St. Brigid was born in the mid-fifth century at Faughart, near Dundalk, in Ireland, a member of a family brought to Christianity by St. Patrick. At an early age she became a nun, first living alone in a cell by an oak tree (kill-dara in Irish). A monastic community grew up around her, in time becoming so large that it was described as a city of monks, the Abbey of Kildare: a “double” monastery, one of men, the other of women. Through her renown, the abbey became a center of pilgrimage.
Brigid is identified with an extraordinary spirit of charity. The many miracles attributed to her testify to her readiness to respond to any appeal that aroused her pity or sense of justice. Her only desire, it is recorded, was “to satisfy the poor, to expel every hardship, to spare every miserable man.”
According to The Book of Lismore, “Everything that Brigid would ask of the Lord was granted her at once. For this was her desire: to satisfy the poor, to expel every hardship, to spare every miserable man. Now there never hath been anyone more bashful or more modest or more gentle or more humble or more discerning or more harmonious than Brigid. … She was abstemious, she was innocent, she was prayerful, she was patient: she was glad in God’s commandments: she was firm, she was humble, she was forgiving, she was loving: she was a consecrated casket for keeping Christ’s body and His blood; she was a temple of God. Her heart and her mind were a throne of rest for the Holy Ghost. She was singlehearted.
She was compassionate towards the wretched. She was splendid in miracles and marvels: wherefore her name among created things is Dove among birds, Vine among trees, Sun among stars.” Among the words for which she is especially remembered is this vision of heaven: “I should like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings. I should like the angels of heaven to be drinking it through time eternal. I should like excellent meats of belief and pure piety. I should like flails of penance at my house. I should like the people of Heaven at my house. I should like barrels of peace at their disposal; I should like vessels of charity for distribution. I should like for them cellars of mercy. I should like cheerfulness to be in their drinking. I should like Jesus to be there among them. I should like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us. I should like the people of heaven, the poor, to be gathered around us from all parts.”
– Jim Forest
Winter 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 52