Brigid of Ireland, St.

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Early Irish monastic foundress and saint; b. Offaly, Ireland c. 460; d. Kildare, c. 528. Brigid came from the Fotharta Airbrech people near Croghan Hill. Her mother was a slave-girl; but the child was acknowledged by her father and given to a foster mother to rear. Having been instructed in letters and the accomplishments of embroidery and household duties, she was sought in marriage by an eager suitor whom she rejected on the ground that she had vowed "her virginity to the Lord." After paternal objections were overcome she took the veil, the symbol of the religious state; she founded in the Liffey plain a church called Cill Dara (Kildare)"the church of the oak"and associated with herself a pious hermit, Conleth, who lived alone in a nearby solitude. The house for men, which he ruled as bishop and abbot, was so near the convent of women that both communities could use the same church. Kildare was thus a double monastery, the only institution of its kind in Ireland. The Life of St. Brigid written in the 7th century represents her as a new type of Irish womanthe Christian saint. Her likeness to modern missionary sisters is remarkable; she often left Kildare in her chariot, doing the work of the Lord's charity in distant parts. To her countrymen she was "the Mary of the Gael," and when they went as missionaries and pilgrims to the Continent of Europe they spread devotion to her wherever they settled. St. Brigid, St. patrick, and St. Colmcille are the three patron saints of Ireland.

Feast: Feb. 1.

Bibliography: cogitosus, Vita S. Brigidae, Acta Santorum, Feb. 1:135155. m. a. o'brien, tr. and ed., "The Old Irish Life of St. Brigit," Irish Historical Studies 1 (193839) 121134, 343353. c. plummer et al., eds., "Vita Brigitae," Irish Texts 1(1931) 216. j. f. kenney, The Sources for the Early History of Ireland (New York 1929) 1:356363.

[j. ryan]