Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. Brigid of Kildare

Along with St. Patrick, St. Brigid of Kildare (450-520) is a patron saint of Ireland. Like Patrick and his shamrock, Brigid used rushes from the floor of a dying chieftain to explain another Christian doctrine, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. One version goes as follows:

A pagan chieftain from the neighborhood of Kildare was dying. Christians in his household sent for Brigid to talk to him about Christ. When she arrived the chieftain was raving. As it was impossible to instruct this delirious man, hopes for his conversion seemed doubtful. Brigid sat down at his bedside and began consoling him. As was customary, the dirt floor was strewn with rushes both for warmth and cleanliness. Brigid stooped down and started to weave them into a cross, fastening the points together. The sick man asked what she was doing. As she talked his delirium quieted, and he questioned her with growing interest. Through her weaving, he was converted and baptized at the point of death. Since then the cross of rushes has been venerated in Ireland.

The cross, which is made from rushes or straw, is associated with the start of spring, a time when the ground is ready for planting and lambs are born.

According to Catholic Encyclopedia, Brigid was born in 451 of princely ancestors at in County Louth. After refusing many offers of marriage, she became a nun and received the veil from St. Macaille. With seven other virgins, she established the convent of Cill-Dara, that is, ‘the church of the oak’ (now Kildare). At least one of Brigid’s biographers claims that her mother was a slave in the court of her father Dubhthach, an Irish chief of Leinster.

Many wonderful tales are associated with her generosity. Her prayer for a feast in heaven is to have a “great lake of ale...and every drop a prayer.” There aren’t too many Irishmen who would argue with that!

Here is St. Brigid's Blessing: May you find a lake in heaven filled with ale and every drop a prayer.


  1. This is a very interesting post! I have only heard of Brigid, but never bothered to read anything about her. I'm glad I did. She has an interesting story to support her.

    Thank you for sharing!

  2. Mary,

    My darling neighbor and surrogate mother had one of those rush crosses and I never knew what it was until I read your blog. Pat was a professional storyteller who used objects much the same way Brigid did to get her point across. When Pat died I was asked what I wanted as a memento and I chose the turtle planter that was always by her front door and the woven cross that she used in Sunday School. What a gift you've given me with St. Brigid's story!! Many thanks, Terry

  3. Thanks, Lorena. Some of the saints are entirely made up, e.g., St. Chrisopher, but Brigid seems to be the real deal.

    Lucy, So glad you found out about the treasure you received. While doing family research, I found that going back 3 generations, there were more Bridgits than Marys. The Irish loved this saint.

  4. Thanks for this post! I found it especially interesting because the church I was married in was named after St. Brigid. :)