Saturday, 1 February 2014

St. Brigit: Mary of the Gael

St. Brigit was born at Faughart near Dundalk. Her parents were baptized by St. Padraig, whom she developed a close friendship with. Her father was Dubhthach, an Irish chieftain of Leinster, and her mother, Brocca, a slave at his court.As a young girl she formed an interest in the religious life and took the veil from St. Macaille at Croghan. She was professed by St. Mel of Armagh, who conferred abbatial authority on her.

Brigit settled with seven other virgins at the foot of Croghan Hill for a while, and then with St. Macaille followed St. Mel to Meath. About the year 470 she founded a small oratory at Cill-Dara which became a centre of great learning and spirituality, and around it gradually formed the cathedral city of Kildare. Two monastic institutions were established in Kildare by Brigit, one for men and one for women, and St. Conleth was appointed as spiritual director of both, with Brigit as abbess of the convent.

The Abbess of Kildare then founded a school of art and its illuminated manuscripts became famous, notably the Book of Kildare, which was praised as the finest illuminated Irish manuscript before it was destroyed by heretics during the Reformation.

St. Brigit is famed for her extraordinary spirituality, boundless charity, and compassion for those in distress. Known as The Mary of the Gael because of her great virtue, she is buried at Downpatrick along with St. Columbcille and St. Padraig, with whom she is the patron of Ireland.

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