Fifty-something years ago in a Catholic school not so far away, the nuns used to read to us from The Lives of the Saints. St. Brigid was always my favorite, but not because she lived in my matrilineal ancestral home of Ireland. No, she was my favorite because she had the best stories.
Celtic history (or mythology as it is sometimes called) holds that Brigid was the daughter of a pagan king who wanted to strengthen an alliance by offering her in a political marriage. But Brigid became a Christian like her mother, and vowed to become a nun. Her father said no, but Brigid wouldn’t back down. There are different versions of what happened next. Some say the beautiful Brigid was miraculously transformed into an ugly young woman. Others say Brigid took a knife and slashed her own face. Either way, her intended no longer wanted her. But when she entered the convent and took her final vows, her beauty was restored, a sign that she had found favor with God.
My favorite story is the tale of Brigid’s cloak. As a leader in the young Irish church, Brigid appealed to the King of Leinster to donate some land for her newly-formed order of sisters to build a convent. The king laughed at her request. Brigid was persistent and asked the king for a smaller plot of land. Again he refused. Finally she asked, “If I drop my cloak upon the ground, may I have the land that it covers?” Amused, the king relented. Oh woe, to this naive monarch who dared to underestimate a woman and a saint! For when the holy Brigid dropped her cloak, it stretched and grew until it spread out like an enormous quilt to cover the entirety of County Kildare.
I’m sure it will come as no surprise that Brigid is the patron saint of poets. And so I direct you to a poem I wrote for her a few decades ago. Back then I called her “Bridget,” spelled as my Great-grandmother Bridget Cassidy Moss of County Donegal, Ireland, and Yolo County, California, spelled her name. Here’s my link to an earlier post: https://nancyschoellkopf.com/2014/01/31/bridgets-feast-day/
By the way, St. Brigid’s Feast Day is, coincidentally, also the Celtic Feast of Imbolc, a holiday set midway between the solstice and the equinox, to celebrate the lengthening of daylight and the promise of warmer spring days ahead. So Happy Feast Day!–whatever your pleasure.
Here are links to two lovely depictions of Brigid’s cloak. Enjoy!