St. Brigid and St. Patrick are Ireland‘s two patron saints, and among the most famous. But whereas we know a lot about St. Patrick, we only have three contemporary sources of information about St. Brigid—and two of them contradict each other!
That hasn’t stopped many people from being devoted to her. Here’s a beautiful prayer to St. Brigid:
Brigid of the Mantle, encompass us,
Lady of the Lambs, protect us,
Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us.
Beneath your mantle, gather us,
And restore us to memory.
Mothers of our mother, Foremothers strong.
Guide our hands in yours,
Remind us how to kindle the hearth.
To keep it bright, to preserve the flame.
Your hands upon ours, Our hands within yours,
To kindle the light, Both day and night.
The Mantle of Brigid about us,
The Memory of Brigid within us,
The Protection of Brigid keeping us
From harm, from ignorance, from heartlessness.
This day and night,
From dawn till dark,
From dark till dawn.
You may have also seen something called St. Brigid’s cross. A Christian symbol possibly deriving from the pagan sunwheel, it’s usually made from rushes or, less often, straw. It comprises a woven square in the centre and four radials tied at the ends. Brigid’s crosses are traditionally made on February 1st, which in the Irish language is called Lá Fhéile Bhríde (St Brigid’s feast day), the day of her liturgical celebration. Many rituals are associated with the making of the crosses. It was traditionally believed that a Brigid’s Cross protects the house from fire and evil. It is hung in many Irish and Irish-American kitchens for this purpose.
St. Brigid and her cross are linked together by a story about her weaving this form of cross at the death-bed of either her father or a pagan lord, who upon hearing what the cross meant, asked to be baptized. One version goes as follows:
An old pagan chieftan lay delirious on his deathbed in Kildare. (In some versions of the story this chieftan is her father.) His servants summoned Brigid to his bedside in the hope this saintly woman might be able to calm his restless spirit.
As she sat by his bedside, trying to calm and console him, she picked up some of the rushes which were strewn across the floor of the room. As her fingers played with the dry strands, she started weaving them together, eventually forming a cross.
As she worked, she explained the meaning of the cross to the sick man. Her calming words brought peace to his soul. The chieftan’s fever broke, and he grew quiet. Captivated by her lesson of love and enlightenment, the old chieftan was baptized as a Christian just before his death.
Word of his conversion reached beyond his lands, and ever since then, Irish people have made rush crosses to commemorate the occasion.
Even though we don’t know a lot about her life, it’s easy to hear St. Brigid’s message loud and clear. We do know that she lived in dangerous times, so she’s able to help us navigate difficult and even dangerous situations with faith and courage. Why not entrust yourself to her through her prayer, and weave a cross to keep in your kitchen or office to keep your thoughts on Christ?
We have a wonderful new book about St. Brigid of Ireland called Brigid and the Butter, for children ages four to seven. We’re sure that she’ll become a popular saint with your children, as well!
About the Book:
Brigid is captivated by the story Bishop Patrick tells her village about Jesus feeding many hungry people with five loaves and two fishes. She wants to feed many hungry people, but she is often hungry herself. She and her mother work hard each day on their master's farm. Many days they have only bread and butter for dinner. When a beggar woman asks for the only food Brigid has—a dish of butter—she knows she can feed the person in front of her and opens her heart with generosity and love like Jesus. Find out what happens in this story of the first miracle of St. Brigid of Ireland. Beautiful illustrations and an engaging story encourage children ages 4 to 7 to learn more about the life of this generous saint! Look inside Brigid and the Butter.
by Jeannette de Beauvoir