Praying with St. Brigid of Ireland

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By Hall Green
Pondering Prayer

Hal Green

St. Brigid of Kildare, one of Ireland’s patron saints, is a prominent figure in Irish religious history and folklore. Known as the “Mary of the Gael,” her legacy is marked by her dedication to the Christian faith, her founding of several monastic communities and her legendary miracles.

Born in the mid-5th century, Brigid was the daughter of a pagan chieftain and a Christian slave. Despite her father’s status, Brigid’s early years were marked by hardship. She was known for her piety from a young age and, after converting to Christianity, she dedicated her life to serving God and the poor.

In her early adulthood, Brigid founded a monastic community at Kildare, which became one of Ireland’s most important Christian centers. The monastery was unique for its time, as it housed both monks and nuns in separate establishments under St. Brigid’s leadership.

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St. Brigid is associated with numerous miracles, which demonstrate her piety, compassion and resourcefulness. These miracles, passed down through generations, cemented her status as one of Ireland’s most revered saints.

One of the most famous miracles attributed to St. Brigid is the spreading of her cloak over a large area of land. According to the legend, when Brigid asked the King of Leinster for land to build her monastery, he mockingly suggested she could have as much land as her cloak could cover. Miraculously, her cloak expanded to cover a vast tract of land, enough to establish her monastery.

After her death in 525 AD, a strong cult developed around St. Brigid. Her monastery in Kildare became a major center of pilgrimage. Her feast day, Feb. 1, is celebrated with various customs, including the making of St. Brigid’s crosses from rushes.

St. Brigid is often associated with St. Patrick, another patron saint of Ireland. While St. Patrick is more widely recognized outside of Ireland, within the country itself, St. Brigid’s influence is equally significant. Both saints have contributed to the distinctive character of Irish Chris­tianity, with St. Patrick representing the missionary and evangelizing aspect and St. Brigid embodying the nurturing and monastic tradition.

The veneration of St. Brigid extends far beyond the borders of Ireland. Irish missionaries and immigrants have carried her cult to various parts of the world. Today, St. Brigid is honored in places as diverse as Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. Irish diaspora communities worldwide celebrate her feast day. 

The prayer of St. Brigid:

“I arise today / Through a mighty strength:

God’s power to guide me, / God’s might to uphold me,

God’s wisdom to teach me, / God’s eyes to watch over me,

God’s ear to hear me, / God’s word to give me speech,

God’s hand to guard me, / God’s way to lie before me,

God’s shield to shelter me, / God’s host to secure me.”

(Hal Green, Ph.D., is author of Pray This Way to Connect with God. You can contact him at drhalgreen@gmail.com.)


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