions, one for men, and the other for women, and appointed St Conleth as spiritual pastor of them. It has been frequently stated that she gave canonical jurisdiction to St Conleth, Bishop of Kildare, but, as Archbishop Healy points out, she simply “selected the person to whom the Church gave this jurisdiction”, and her biographer tells us distinctly that she chose St Conleth “to govern the church along with herself”. Thus, for centuries, Kildare was ruled by a double line of abbot-bishops and of abbesses, the Abbess of Kildare being regarded as superioress general of the convents in Ireland.

About the year 878, owing to the Scandinavian raids, the relics of St Brigid were taken to Downpatrick, where they were interred in the tomb of St Patrick and St Columba. The relics of the three saints were discovered in 1185, and on 9 June of the following year were solemnly translated to a suitable resting place in Downpatrick Cathedral. Various continental breviaries of the pre-Reformation period commemorate St Brigid, and her name is included in a litany in the Stowe Missal. In Ireland today, after 1500 years, the memory of “the Mary of the Gael” is as dear as ever to the Irish heart, and, as is well known, Brigid preponderates as a female Christian name. Moreover, hundreds of place-names in her honour are to be found all over the country, e.g. Kilbride, Brideswell, Tubberbride, Templebride, etc.

Viewing the biography of St Brigid from a critical standpoint we must allow a large margin for the vivid Celtic imagination and the glosses of medieval writers, but still the personality of the founder of Kildare stands out clearly. It seems certain that Faughart, associated with memories of Queen Maeve was the scene of her birth; and Faughart Church was founded by St Morienna in honour of St Brigid. The old well of St Brigid’s adjoining the ruined church is of the most venerable antiquity, and still attracts pilgrims; in the immediate vicinity is the ancient mote of Faughart.

First Reading: Job 31:16-20; 24-25; 31-32

“I have never withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the orphan has not eaten from it. for from my youth I reared the orphan like a father, and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow. I have never seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or a poor person without covering, whose loins have not blessed me, and who was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep. I have never made gold my trust, or called fine gold my confidence. I have never rejoiced because my wealth was great, or because my hand had gotten much.. Those in my tent never said, ‘O that we might dine upon his food!’. The stranger has not lodged in the street. for I have opened my doors to the traveler.

Gospel: Luke 6:32-38

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

Outside Ireland, the readings are from Tuesday of Week 4, Ordinary Time:

Hebrews 12:1ff. Around us a cloud of witnesses, and above all Jesus.We should focus on him and not abandon the struggle.

Mark 5:21ff. Jesus cures the woman long afflicted with a haemorrhage; he raises to life the twelve year old daughter of Jairus.

Grieving and Hope

Today’s reading tells us to fix our gaze on the cloud of heavenly witnesses. The word cloud directs our attention beyond the limits of our earthly life, beyond even the veil of the Holy of Holies. The other text for this day, from the Gospel of Mark, abruptly brings us back to earth again. The bonds and frailty of human life appear in the account of the woman, for twelve years seeking a cure, submitting to treatments of every sort and having “exhausted her savings in the process,” and then of the twelve-year-old daughter of the synagogue official, Jairus, who in his anxety asks Jesus to come and simply lay a hand on his little daughter.

Whatever clash of thought or imagery may exist between Hebrews and the other two readings is resolved when we recall that nothing is more human than death. As the proverb expresses it, the old will die and the young shall die. It is normal for the elderly to pass away and there seems to be a divine sentence that many young shall also die. As we survey the three biblical passages, we are reminded that the process of life-death is to be surrounded with a full outpouring of human emotion and human energy. Life and not death remains the centre of our concern, even of God’s concern. This life is not some rarified existence in the clouds, despite the use of that term , but it is life throbbing in flesh and blood, in deep emotion and throbbing passion. It is easy to see why our biblical ancestors, even when they came to a clear acceptance of life after death, could think of this existence only in terms of a resurrection, with their body and all of their human relationships restored. Many aspects of the heavenly life either remain mysterious but the Bible still situates our future life in a resurrected body, which will continue to manifest and enjoy the bonds of friendship established on earth.

Jairus would not have simply adopted another twelve year old girl in place of his dead daughter. In the case of the woman, afflicted for twelve years with a debilitating illness, Mark provides details that reflect a very human concern. Matthew and Luke edited them out of the text for their own special reasons, yet they remain in Mark, “written for our instruction, that we might derive hope…” (Rom 15:4).

When Hebrews speaks of the martyrdom of Jesus who “for the sake of the joy that lay before him… endured the cross” and of ourselves who are called on to resist “to the point of blood,” it is certainly not endorsing a disdain for earth and a reckless disregard about health nor a cold, passionless approach towards family and friends. We are encouraged to consecrate our entire selves, body and soul, flesh and blood, to our love and loyalty. To such a person Jesus will say, “Talitha, koum,” arise – as he takes them by the hand. In heaven he may not say to the attendants, as he did to others in the household of Jairus, “Give her something to eat,” but then again, who knows? We may be uncertain about food in heaven, but not that each of us will live eternally as a full human person, spirit and resurrected body inseparably one.

First Reading: Hebrews 12:1-4

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Gospel: Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?'” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and waiing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha kum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.