St. Brigid of Kildare
Feast Day: February 1
St. Brigid was thought to have been only six years old when St. Patrick passed away in the 5th century, having successfully planted the seeds of Christianity in the Emerald Isle. Filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, Brigid is believed to have consecrated herself to the Lord at a young age and eventually became the abbess of Kildare (Kildare coming from Cill dara, meaning “church of the oak”), a double monastery for both women and men. Many stories of her life are believed to be rich in symbolism, most often portraying her strong sense of compassion, kindness, and mercy. There are several accounts of miracles she preformed, including a “marriage feast at Cana” miracle, where she reportedly “supplied beer out of one barrel to eighteen churches, which sufficed from Maundy Thursday to the end of paschal time.” It’s thought that this event is reflected in the opening of St. Brigid’s Prayer for a Heavenly Feast:
“I should like a lake of ale for the King of Kings/
I should like the household of heaven to be there drinking it for eternity…”
She is associated with the fire of faith, a symbol of living with God, and it was said that flames rose to the heavens from where she slept as a child. Nuns kept watch over a perpetual fire in her abbey, and sightings of her tending the flame were reported long after her death, including by Gerald of Wales in the twelfth century. He recorded that she returned every twentieth night, her assigned evening to kept the flame burning when she had been alive. The nuns would leave fresh wood and say, “Brigid, guard your fire. This is your night.” And when dawn broke the fire still burned, the wood charred and used. St. Brigid’s Cross, a four-armed cross woven from straw, was placed in homes and buildings to protect them from fire. St. Brigid is one of the three patron saints of Ireland, and her feast day is Ireland’s traditional first day of spring.