Saint Brigid of Kildare, Abbess
Saint Brigid of Kildare, Abbess, 2ndary Patron of Ireland
1st Reading: Job 31:16-20; 24-25; 31-32
(Job’s generosity towards the poor and needy is reflected in St Brigid’s works of charity.)
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
(In the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus calls for unselfish generosity — giving of oneself, in imitation of the creative love of our heavenly Father.)
“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.”
Brigid of Kildare
Our Scriptures for today reflect the generous, devoted spirit of Saint Brigid of Kildare. How well Job’s phrases about his about loving concern for others apply to her: “I have never withheld anything that the poor desired” or “I have never seen anyone perish for lack of clothing” and “The stranger has not lodged in the street. for I have opened my doors to the traveler.” Brigid was whole-hearted in the ministry of helping people in need, convinced of the principle that “the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
Born in at Faughart, near Dundalk, County Louth, in the middle of the 5th century, probably in the latter years of St. Patrick’s ministry in Ireland, Brigid refused several offers of marriage, in order to become a nun in the service of Christ and his church. With seven other young women she settled for a time at the foot of Croghan Hill, but moved then to the plains of the Liffey Valley, where under a large oak tree she erected her famous convent of Cill-Dara, that is, “the church of the oak” (now Kildare). She died there half a century later, on the first of February, 525. The most ancient life of St Brigid is by Broccan, (d. 650). Then the “Second Life” was composed in the 8th century by Cogitosus, a monk of Kildare. An interesting feature of this work is his description of the Cathedral of Kildare, whose Round Tower may date back to the sixth or seventh century.
Brigid’s strong personality and example ensured that her community served their neighbours, through various acts of mercy. Soon her small oratory at Cill-Dara became a centre of religion and learning, and later developed into a small city. She founded two monastic institutions, one for men, and the other for women, and apparently held jurisdiction over both of them. According to her biographer, she chose St Conleth “to govern the church along with herself”. For centuries, Kildare was ruled by a double line of abbot-bishops and abbesses, the abbess of Kildare being the leader of all the convents in Ireland.
During the raids by the fierce Norsemen in the 9th century, the relics of St Brigid were taken for safety to Downpatrick, where they were interred in the tomb of St Patrick and St Columcille, and since 1190 they rest in Downpatrick Cathedral. The three, Patrick, Brigid and Columcille, have for centuries been regarded as the three main patron saints of Ireland.
Even after 1500 years, the iconic Brigid,”the Mary of the Gael” is as dear to Irish hearts as ever, and Brigid, Brid or Bridie preponderates as a female Christian name. Hundreds of place-names in her honour are to be found all over the country, e.g. Kilbride, Brideswell, Tubberbride, Templebride, etc. While her main monument is in Kildare town she is also keenly remembered at Faughart, the place of her birth. The old St Brigid’s well adjoining the ruined church there dates from antiquity and still attracts pilgrims today.