Saint Bridget of Kildare (451 – 525), who lived a century after Saint Patrick (385 – 461), and a century before Saint Columbanus (543 – 615) shares with them the triumvirate patronage of Ireland. A generation younger than Saint Benedict (480 – 547) Bridget flourished during the early days of formal monasticism, the female version of which she helped to found in the Emerald Isle. She established a convent at Kildare – the site of a pagan shrine – with seven companions, along with an art school of metalwork and illumination, for which the Irish monks and nuns were renowned. A perpetual fire has been burning there for centuries.
Not much is known of her life. Traditions state that she was the daughter of a chief, and her mother, a Pict, had been baptized by Saint Patrick himself. She ended up in slavery, when her mother was sold, and raised in a Druid household, but maintained her purity and her Catholic Faith. Bridget is credited with any number of miracles – one of which was turning water into beer, which I quite enjoy, but also numerous cures – even before dedicating herself once and for all to God as a nun. She lived a life of prayer and penance, interceding for her land, the world, for souls.
Bridget went to the Lord on February 1st, 525 (or 521?), and the reputation of her holiness spread throughout the world for all ages. Her relics, and the glorious Book of Kildare her nuns had written and illuminated (which was described as the work of angelic skill) were destroyed in 1538, under the depredations of Henry VIII, and the deputyship of Lord Grey. Bridget’s head, however, was rescued, parts of which now reside in various churches, one in Portugal, of all places.
Ireland has just decreed that beginning in 2023, her feast will be a national holiday. Here’s hoping and praying for her greatest miracle – that this will not be just an excuse for another green-beer-drunk-fest, but will do something to revive the Faith in the land Saint Patrick evangelized, and whose people once evangelized the world. Bridget has her work cut out for her, as the practice of Catholicism in Ireland falls off the cliffs of Mohar. Yet, by God’s good grace, and the intercession of her myriad of saints, what was, might be again, before the Emerald is entirely inundated by the waves of the world, figuratively, or, as Saint Malachi purportedly predicted, really.
Saint Bridget of Kildare, ora pro nobis!