St Brigid

Two years ago on this blog for 1st February (St Brigid’s Day) I spoke of an amazing painting depicting Mary the mother of Jesus with St Brigid to one side of her and St Patrick the other.  Today let me take thoughts of St Brigid, the pre-eminent female Irish saint, a little further.  Brigid was a near contemporary of St Patrick, born mid-5th Century into a high-status family, though her mother was a Christian slave.  She was tough and determined from an early age and placed herself in person danger on many an occasion.  She had St Francis’ inclination, shared by many others of their ilk, that if you possessed something, you had it to give away.  

Traditionally, on this day, children make St Brigid’s crosses from rushes found in the damp meadows of Ireland.  They are woven together in a number of different designs, but that most usual bends them round each other in a central core, with the ends forming four arms, which are then trimmed and tied.  The crosses when made on 1st February are green and soft, but dry and harden over the weeks and months into stiff and straw-coloured crosses, that remain above doors of houses and barns as a reminder of the light of Christ coming in the darkness, as St Brigid’s day falls at a time of renewal of the earth in early Spring.  They remain in place until the new crosses are made the next year.

Four themes are thought of in the life of Brigid: hospitality, healing, witness and creativity.  These are fine themes for us to hold these more than fifteen centuries past Brigid’s life.  Much more could be said about Brigid, one of my favourite saints, and I leave you with her themes for this day, as it dawns new and fresh from God’s hand, with the verse of Scripture that she took on taking the veil: “Blest are those who show mercy.”

John Mann