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O S. Brigits Countrey, Parents, Birth, and many vertues and especially of her charithy to the poore
Abridged out of what Cogitosus her owne nepheu, and Ioannes Capgravivs have written...
1.The glorious virgin S. Brigit, who descended of the ancient, and honorable family of Etech in the kingdom of Ireland, was born at Fochart, a village a mile distant from Dundalke in the couhtry of Louth. Her father was a noble man of Leinster named Dubacus, who falling in love with a handmaid of his named Brocseca, a wiman indued with singular beauty, and admirable colines, he got her with child of this sacred virgin, which when his own wife perceive,being in great trouble thereat and taking the matter very greefuly, she said unto him; cast out this handmayd fearing her posterity surpasse mine. Dubtacus constrained through his wives importunty mand sale of her to a certain Magitian, in whose house falling in travaile, she was safe delivered of the holy child; such as were present at her birth, saw the cloath wherewith her tender head was covered, to burne with a flame of fire, wherupon hastning to quench it, they found no fire at all.
2. So much did the holy virgin loath to feed of the Magitians meats, that she was constrayned everyd day to cast up what she ate. The Magitian considering attentitivly the cause thereof, said: I am unclean and this holy virgin (full of the spirit of God) cannot taste of my meat, choosing out therefore a white melch cow, he bestowed it upon her to live by her milk. The holy virgin increased in vertue no less than in years;for she exceled in all kinds of holy conversation and sanctity of life and became very conspicuous for her modeste harithy and temperence, but above all her charity to the poore is most remarkable.
3.The sacred virgin being deputed by the Magitian to keepe his cowes,gave all the butter and milk she chould gather to relieve the present wants, and necessities of the poore. When the Magitian saw but a small quantitiy of butter in a great vessel, wherin the butter was to be kept, he cahfed extremely. The Saint seeing what passion he was in, offered her pure prayers up to God, and so by divine bertue, filled the vessell with butter even up to the top: wherat the Magitian was so much astonished and moved, that he believed in Christ, settting both her and her mother at liberty.
4. In regard she gave to the poore, all whatsoever she could lay handes upon, and among other things, her Fathers sword he proposed to sell her for which end bringing her where the King was. He requested him that he would be pleased to by his daughter. Th whom the Kinge spoke in this manner what made you to give away your fathers sword to the poore man? To whome she answered I have given it to Christ, and sir if my God did aske your magesty, and my father too of me, I would bestow you both, and whatsoever eles you have upon him, if it lay in my power. The King turning to her fater sayd to him; this your daughter is of too great worth to be bought by me and of farre greater to be sold by yhou, so giving her another to give to her fathere, he dismissed her.
Of S. Brigites singular chastity and of some miracles wrought in approbation thereof and also of other stupendious signs....
1. When this sacred spouse of Christ saw herselfe pressed, and importuned by her friends to marry, she prayed to God, that he would be pleased to disfigure her body with some deformity, to this end that men should cease from making further love unto her; and without delay her eye burst, and melted in her head; then taking three other maydes in her company, she repayred to a holy Bishop, called Machella, S. Patricks Disciple, to be vayled at his handes: the holy Bishop saw a piller of fire appeare over her head , and contemplating moreover her ernest and ardent love of virginall integrity, he gave her the holy vayle of chastity: at which time as she fell prostrate before the venerable Prelate to offer herselfe a holy, cleane and impolluted host to her heavenly spouse, she touched the alter poste, which incontinently budded forth a fresh with leaves and so continueth greene and florishing to this day: Beiong vayled with the sacred cognizance of chastity, her bursten eye was restored again to perfect health.
2. Against Easter the sacred virgin made beer of one onely measure or pecke of malt, sending part thereof to eighteen Churches that were round about, and besides during all the octave, that small quatity sufficed aboundantly, and served to satisf all those who would, and were desirous to taste thereof. At the same time a Leaper came to the holy virgin, requesting her to help him to a cow, but she havin none said to him; Will you that we pray God to deliver you from your sickness? Who answered, that he preferred his own before all other guiftes; whereupon she aaving blessed water, sprinkled the leaper therewith, and immediately he became cleane: in like manner tow sicke virgins taking water, which the holy Virgin had blessed, recovered their perfect health.
3.Two blind men being Brittons, or English men by birth with a leaper who was their guide, came to her Church door, and besought the sacred Virgin to help them to their bodily health; She intreated them to have patience a little and to enter into the lodging to refresh their selves, and that she would in the mean time pray to God in their behalfe; which delay they took so impatiently , that with great indignation they replied; you heal the diseased of your own nation but as for us being strangers you neglect to cure us for Christs sake. The holy virgin receiving this reproach, went forth unto them, and casting holy water upon them she cleansed the leaper, and restored the blind men to their sight.
4. A certaine woman brought some apples to the Saint, at which time there came some leapers to beg alms of her: the said Saint delat these apples among them. The Woman hearing it, covayed her apples away saying; I brought those apples for your selfe, and your virgins and not to be given to leapers; whereat the Saint being not a little offended, she answere: You have done very ill in hindering us to give almes, therefore your trees will never more produce any fruit. The woman going forth into her orchard, which she flef full of apples, found none at all, and so it remayned fruitless always after.
Of Saint Brigites great austerity, and of many admirable miracles wrought by her.
Of the obedience that unreasonable creatures exhibited to Saint Briget
2. A simple country man comming to the Kinges court, saw there a Fox, who being taught for that purpose, made the King great recreation with his many sleightes, and trickes, and thinking it was not tame or familiar, he killed it in presence of all the multitude, for which being repreended and cast into fetters, he was brought fast bound to the King, who commanded that he should be put to death, unles he procured him another Foxe like unto the former in all conditions, and subtill feates, and that his wife and children should be made slaves. S. Brigit hearing thereof, prayed very earnestly to God for the release of the poore man; by and by another Fox entering into her coach, sat quietly ,and familiarly by her side, whome when she had presented to the King, and that he saw it to play trickes, and pranks, and in all thinges to be comformable to the other Fox, his wrath appeared therewith, he set the poore man at liberty, S. Brigit returning to her monastery, and the Fox remaining as yet amongst the presse of people, fled backe againe into his denne : all those who saw what had passed, wondered much at the miracle, and honoured noe less the Saint by whose meanes it was wrought.
3. As the sacred Virgin sat with her virgins in her coach, she saw a man, with his wife, family, and oxen, toyled very much with carrying hevy, and cumbersome burdens, even in the extreame heat of the sunne, and taking compassion of them, she gave them her owne coach horse to helpe, and ease them of their insupportable paynes. In the meane thype she sat downe by the way side, and spoke to some of her virgins, bidding them to digge under the adioyning earth, to the end that water might spring forth, where with such as were drye might quench their thirst. Upon the digging up of the ground, there gushed out a cleare, and faire river. Within a little time after, there came a certain Captaine to the place , who hearing of what S. Brigit had done with the horses, he bestowed upon her wilde, and madd horses, which became without delay forme and gentle, as if they had beene alwayes wont to draw a coach. There came leapers sometymes to Saint Brigit, who begged her coach of her, which she gave them without delay, and her horses likewise.
4. A certain Queene came to visit S. Brigit, bringing with her many rich presents,amongst the rest a very fayre silver chayne, which her maydes took away, hiding it, the Saint bestowing the rest upon the poore. Not long after when a poore man cried to the Saint for almes, having nothing, she tooke the chaine, and gave it him. The maydes seeing it, sayd, you are the cause that we loose all that God sends us, for you give all to the poore, leaving us poore and needy. To whome she answered, seeke the chains in the place, where I am wont to pray in the Churche, and peraduenture you shall find it there: they finding the chayne, showed it to many, and kept it ever after, as an evident testimony of her sanctimony and vertue.
How S. Briget protected, and assisted such as invocated her in their distresse and dangers.
Saint Brigit came one time, being intreated thereunto by her father, to the King saying, let me have your sword for my Father, and release me one of your slaves. To whome the king answeared, what will you give me for these two great petitions. She replied, if you will, the life everlasting and that your seed shall reign for e ver after you. The king answeared againe; I covet not a life, which I doe not see, neither am i sollcitous in behalfe of my children, that shall live after me: two otherr thinges I desire, and covet, the first is, that I may enjoy this life, which I love; and the second is, that in all places and conflictes, I get the upper hand over mine enemies. These two thinges, said the Blessed virgin, shall be granted you. Not long after, with a few in his company, he went to fight with a great multitude, and invocating S. Brigits helpe nad assistance, he saw her goe before him, and a piller of fire to burne all vpeuen to the skies, soe the King having defeated his ennemies, he returned homewardes, magnifying the glory, and the name of the most sacred virgin.
2. A virgin that suffreed shipwracke by invocating S. Brigetts helpe, walked drie foote, upon the liquid waves, escaping by that meanes the danger of death. Some of Saint Brigitts maydes having received from a certaine rich man, many measures of meale, could not passe over a water that was in the way, being therefore destitute of all humane helpe, and assistance, they invocated the powerfull suffrages of their most holy mistris, and they were suddainly transported to the further side. A man that prohibited S. Brigits coach to passe through his feildes, and stroake at her horses, fell downe to the ground, and yeilded up his ghost suddainly.
3. A gentleman who was in the countryu, loved dishonestly a certaine woman and contriving with himself how to compasse his filthy delights, he gave her in custody a rich silver pynne, which he stole away privily at unawaeres from her, and cast it into the sea, thinking that when she could not restore it, she should become his slave, and so should glut his wanton desires: all which wicked plot he put in practise, neither could he be contented otherwise, then either by getting againe the silver pin, or by her bondage. The chast woman being driven to this pinche, fled to S. Brigit, as to a cittie of refuge. As the holy virgin was musing with her selfe what to doe in this matter, behold one brought home fish taken out of the neighbour river, and they unbowelling the fishes, the silver pin was found in one of their bellies, so brining the pin with her, she went to the assembly, where the matter was to be determined, where she did show the pin, and it being knowne by many that saw it, to be the selfe same he cast into the sea, she freed the vertuous woman from her cruell tyrants handes, who afterwardes acknowledging his fault, and guiltines, submitted himselfe to S. Brigits pleasure, who having wrought this great miracle, returned backe againe to her monastery.
4. It fell out that the King called together an assembly of his subjectes, to make a borade and fayre h igh waye in a deep and impassible marsh, through which a great river ranne. The people meeting by their family, and kindreds, they divided the worke, alloting to every family his own share of that laborious taske, that part wher the river ran was most difficult, and fell to one of the families, who being potent and strong forced S. Brigits kinsefolkes being weaker to change with them. They in this their distresse, falling prostrate before the Saint, bemoaned their worng to her. To whome she answeared, Departe in peace, it is the will of God, that the river passe from that place, where you are put to such heavy workes, to the other which they have made choice of. The next morning, when the multitude rose to begin the work, the river was found to have left its ancient channel, where S. Brigits family was constrayned to worke, and to be transfered into the part of the potent, and proude men, who unjustly oppressed the weaker company : in proofe whereof, the ancient channell where the river tooke its course in former tymes, appeares drye without any waters to this very day.
Of many miraculous cures, wrought by gthe merits, and interssion
of the Saint.
The sacred virgin having delivered many leapers, cripples, and obsessed persons, from their infirmities, there came two leapers with teares in their eyes, begin the cure of their disease. The the Saint praying and blessing water, she commanded them to washe one another in that water. One being washed by his companion, became cleane: to whome the Saint said, wash now your fellow; who seeing himselfe cleane, and boasting of his health, would not touch the others ulcers, which pride of his God did chastice, for immediately after he said: I feele sparkles of fire upon my shoulders, and instantly all his body ( his companion being cleansed) was covered over with leprosy.
2. A certaine woman commiting of devotion, to visit S. Vrigit, brought her daughter with her, who was dumbe. S.Brigit seeing the yong mayden, said unto her. Are you content to be a virgin? (but not knowing that she was dumbe) The maid answeared incontinently, I will willing do, what you will command me, and so dedicating her virginity to God. she to her dying day remayned most elequent. A blind virgin named Daria, spoake to S. brigit saying. Blesse mine eyes, to the end that I may see the world according unto my desire: her eyes being opened without delay, she sad, shut mine eyes againe, for the more that one is a bsent from the world, so much the nearer, is that party to god, then S. Brigit shut her eyes as she requested.
3. One of Saint Brigits, virgins burnt in the concupiseence of a certaine man, to whome she promised to steale forth in in the night: after Saint Brigit betooke her to her rest, the virgin rose according to her promise, being inflamed with the fire of sesuality (fefuality?) , and likwise vexed with the torment of conscience, she knew not what to do, but fearing God, and S. brigit, prayed her earnestly, that she would vouchsafe to helpe nad assist her being indistresse. At last she resouved with her selfe to make a fire, putting her selfe thereinto, so by that meanes, with fire she quenched fire, and with payne, overcame payne, which S. Brigit knewe by divine revelation, yet nevertheles kept it secret, to see the event and issue of the virgins combat. The next morning the virgin acknowledged her sin to Saint Brigit, who sayed to her, because in fighting couragiously this night, thou hast urnt thy selfe, the fire of fornication shall never annoye thee in this life, nor the fire of hel burne thee in the next, then the holy virgin did heale her feete, so that no marke of the burning did appearin them.
4. Neither ought we to omit the great miracle, which this blessed Saint wrought in imitation of our Saviour, by opening the enyes of a man who was blind from his nativity. A certaine Queen that had no children, b y the holy Virgins intercession obtayned issue. And as Almighty God for her sake and merits, did help others in their necessityes, so did he not fayle to assist her selfe in her wantes, for upon a certaine time the holy virgin being in great necessity, besought God to help her to some hoony, and what she fought for, she found it in great plenty, upon the pavement of her house.
How the holy Virgin for the releaf of the poore, wrought many
Saint Brigit said to a certain virgin who begged almes of her, I heare that there are many afflicted with sickness in your country, take therove my girdle, and with it steaped in water you shal in the name of our Saviour Jesues Christ deliver them of their infirmityes, and they will give you both meate and cloathes, who taking the girdle, as the Saint commanded, she cured diseases, getting thereby great gaynes, and becomming very rich, she her selfe afterwardes, dealt great almes to the needy. Another time she converted water into good beere to give to leapers who called her for it. In like manner did she for the comfort of a needy person, convert a stone into salt. She likewise devided one garment between two poore men, and by divine vertue each part became an entire garment.
2. Among the many stupendous miracles she wrought, this is not to be accounted the least, nor the least to be admired. To three leapers who besought her to bestow some charity of them she gave a silver vessell, and fearing it should be an occasion of debate, or discord amongst them if they devided it themselves, she spoke to the gold smith to devided it equally amongst them. But he making his excuse, that he could not devide it into three equal partes, the most holy virgin her selfe tooke it into her hand, and stroke it against a stone, and soe devided it into three equall parcells, in so much that afterwardes being put in scales to be weighed, neither part did overweigh the other, not so much as one drame so equal were the devisions, and so the leapers departed away joyfully with their shares, and with out cause either to envy, or any injury.
3. According to the example of holy job, she never permitted the poore to depart from her with empty handes, for she gave them very pretious, and rich gramentes, which a holy Bishop named Conleath, used to weare in saying the divine mysteries of the Masse, upon the higher feastes of our Lord, and the Apostles. Now when the time came, that the venerable Prelate should according to his wonted manner, use the aforesaid episcopall robes, the holy virgin, who had given them to Christ in his needy members, receaved other such robes fully resembling the former, as well in the wearing, or texture, as in colour, which were brought her in a waggon of two horses, even at the same houre that she liberally gave the others to the poore.
4. So large and liberall was her charity to the poore that none
ever had a repulse hat her handes, as it is cleare and evident by this
ensuing narration. For one time being abroad in the feildes feeding
of her flocke, one who was well acquainted with the tendernes of her hart,
and largeness of her hand, came to her seaven times in one day begging
of almes, and every time she gave him a weather, and when evening approaching
she drove home the sheep, yet being tould over twice or thrice, the flocke
was found entire, and complete, not one being missing to the great wonder
of those who knew what chaunced. It is also recorded of her, that
after prayer made for that intent, she got miraculously a summe of money,
with which she ransommed a gulty person, whome the King appointed to be
put to death.
How the holy virgin declared the innocency of Bishop Broom Saint
Patrickes disciple, by making a young suckling to speake, and of other
no lesse remarkable miracles.
A Certayne malitious woman, withouit regard of conscience or feare of God, slandered most wickedly a venerable Bioshop of Saint Patrickes disciples named Broom, by fathering upon him a child, which she had gotten by another. The Bishop standing upon denial of the fact St. Brigit calling the woman sayd, Who is the father of your child ? She answered, Bishop Broom, With that S. Brigit signed the womans mouth with the figure of Christs banner, and instantly her head swelled up with a great tumour, after she blessedthe young infants tongue, saying to him, Who is your Father? The child made answer, Bishop Broom is not my Father, but that wild and deformed man, who sitteth last among the people. Then all the assembly rendering many thankes, and prayses to God, constrained the lewed woman to do pennance for her folly.
2. There was a certaine man named Linguidinus, who was indued with such admirable strength, and surpassing vigour of body, that he himselfe alone could do so much worke as twelve men, and who moreover was so great a devourer of meate, as to eate at once so much , mig ht well serve twelve men, for as in working he did countervaile twelve men, so likewise in eating did he match that number. This man came to S. Brigit, beseeching her to obtaine of god, that he would vouchsafe to temper, and bridle the immoderate appetite of hiss devouring, and ravenous stomack, without diminishing or mayning the strength of his body. The holy Virgin gave him her blessing, and offered up her prayers to God in behalfe of his just petition, which he obtayned by her merits, and intercession, for nevr after did he take more , then was avble to satisfy one man, being nevertheless able to perform so much worke as he was before, when he did eate most of all.
3. The sacred virgin sent for many uorkemen and reapers to cut downe her corne and having agreed with them for their pay, and appointed a day when they should come to performe their worke, it happened that the day appointed proved very rayny, in so m uch that the cloudes powred forth showers in great aboundance over all the province, exceptiong on S. Brigits fields which were not wet at all, the rayne falling thicke upon every side, so that where all the workemen in the country were constrayned to give over their worke, by reason of the wet, and moistey season, S. Brigets workemen continued from morning withoiut intermission or impediment, cutting downe of her corne, not without the admirariton of all who saw, and heard of that wonderful miracle.
4. Another miracle no lesse stupendious wherein the Reader may conteplate the purity of her hart, the perfection of her soule, the eminency of her merits, and the perogatiue of her vertues we are to recount, which was this. As what time this sacred virgin f ed her flocke in a wide and open playne, farre from any shelter, showres of rayne fell downe so thicke, that she was wet to the skin, who comming home with her cloathes all full of water she saw a suinne became pearcing in thorough a chinke, that illuminating the roome, and taking it for a pearch (the quickness of her eyes being hindered, or somewhat blunted) she cast hereon here wet mantle, or upper garmente whereupon it hung being supported by it, as well as by a beame, or post, to the great astonishment of all the neighbours, who could not sufficiently admire the merits, and vertues of this holy virgin.
Of S. Brigits happy departure ot of this life, and how she knew thereof
by divine revelation, and of some miracles wrought after hear death by
her intercession and merits.
2. The overseer of Saint Brigits great and famous monasterhy, sent workemen, and stonehewers to provide a millstone, they neither reflecting ujpon the difficulty of the way, nor yet regarding that there was no meanes of getting downe the stone, went up to the topp of a most high and craggy mountayne, where they hewed out a great stone forming it into a mill stone, the Oversseer came with oxen and horses to carry it away, but seeing it impossible with oxen and horses to go where it was, in regard of the steepe and graggfy ascent, all begune to dispaire of ever getting it downe, and so were ready to depart. But the prudent Overseer said, Not so, but let us in the name of god and S. Brigit (to whome nothing is impossible) rowle it downe, and so conc eaving a firm faith of the holie virgins asistance, they cast it downe, and loe the stone rowling amongst the rocky, and stony crages, trundled downe without any detriment from the mountaine, and thence was carried to the mill. to which mill a certain pagan sent his corne by an ignorant and simple man to be ground . when the corne was laid between the stones the aforesaid stone being the uppermost stood iremoveable, neither could the violent currents of the great river, or yet the paynfull industry of men, wheel it about. at last knowing that the corne belonged to a pagan Magitian, and therefore S. Brigits mill would not grinde it they removed and put it away, powring other graine instede thereof, and then the stone without any impediment, kept its ordinary and wonted course in grinding.
3. It hapned within a while after that the mill by some chance or other took fire which consumed the house and the other stone to that was joined to this but as for this stone that was particularly dedicated to s. Briget, the fire did not presume to touch, neither was it branded with any figne, or marke of burning which made them to bring the stone away, and to place it neare to St. Briogets churc doore, where a many diseased meeting, by the only touch of this stone were delivered from their maladies. Here our author by occasion of this infsueing miracle, enlargeth himself in describing the magnificence of Saint Brigits church, the sumptuousnes of the oratories, the curiosity of anticke workes, and variety of curious portratures, with many other remarkable particulers, worthy the reading, which we to continue our intended course of brevity, do wittingly pase over, and will content our selves with the bare and succinct relation of the mariacle it selfe, which was this.
4. The gate of Saint Brigits oratory, thourough which she, and her holy virgins passed, when they went to receave the deliciouis viand of our Saviours face and pure body being broken downe and made ider, the carpenters setting the former doore upon the hinges which was found, was lesse by a fourth part , or quarter whereupon they resolved, either to add another peece to the ould doore, or to make another al of new, and as they were debating the busines, the principall worke master sayd. Wee ought this next night to watch and pray at S. Brigits monument, to the end that she may direct us in the morning, what is best to be done in this matter, so passing all the night over at her shrine and rising the next morning after, saying some prayers, setting the ould doore upon the hinges, it fitted all the gate so iust that it nether wanted, nor yet ecceeded any thing in conuenient bignes and in this manner was the doore by the meritis of Saint Brigit, exteneded to an equally commensurative proportion with the gate of the church. Who can expresse ( sayth our author here) the admirable beauty of this Church, or how can we declare the maruciles of this Citty? Or who may recount the innumerable thronges, and infinit multitudes of people flocking thither from all countryes? Some came to delight themselves with plentifully diversity of banquets, some to solace themselves with viriety of pleasant showes, and spectacles, others to obtayne the cure of thir diseases, and others with rich, and great donaryes to solemnise Saint Brigits natiall feast, which falleth upon the first of February, upon which day in the year of Christ 518 as we have touched about in the first paragraffe of this present chapter, the holy virgin passed from the miseries of thi mortal life, to the immortall joyes of paradise. Whither God of his infinit grace conduct us all to him, to his all immaculate m other, and to the two glorious patrones of Ireland, Saint Patricke, and Saint Brigit, be all honour, glory and prayse, world without end. Amen
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From the Matins lessons of the Sarum Breviary, St. Hilarion Press
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Now as to Brigit she was born at sunrise on the first day of the spring,of a bondwoman of Connacht. And it was angels that baptized her and that gave her the name of Brigit, that is a Fiery Arrow. She grew up to be a serving girl the same as her mother. And all the food she used was the milk of a white red-eared cow that was set apart for her by a druid. And everything she put her hand to used to increase, and it was she wove the first piece of cloth in Ireland, and she put the white threads in the loom that have a power of healing in them to this day. She bettered the sheep and she satisfied the birds and she fed the poor.
Brigit in Her Father's House:
And when she grew to be strong and to have good courage she went to her father Dubthach's house in Munster and stopped with him there. And one time there came some high person to the house, and food was made ready for him and for his people; and five pieces of bacon were given to Brigit, to boil them. But there came into the house a very hungry miserable hound, and she gave him out of pity a piece of the bacon. And when the hound was not satisfied with that she gave him another piece. Then Dubthach came and he asked Brigit were the pieces of bacon ready; and she bade him count them and he counted them , and the whole of the five pieces were there, not one of them missing. But the high guest that was there that Brigit had thought to be asleep had seen all, and he told her father all that happened. And he and the people that were with him did not eat that meat, for they were not worthy of it, but it was given to the poor and to the wretched.
She Minds the Dairy:
After that Brigit went to visit her mother that was in bondage to a druid of Connacht. And it is the way she was at that time, at a grass-farm of the mountains having on it twelve cows, and she gathering butter. And there was sickness on her, and Brigit cared her and took charge of the whole place. And the churning she made, she used to divide it first into twelve parts in honour of the twelve apostles of our lord; and the thirteenth part she would make bigger than the rest, to the honour of Christ, and that part she would give to strangers and to the poor. And the serving boy wondered to see her doing that, but it is what she used to say:"It is in the name of Christ I feed the poor; for Christ is in the body of every poor man"'
She Fills The Vessels:
One time the serving boy went to the druid's house and they asked was the girl minding the dairy well. And he said"I am thankful, and the calves are fat;" for he dared not say anything against the girl, and she not there. But the druid got word of what she was doing and he came to visit the farm, and his wife along with him; and the cows were doing well, and the calves were fat. Then they went into the dairy, having with them a vessel eighteen hands in height. And Brigit bade them welcome and washed their feet, and made ready food for them, and after that they bade her fill up the vessel with butter. And she had but a churning and a half for them, and she went into the kitchen where it was stored and it is what she said:
"O my High Prince who can do all these things, this is not a forbidden asking; bless my kitchen with thy right hand! "My kitchen, the kitchen of the white Lord;a kitchen that was blessed by my king; a kitchen where there is butter. "My Friend is coming, the Son of Mary; it is he blessed my kitchen; the Prince of the world comes to this place;that there may be plenty with him" After she had made that hymn she brought the half of the churning from the place where it was stored and the druid's wife mocked at her and said"It is good filling for a large vessel this much is!""Fill your vessel" said Brigit, "and God will add something to it." And she was going back to her kitchen and bringing half a churning every time and saying every time a verse of those verses. And if all the vessels of the men of Munster had been brought to her she would have filled the whole of them.
The Man That had lost his Wife's Love:
Brigit would give herself to no man in marriage but she took the veil and after that she did great wonders. There came to her one time a man making his complaint that his wife would not sleep with him but was leaving him, and he came asking a spell from Brigit that would bring back her love. And Brigit blessed water for him and it was what she said:" Bring that water into your house, and put it in the food and in the drink and on the bed." And after he had done that, his wife gave him great love, so that she could not be as far as the other side of the house from him, but was always at his hand. And one day he set out on a journey, leaving the wife in her sleep, and as soon as she awoke from her sleep she rose up and followed after her man till she saw him, and there was a strip of the sea between them. And she called out to him it is what she said, that if he would not come back to her, she would go into the sea that was between them.
The Drying of Brigit's Cloak:
One time Brennain, the saint of the Gael, came from the west to Brigit, to the plain of the Life, for he wondered at the great name she had for doing miracles and wonders. And Brigit came in from her sheep to welcome him, and as she came into the house she laid her cloak that was wet on the rays of the sun, and they held it up the same as hooks. Then Brennain bade his serving lad to put his cloak on the sun rays in the same way, and he put it on them, but twice it fell from them. Then Brennain himself put it on them the third time, and there was anger on him, and that time it stopped on the rays.
The King of Leinster's Fox:
One time there was a man of her household cutting firing, and it chanced to him to kill a pet fox belonging to the King of Leinster, and the King had him bake prisoner. But Brigit called the fox out of the wood, and he came and was at his tricks and his games for the King and his people at Brigit's bidding. And when he had done his tricks he went away safe through the wood, and the army of Leinster, footmen and horsemen and hounds, after him.
Brigit Spreads Her Cloak:
When she was a poor girl she was minding her cow one time at the Curragh of Life/e and she had no place to feed it but the side of the road. And a rich man that owned the land came by and saw her and he said:"How much land would it take to give grass to the cow?" "As much as my cloak would cover" said she. "I will give that" said the rich man. She laid down her cloak then, and it was spreading out miles and miles on every side. But there was a silly old woman passing by and she said "if that cloak goes on spreading, all Ireland will be free; and with that the cloak stopped and spread no more. And Brigit held that land through her lifetime, and it never had rent on it since, but the English Government have taken it now and have put barracks upon it. It is a pity the old woman spoke that time. She did not know Brigit to be better than any other one.
The leper who would be a King:
A leper came one time to Brigit, asking a cow. And Brigit said "Would you sooner have a cow or be healed of your disease?" "I would sooner be healed" he said "than to have the sway over the whole world. For every sound man is a king" he said. Then Brigit prayed to God; and the leper was healed, and served her afterwards.
The Lake of Milk:
The Seven Bishops came to her in a place she had in the north of Kildare, and she asked her cook Blathnet had she any food, and she said she had not. And Brigit was ashamed, being as she was without food before those holy men, and she prayed hard to the Lord. Then angels came and bade her to milk the cows for the third time that day. So she milked them herself, and they filled the pails with the milk, and the whole of Leinster. And the milk overflowed the vessels till it made a lake that is called the Lake of Milk to this day.
The Things Brigit Wished For:
These were the wishes of Brigit:
"I would wish a great lake of ale for the King of Kings; I would wish
the family of Heaven to be drinking it through life and time. "I would
wish the men of Heaven in my own house; I would wish vessels of peace to
be giving to them.
The Son of Reading:
One time she was minding her sheep on the Curragh, and she saw a son of reading running past her. "What is it makes you so uneasy?" she said "and what is it you are looking for?" "It is to Heaven I am running, woman of the veil" said he scholar. "The Virgin's son knows he is happy that makes that journey"
said Brigit. "And pray to God to make it easy for myself to go there" she said. "I have no time" said he; "for the gates of Heaven are open now, and I am in dread they might be shut against me. And as you are hindering me" he said "pray to the Master to make it easy for me to go there and I will pray him to make it easy for you" Then they said "Our Father" together, and he was religious from that out, and it was he gave her absolution at the last. And it is by reason of him that the whole of the sons of learning of the world are with Brigit.
The Fishes Honour Her:
Brennain came to Brigit one time to ask why was it the beasts of the sea gave honour to her more than to the rest of the saints. Then they made their confession to each other, and Brennain said after that " In my opinion, girl, it is right the beasts are when they honour you above ourselves".
A Hymn Made for Brigit by Brennain or Another:
" Brigit, excellent woman; sudden flame; may the bright fiery sun bring
us to the lasting kingdom.
The First of February:
And from that time to this the housekeepers have a rhyme to say on Saint Brigit's day, bidding them to bring out a firkin of butter and to divide it among the working boys. For she was good always, and it was her desire to feed the poor, to do away with every hardship, to be gentle to every misery, And it is on her day the first of the birds begin to make their nests, and the blessed Crosses are mad with straw and are put up in the thatch; for the death of the year is don with and the birthday of the year is come. And it is what the Gael of Scotland say in a averse:
" Brigit, but her finger in the river on the feast day of Brigit and away went the hatching-mother of the cold.
"She washed the palms of her hands in the river on the day of the feast of Patrick, and away went the birth-mother of the cold."
A Hymn Brocan Made for Brigit:
Victorious Brigit did not love the world; the spending of the world was not dear to her; a wonderful ladder for the people to climb to the kingdom of the Son of Mary. "A wild boar came among her swine; he hunted the wild pigs to the north; Brigit blessed him with her staff, that he made his dwelling with her own herd. "She was open in all her doings; she was only Mother of the great King's Son; she blessed the frightened bird till she played with it in her hand. "Before going with angels to the battle let us go running to the church; to remember the Lord is better than any poem. Victorious Brigit did not lover the world"
Her Care for Leinster:
On the day of the battle of Almhuin, Brigit was seen over the men of Leinster, and Columcille was seen over the Ua Neill; and it was the men of Leinster won that battle. And a long time after that again, when Strongbow that had brought great trouble into Ireland and that was promised the kingdom of Leinster was near his end, he cried out from his bed that he saw Brigit of the Gael, and that it was she herself was bringing him to his death.
She Remembers the Poor:
But if Brigit belonged to the east, it is not in the west she is forgotten, and the people of Burren and of Corcomruadh and Kinvara go every year to her blessed well that is near the sea, praying and remembering her. And in that well there is a little fish that is seen every seven years, and whoever sees that fish is cured of every disease. And there is a woman living yet that is poor and old and that saw that blessed fish, and this is the way she tells the story:" I had a pearl in my eye one time, and I went to Saint Brigit;s well on the cliffs.Scores of people there were in it, looking for cures, and some got them and some did not get them. And I went down the four steps to the well and I was looking into it, and I saw a little fish no longer than your finger coming from a stone under the water. Three spots it had on the one side and three on the other side, red spots and a little green with the red, and it was very civil coming hither to me and very pleasant wagging its tail. And it stopped and looked up at me and gave three wags of its back, and walked off again and went under the stone."And I said to a woman what was near me that I saw the little fish, and she began to call out and to say there were many coming with cars and with horses for a month past and none of them saw it at all. And she proved me, asking had it spots, and I said it had, tree on the one side and three on the other side. That is it she said. And within three days I had the sight of my eye again. It was surely Saint Brigit I saw that time; who else would it be? And you would know by the look of it that it was no common fish. Very civil it was, and nice and loughy, and no one else saw it at all. Did I say more prayers than the rest? Not a prayer. I was young in those days. I suppose she took a liking to me, maybe because of my name being Brigit the same as her own."
The Boy that Dreamed He Would Get His Health:
There was a beggar boy used to be in Burren, that was very simple like and had no health, and if he would walk as much as a few perches it is likely he would fall on the road. And he dreamed twice that he went to Saint Brigit's blessed well upon the cliffs and that he found his health there. So he set out to go to the well, and when he came to it he fell in and he was drowned. Very simple he was and innocent and without sin. It is likely it is in heaven he is at this time.
The Water of the Well:
And there is a woman in Burren now is grateful to Saint Brigit, for "I brought my little girl that was not four years old " she says " to saint Brigit's well on the cliffs, where she was ailing and pining away. I brought her as far as the doctors in Gort and they could do nothing for her and then I promised to go to Saint Brigit's well, and from the time I made that promise she got better. And I saw the little fish when I brought her there; and she grew to be as strong a girl as ever went to America. I made a promise to go to the well ever year after that, and so I do, of a Garlic Sunday, that is the last Sunday in July. And I brought a bottle of water from it last year and it is as cold as amber yet"
And when the people are covering up a red sod under the ashes in the night time to spare the seed of the fire for the morning, they think upon brigit the fiery Arrow and it is what they do be saying:"I save this fire as Christ saved every one; Brigit beneath it, the Son of Mary within it; let the three angels having most power in the court of grace be keeping this house and the people of this house and sheltering them until the dawn of day." For it is what Brigit had a mind for; lasting goodness that was not hidden;minding sheep and rising early; hospitality towards good men. It is she keeps everyone that is in straits and in dangers; it is she puts down sickeness; it is she quiets the voice of the waves and the anger of the great sea. She is the queen of the south; she is the mother of the flocks; she is the Mary of the Gael. ____________________________________________________________________________________
Source: A Book of Saints and Wonders Put down here by Lady Gregory According to the Old Writings and the Memory of the People of Ireland.,Lady Augusta Gregory, London, John Murray,Albermarle St, M MVII
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Sit thou safely enthroned, triumphant Brigit, upon the side of Liffey far as the strand of the ebbing sea!
Thou art the sovereign lady with banded hosts that presides over the Children of Cath/air the Great.God's counsel at every time concerning Virgin Erin is greater than can be told: though glittering Liffey is thine today, it has been the land of others in their turn.
When from its side I gaze upon the fair Curragh....The lot that has fallen to every king causes awe at each wreck
Logaire was king as far as the sea,--Ailill `Ane, a mighty fate: the Curragh with its glitter remains-- none of the kings remains that lived thereon.
Perfect Labraid Longsech lives no more, having trodden under foot his fair thirty years: since in Dinn Rig--`twas a wonted abode--he dealt doom to Cobthach the Slender.
Lore's grandson, Oengus of R`oiriu, seized the rule of Erin,....sway; Maistiu of the freckled neck, son of Mug Airt, through princes across their graves.
Fair-famed Alenn! Delightful knowledge! Many a prince is under its girth: it is greater than can be fathomed when Crimthan the Victorious was seen in its bosom.
The shout of triumph heard there after each victory around a shock of swords, a mettlesome mass; the strength of its warrior-bands against the dark blue battle-array; the sound of its horns above hundreds of heads.
The tuneful ring of its even-colored bent anvils, the sound of songs heard there from the tongues of bards; the ardour of its men at the glorious contest; the beauty of its women at the stately gathering.
Drinking of mead there in every home-stead;its noble steeds, many tribes; the jingle of chains unto kings of men under blades of five-edged bloody spears.
The sweet strains heard there at every hour' its wine-barque upon the purple flood; its shower of silver of great splendor; its torques of gold from the lands of the Gaul.
Far as the sea of Britain the high renown of each king has sped like a meteor: delightful Alenn with its might has made sport of every law.
Bresal Bree was king over Elg, Fiachra Fobree with a fierce band of warriors; Ferus of the Sea, Finn son of Roth they loved to dwell in lofty Alenn.
Worship of auguries is not worth listening to, nor of spells and auspices that betoken death; all is vain when it is probed, since Alenn is a deserted doom.
Briget is the smile that smiles on you from the plain...of Core's land; of each generation which it reared in turn Liffey of Lore has made ashes.
The Currah of Liffey to the brink of the main, the Curragh of S`etna, a land of peace as far as the sea,--many is the king whom the Curragh of Carbre Nia-fer has overthrown.
Cath`air the Great-- he was the choicest of shapes --ruled Erin of many hues: though you cry upon him at his rath, his prowess of many weapons has vanished.
Fiachna of Fomuin, glorious Bresal ruled the sea with showers of spears: thirty great kings to the edge of the sea seized land around Tara of Bregia.
The Peaks of Iuchna, delightful place, around which many graves have settled behold in lofty Allen the abode of Tadg, son of Nuada Necht!
The apparel of Feradach-- a goodly diadem--around whom crested bands would move; his blue-speckled helmet, his shining mantle,--many a king he overthrew.
Dunlang of Fornochta, he was generous, a prince who routed battles against the sons of Niall: though one were to tell the tale to all, this is not the world that was once.
Illann with his tribe launched thirty battles against every king, Enna's grandson, a rock against terror, it was not a host without a king's rule.
Ailill was a king that would bestow favour, against whom a fierce blood-dark battle-host would rise: Cormac, Carbre, Colman the Great, Brandub, a barque in which were hosts.
Faelan the Fair was a track of princeship, Fianamail with....; Braiin, son of Conall with many deeds, he was the wave over every cliff.
Oh Brigit whose land I behold, on which each one in turn has moved about, thy fame has outshone the fame of the king--thou art over them all.
Thou hast everlasting rule with the king apart from the land wherein
is thy cemetery. Grand-child of Bresal son of Dian, sit thou safely enthroned,
Kuno Meyer Trans.
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Genealogy of the holy maiden Bride
Lasair dhealraich oir,muime
I will not be put in cell,I will not be wounded,
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From : The Martyrology of Donegal., A Calendar of the Saints of Ireland,
Trans. John O`Donovan,Dublin,The Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society,
1864.(Original: Michael O'Clery,Compiler,Donegal,April 19,1630)
Virgin, abbess of Cill-dara. She was of the race of Eochaidh Finnfuathairt,
son of Feidhlijidh Reachtmhar, son of Tuathal Teachmhar, monarch of Erinn.
Broiccseach, daughter of Dallbronach, son of Aedh Meamhair, was her mother,
and she was the sister of Ultan of Ard-Breccain , and it was Ultan that
collected the virtues, and miracles of Brighit together and who commanded
his disciple Brogann to put them into poetry as is evident in the Book
of Hymns, i.e., The victorious Brighit did not love, etc.
1. I). KALENDIS FEBRUARII.
1 The Victorious. This is the first line of thi- metrical
Life of St. Brigid, published from
2.Borumha. The tribute of oxen See O'Donovan ; Fraient« of
Annals, pp. 77. 89. (T.)
the poem whose beginning is,
" Patrick of the fort of Macha
- The Martyrology of Donegal, A CALENDAR OF THE SAINTS OF IRELAND, , Trans: John O'Donovan,1864
Article II.—Feast Of The Translation Of The Relics Of St. Patrick, St. Columba, And St. Brigid, Chief Patrons Of Ireland. Far distant from each other lay the sacred relics of the great Apostle of Ireland St. Patrick, of the renowned Virgin St. Brigid, and of the illustrious St. Columkille, for many generations after their respective dates of departure from this life. The former, first in order of time, was deposed at Downpatrick,1 and according to a long-preserved tradition, in a very deep earth-pit,3 without the site of that cathedral.3 After the lapse of years, the body of the Irish Apos-
831 See Thomas D'Arcy McGee's " Popu- quse caput est omnium civitatum."—Rev. lar History of Ireland," vol. i., book i.. Dr. Reeves' Adamnan's "Life of St. Co- chap, v., p. 36. lumba," lib. in., cap. 23, p. 241, and nn.
8ja This was the incorrect notion then (e, f), ibid.
entertained by Adamnan. §3° See Apoc. xxii., 14.
833 The following account seems to have *37 See ib\d., xiv., 4.
been received : "Hispania universa ten arum Article II.—' The reader is referred to
situ trigona."—I'omponius Mela, "Cosmo- what has been already written on this sub-
graphia," p. 729. Editio Lugd. Bat. A.D. ject, in the Life of St. Patrick, at the i;th
1722. of March, in the Third Volume of this work,
834 Both of these words have a Celtic Art. i., chap. xxvi.
origin. The Irish word cenn sometimes as- * See Colgan's " Trias Thaumaturgo,"
sumes the form of bean or bin, which Sexta Vita S. Patricii, cap. cxcvi., p. 108,
appears in Welsh as/m« ; while ailp is an and Septima Vita S. Patricii, lib. iii., cap.
Irish word, denoting " a great mass." See cviii., p. 169.
Rev. Dr. O'Brien's English-Irish Dictionary, 3 At the present time, the people there
Preface, p. 28. point to St. Patrick's grave, and this tradi-
835 " Ipsam quoqtie Romanam civitatem lion appears to have continued from time
tie seems to have been drawn from that position/ and it was probably enshrined or entombed within the church. In the century succeeding that of St. Patrick died St. Brigid.s and her remains appear to have been deposited within the church at Kildare, attached to her convent. They rested in a shrine, at one side of the high altar,6 and they were held in great veneration by the people, especially on the day of her chief festival, when multitudes flocked thither for devotional purposes. Many miracles were wrought there through her intercession. The body of St Brigid remained in Kildare, until the beginning of the ninth century. The magnificent shrine in which her relics were encased invited the cupidity of the Scandinavian invaders, and as Kildare was greatly exposed to their ravages, it was deemed more desirable to have St. Brigid's relics removed to Downpatrick, where they should be in a more defensible position, and more secure from plunder or profanation.7 When the happy soul of St. Cohimba departed from the tenement of his body after his useful missionary career in Scotland had terminated,8 and until the time of Adamnan,' the place where his sacred bones reposed was well known and reverenced. Frequently did his monks resort thither, less to offer prayers for the loved and lamented Father of their institute, than to prefer their own petitions for his powerful patronage. Visited by the holy angels,and illumined in a miraculous manner by heavenly light, was that grave, which for many long years succeeding his decease had been exposed to the winds, that played freely over the ancient cemetery at lona. Those visions were clearly manifested, but only to a select few.10 It would appear from the words of Adamnan," which are borrowed from the earlier work of Cummian," that at least a century was allowed to elapse, before the remains of St. Columba were disinterred.'3 In the course of the eighth century, it seems probable, that the bones of St. Columba had been removed, and that they had been deposited in a shrine or shrines.1* Afterwards, they must have been transferred to the church of the monastery in lona, where they were religiously preserved, so long as it was deemed safe to keep them in that venerated spot. Ireland is said to have been selected as a country best suiting such a purpose, when the occasion arose, which demanded their removal. Towards the close of the eighth century, the Scandinavian sea-rovers began to sail southwards, in quest of new settlements and bent upon plunder. The appearance of the Northman invaders on the Hebridean coasts gave warning to conceal the precious shrine, in which, doubtless, the relics of St. Columba had been encased. But such a temporary expedient could not long save it from their cupidity and profanation. Tlie accounts contained in our Irish Annals state, that the remains '5 of St. Columba had been brought to Erin, after his death, and on more than one occasion. A belief seems to have existed, at the close of the eighth century, that his relics had been brought to Ireland from Britain, and that they had been deposited in Saul. Another mediaeval tradition sets forth Downpatrick, as having been his resting place. These contradictory accounts may be reconciled, however, by supposing a translation from Saul, when it became a subordinate church, and on the erection of Downpatrick into a Bishop's See. Another thoroughly legendary account of a still later date gives us to understand, that when Manderus, son to a Danish king, and chief of the Northman piratical fleet, ravaged the northern parts of Britain with fire and sword, he also came to lona, and there he profaned the sanctuary, while digging in the earth for treasures he thought to be concealed. Amongother impieties, he opened the sarcophagus or case, in which lay the body of St. Columba. This he is said to have carried with him to that vessel, in which
immemorial. It is customary (o take away earth from the spot, and a hallowed efficacy is attributed to iu possession. Not alone the Catholic people of Downpatrick, but those from the most distant parts of the world, eager!) seek to obtain some of this clay, which is thought to preserve the owner from accident through fire or water. It is believed to be efficacious, also, in curing diseases. In 1874, when the writer visited that place, he saw a peasant engaged in taking some to his home, and as he said to cure some member of his family, suffering from a distemper.
4 According to the " Annals of Ulster," in the year 552, when the Irish Apostle was about sixty years dead, St. Columba exhumed his relics.
5 See the Second Volume of this work, for the Life of this venerable Abbess, at the 1st of February, Art.!., chap. xiv.
* On the other side were those of St. Con- laeth. Sir James Ware writes : "Ossaejus in capsulam deauratam, gemmisque ornatam, translata ferunt anno 001."—'" De Praesvli- bvs Laginiae, sive Provincial Dvbliniensis," Episcopi Darensis, p. 42.
' At the 9th of June, in the Calendar compiled by himself, the Rev. William Reeves has a festival for St. Brigid, at Downpatrick. It is to be presumed, that he has reference to St. Brigid of Kildare,
whose remains had been translated to Downpatrick, where they repose with those of St. Patrick and St. Columkille. See " Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Down, Connor and Dromore," Appendix LL, p. 379.
8At the 9th of J une, in Dempster's " Meno- logium Scotorum," we read: "In Insulis Scoticis Columbse presbyteri admirabilis vitse viri, qui Hibernus ortu in Scotia xxx. annis haesit, regibus lamiliaris, officia pieta- tis, quae Scotis Apostolis suis Hibernia de- bebat, indefesse rependens."—Bishop Forbes' "Kalendars of Scottish Saints,'1 p. 202.
9 See Rev. Dr. Reeves' A hmnan's " Life of St. Columba," lib. iii., cap. 23, p. 241.
10 For a more detailed account of his death and burial, the reader is referred to the Life of St. Columkille, given in the Article immediately preceding, chap. xvii.
" Speaking of that stone which served either as the bed or pillow for our saint, it is further remarked, " qui hodieque quasi quidam juxta sepulcrum ejus titulus stat monumenti."
" See Colgan's "Trias Thaumaturga," Secunda Vita S. Columbze, cap. xxxix.,
13 See Rev. Dr. Reeves' Adamnan's " Life of St. Columba," lib. iii., cap. 23, and n. (p), pp. 233, 234.
14 About this period, also, it became customary to prepare costly shrines for the relics of saints in the Irish churches.
15 Perhaps, however, we are not to confound those relics mentioned with the body of St. Columba, in all cases.
16 The early cathedral of Downpatrick has long since disappeared, but upon itssile had been erected a medieval church, with pointed Gothic windows, and beside it stood a Round Tower. A representation of both may be seen in the Third Volume of this work, in the Life of St. Patrick, chap, xxvi., at the 17th of March, Art. i. These objects have been removed, since the year 1790, and another Protestant cathedral has been erected, at the same spot. The accompanying illustration of the latter is from a photograph, and it has been drawn by William F. Wakcmnn on ihe wood, engraved by Mrs. Millanl.
17 This account is attributed to St. Brr- clian, by Piince O Donnell, See Colgan's "Trias Tliaumatuiga," Quinta Vita S. Co- lumliEe, lib. iii., cap. Ixxviii., p. 446.
18 Tlius in Glastonbury, England, we find it stated, that her relics were held in veneration. " Hiberniensibus mo5 inolitus fuit ad osculandas Patroni reliquias locum fre- quentare: unde et sanctum Indrahtum et beatam Krigidam (Hibernios nnn obscuras incolas) hue olim commeasse celeberrimum
. . est. Brigida relictis quibusdam suis insignibus (monili pera, et textrilibus armis) qua; ad hue pro sanctitatis memoria osculan- tur et morbis diversis medentur utrum
domum reversa, an ibi acceperit pausam, incertum."—Sir Henry Spelman's "Concilia, Decreta, Leges, Constitutiones in Ke Ecclesiarum Orbis Britanici, tomus i., Apparatus, de Kxordio Christiana Religionis in Britanniis," p. 19. London edition 1639, fol.
19 See an account of their glorious triumph, in the First Volume of this work, at the 191'! of January, Art. i.
K He seems to have been Abbot from A.d. 815 to the year subsequent to 831.
" The Irish word minnA signifies articles held in veneration and belonging to a saint, such as a bachal, books, or vestments, &c., upon which oaths in afler time used to be administered.
" See "Chronicles of the Picts, Chronicles of the Scots, and other early Memorials of Scottish History," edited by William F. Skene, LL. D., p. 77.
33 Tighernach is the only annalist, who briefly notices this transaction.
a< See Dr. O'Donovan's "Annals of the Four Masters," vol. ii., pp. 1026, 1027.
35 This is expressed in a Latin Epitaph :—
" Hi tres in uno tumulo tumulantur in
" Three Saints one Urn in Down's
Patrick and Bridget too, with Colum- kille."
he sailed for Ireland ; but, on opening the ches t, in which he found only bones and ashes, he threw it overboard. Then it miraculously floated on the waves, until it was wafted to the innermost part of Strangford Lough, near to Down- patrick.'6 There, it is related, that the Abbot had a Divine revelation, regarding the sacred deposit it contained. Accordingly, he extracted the relics, and placed them with the lifsantz of Saints Patrick and Brigid." We
Downpatrick Cathedral. need not attach
the slightest credit to the foregoing account; for, it may be observed, that the earliest recorded descent of the Northmen on lona was in 802, nor does it seem likely, that the body of St. Brigid had been removed from Kildare to Downpatrick, at so early a date. However, it cannot have been very long after this year, when the relics of St. Brigid were removed from Kildare to Down. There, it seems probable, they had been kept in their own distinctive shrine, which was a costly work of art. Elsewhere, too, some other relics of this holy Patroness of Ireland had been preserved.'8 Moreover, in the year 825, when the Scandinavians again visited the Island of lona, St. Columba's shrine adorned with precious metals was there, and to prevent desecration it was hidden
* This is in a small and rare l8mo Tract, containing only 64 pages, but giving other Irish offices, and among them one of St. Columba, Abbot. At p. I, it commences with " Die Nona Junii, Translatio SS. Patricii, Columbse et Brigidse, trium com- munium Hiberniae Patronorum, Duplex I. Classis, cum Octava peruniversam Insulam, cujus sequitur Omcium approbatum a Vi- \iano Cardinale tituli S. Stephani in Ccelio Monte, quem ad Solemnitatem Transla- tionis, An. 1186, Apostolicum Legatum
demandavit Urbanus III." There is not a title page, at least in the copy, the property of Rev. Denis Murphy, S.J., and that used by the writer. Theoffice has a First Vespers, with proper Antiphons, Capitulum, and Prayer. The Invitatorium of Matins is proper, with all the Antiphons and Six Lessons, the remaining three being from the Common of Evangelists, with proper Versicles and Responses. The Lauds, Hours and second Vespers are of a mixed character. Afterwards follows a proper Mass.
by St. Blaithmac and by the monks, who suffered martyrdom on that occasion. '9 It is probable, that some of the monks who escaped had knowledge of that place where it had been concealed, and that returning soon afterwards to lona, the shrine was again replaced in their church. In 829, Diarmait,** Abbot of Hy, went to Alba, with the minna 2I of St. Columkille, and in 831 he returned with them to Ireland. Again, in the year 878, the shrine and all St. Columba's minna were transferred to Ireland, the better to secure them from the Danes. In 976, there is an account of the shrine of St. Columkille having been plundered by Donald Mac Murchada." There is noaccountof what shrine this had been, however, or where it had been kept.'s In the year 1127, the Danes of Dublin carried off St. Columba's shrine, but they restored it at the end of a month,'* probably stripped of its precious metals and ornaments. It seems strange, that while the relics of the three great Irish Patrons had been kept with such religious veneration in the Cathedral Church of Down- patrick, fora long lapse of ages, that in the twelfth century the place of their deposition within it was forgotten. It would appear, that the Northmen frequently attacked, plundered, and burned that town. It is probable, that the sacred remains had been buried in the earth, to preserve them from profanation, and that the secret place of their deposition had been confided to only a few of the ecclesiastics, who perished through violence, or who had not been able to return afterwards, to indicate that exact spot, in which they had been laid. For a long time, the bishops, clergy and people of Down lamented this loss, until about the year 1185, when Malachy III. was bishop over that See. This pious prelate had been accustomed to offer earnest prayers to the Almighty, that the eagerly desired discovery might be made. One night, while engaged at prayer within the cathedral, Malachy observed a supernatural light, resembling a sunbeam, passing through the church and settling over a certain spot. This astonished the bishop, who prayed that the light might remain, until implements should be procured to dig beneath it. Accordingly, these being procured, beneath that illuminated place, the bodies of the three great saints were found; the body of St. Patrick occupied a central compartment, while the remains of St. Brigid and of St. Columba were placed on either side. With great rejoicing, he disinterred the bodies of those illustrious saints, and he placed them in three separate coffins. He then had them deposited in the same spot, whence they had been taken, and he took care to have the site exactly noted. In fine, the bones of St. Columkille were buried with great honour and veneration, in the one place with those of St. Patrick and of St. Brigid, within Dun-da-lethgles or Downpatrick cathedral, in Ulster.2' About this time, the celebrated John De Courcy had procured possessions, in that part of the province; and to him, Bishop Malachy reported all the circumstances, connected with the miraculous discovery of the relics. Taking counsel together, it was resolved, that application should be made to the Pope at Rome, for permission to remove the sacred remains, to a more conspicuous and honourable position in the cathedral. At this time, Urban III. presided over the Universal Church. Supplication was made to him, that the relics of those saints should be translated in a solemn manner. Not alone was his sanction obtained, but the Pope nominated Cardinal Vivian, as his Legate for Ireland, with a commission to direct the undertaking. Accordingly, on the gth of June, 1186, this public Translation of the remains was solemnized. No less than fifteen Bishops were present, besides many abbots
*> His election to the papacy took place, eleven months. See 1'Abbd Fleury's " His- on the 25th of November, A.d. 1185. He toire Ecclesiastique," tome xv., liv. Uxiv., lived afterwards only one year and nearly sect, i., p. 476.
and high dignitaries, with a great concourse of the clergy and laity, the Car- dina! Legate himself assisting. An office,26 which is said to date back to the twelfth century, has been attributed to the approval of Cardinal Vivian, who assisted in the time of Pope Urban III.,"' at this solemn Translation of the Relics of St. Patrick, St. Columba, and St. Brigid, in Downpatrick. This was a Double of the First Class, with an Octave. The Bollandists have fallen into an error, in placing the Finding of the Relics of Saints Patrick, Brigid and Columba,38 at this date, which should rather be called that for their Translation.
** See " Acia Sanctorum," tomus ii., period. Seethe Rev. Dr. Reeves'Adam-
Junii ix. Among the pretermilted feasts, nan's " Life of St. Columba." Additional
p. 147. Notes O, Chronicon Hyense, pp. 369 to
Article Hi.—' Such is the encomium 413.
of Dalian Forgaill, in that ancient Tract, s In " Vitae Sanctorum," ex Codice Inis-
called Amhra Lholuim-chille. ensi, pp. 27 to 31.
' According to the statement of Prince ° Among the BurgunHian Library Manu-
O'Donnell. See Colgan's "Trias Thau- scripts, vol. xxii., at fol. 2OI. maturga," QuintaViia S. Columbre, lib.iii., » It is classed, vol. iv., Nos. 2324-2340,
cap. Ivi., p. 441. in the Catalogue, at fol. 6.
3 See Kev. John Smith's " Life of St. 8 " Catulogus Actuum Sanctorum (jure Columba," Appendix, pp. 161, 162. MS. habentur, Ordine Mensium et Die-
4 At that time, the Danes and Norwe- rum."
gians invaded the Island, and often com- ' See " Trias Thaumaturga," Qiiarta Ap-
mitted great ravages. When they had em- pendix ad Acta S. Columba;, cap. x.,
braced Christianity, the history of lona may p. 488.
be traced in the Irish Annals to a much later '° See " Acta Sanctorum," tomus ii., Junii
-Lives of the Irish Saints: With Special Festivals, and the Commemorations of Holy Persons, Compiled from Calenders, Martyrologies, and Various Sources, Relating to the Ancient Church History of Ireland., John O'Hanlon, Catholic Pub. Society, 1873,
June 9, p.593.
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Carolus Plummer,Bruxelles,Societe Des Bollandists,1925
Shorter Tracts and Anecdotes:
From:The Sources for the Early History of Ireland An introduction and guide.
By. James F. Kenney,Volume I Ecclesiastical,New York,Columbia University
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Saint Bridget was
To any soul
Her father's gold,
She could not quit.
An easy touch
Well, one must love her.
From the Martyrology of Saint
Oengus, Celi De
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The dandelion lights its spark
-Winifred Mary Letts
The Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society (J.K.A.S.) Vol. I, (Dublin, 1891-1895), pp. 169-176.
“ST. BRIGID OF KILDARE.”
By THE REV. DENIS MURPHY, S.J., M.R.I.A.
THE name Brígíd, brigid [in old Irish in text] in Irish, as we learn from Cormac Mac Cullenan’s ancient Glossary of the Irish tongue, was given to the goddess of poetry in ancient times. Others will have it to mean a fiery dart. So much for the name.
Her manner of life is summed up briefly in the Martyrology of Tallaght,which says, “Brigid was following the manners and the life which holy Mary, mother of Jesus, had.” And the Martyrology of Donegal,after quoting this passage, goes on to say: “It was this Brigid too that did not take her mind or her attention from the Lord for the space of one hour at any time, but was constantly mentioning Him and ever thinking of Him, as is evident in her own Life and in the Life of St. Brendan of Clonfert. She was very hospitable and very charitable to guests and to needy people. She was humble, and attended to the herding of sheep and early rising, as her Life proves, and as Cuimin of Condure states. Thus he says:-
“The blessed Brigid loved
Constant piety, which was not prescribed,
Sheep-herding and early rising,
Hospitality towards men of virtues.”
She spent seventy-four years diligently serving the Lord, performing signs and miracles, curing every disease and sickness in general, until she yielded up her spirit.”
Whosoever wishes to know in greater detail the life of this Saint will find it in the great work of Fr. John Colgan. He was of the Franciscan order, the same which had convents at Clane, Kildare, Castledermot, and in several other places of this county, as well as in nearly every other county in Ireland, numbering in all about sixty in the middle of the 16th century. This great man, not being able, for reasons which I need not enter into here, to find at home the education which he needed, went in search of it to Spain. The greater part of his life was passed in the Franciscan College of Louvain, founded in 1609 by the generosity of Philip III., and the Archdukes Albert and Isabella. There from 1626 to 1658, the year of his death, he devoted himself to bringing together and illustrating the Lives of Irish saints. He intended his work to extend over six folio volumes. Unhappily, he lived to complete only two of these—one the Lives of the Irish saints whose feast days occur in the three first months of the year, and another volume, comprising the Lives of three patrons of Ireland, Patrick, Columcille, and Brigid. Of the value set on these books at the present day we may judge from the fact that Dr. Reeves’ copy of the first fetched, at a sale held a few weeks since in Dublin, £31; and the other volume was bought a year or two ago from a Dublin bookseller for £18, and by a lawyer too, who, I am sure, knew well what he was about and thought his investment a safe one.
Of that second volume, containing the Lives of the three patrons, the last of the three parts is taken up with the history of St. Brigid, and this is the storehouse in which those who write of her find ample materials. It extends from p. 513 to p. 649. It bears the title: The various Acts of St. Brigid, the Virgin, Abbess of Kildare, founder of the Brigittine Order, and common patron of all Ireland. Now these Acts comprise six different Lives of the saints, all of them ancient, some of them from very remote times.
The first of them is contained in a hymn in very ancient Irish, written by St. Broegan Claen, abbot of Rosturk, in Ossory, on “The Titles and Miracles of the Saint.” Side by side with the Irish hymn Colgan gives a Latin translation. As is the custom in such Irish works of ancient date, it is prefaced by a few lines telling when, where, and why it was written. “The place,” it says, “in which this hymn was composed was Slieve Bloom, or Cluan St. Maedog, and it was composed in the time of Lughaidh, son of Leoghaire, king of Ireland, when Aelider, son of Dunlang, was king of Leinster; and the reason of its being composed was that Ultan of Ardbraccan asked Broegan to describe in verse the acts and virtues of Brigid. It begins thus:—
“ Brigid did not love the pride of life.”
And it goes on:—
“She was not querulous, not evil-minded;
She did not love fierce wrangling such as women practise,
She was not a venemous [venomous – sic] serpent or untruthful,
Nor did she sell the Son of God for things that fade.
She was not harsh to strangers,
She used to treat the wretched lepers kindly;
She built her dwelling on the plain
Which was frequented by vast crowds after her death.
There are two holy virgins in heaven,
Mary and holy Brigid;
May they protect me by their mighty help.”
And so for 53 stanzas of four lines each. Some think this Life was written so far back as the sixth century. If it was written at the suggestion of St. Ultan, we must take it to be a century later, i. e. eleven or twelve hundred years ago.
The second Life is by Cogitosus. It is in Latin prose. Most probably he was a monk of the monastery of Kildare that was under the rule of St. Brigid in ancient times, for he describes, in great detail, the architecture, ornaments, and arrangements of the church, as if lie had it before his eyes every day. From his omitting all mention of the ravages of the Danes and of some of the Irish chiefs in the early part of the ninth century, it has been correctly inferred that he wrote before 835, the year when the foreigners first plundered Kildare. “Cilldara,” say the Annals of the Four Masters, “was plundered by the foreigners of Inver Dea, i.e. Wicklow, and half the church was burned by them.” Cogitosus says, “Kildare was a sanctuary, or place of refuge, where there could be no danger of the attack of an enemy.” The Life begins thus: “You oblige me, brethren, to make an attempt to set down in writing the virtues and deeds of Brigid of holy and blessed memory, as if I were one of the learned. The burthen you lay on me, lowly and weak as I am, ignorant too of the niceties of language, is to tell in a fitting way of her who is the head of nearly all the churches of Ireland, and the summit towering above all the monasteries of the Scoti; whose power extends over the whole of Ireland, stretching from sea to sea; the abbess who dwells in the plain of the Liffey, whom all the abbesses of the Scoti venerate.” And he ends thus: “I ask pardon from the brethren, and from all who may read this, for, urged on by obedience, not supported by any excellence of learning, I have traversed this vast ocean of the virtues of St. Brigid, one to be dreaded even by the bravest men.” This Life is published in the Bollandist Acta Sanctorum for February 1st.
The third Life is by St. Ultan, of Ardbraccan, in Meath, the same who induced St. Breogan to write the metrical Life already mentioned. The manuscript from which this Life was printed was found by F. Stephen White, S.J., in a monastery at Ratisbon; it was collated with another found in the monastery of St. Albert, at Cambray. Though there may be some doubts about the authorship, still that it is very ancient Colgan infers from the fact that most of the manuscripts which contain it were admitted to be five hundred years old, some of them seven hundred, in his time, i.e. in the middle of the seventeenth century. This would take the composition of it hack to the year 1000.
The 4th Life is by Anmchad, Latinized Animosus: it is in Latin metre. Who this Anmchad was — whether he was Bishop of Kildare and died in 980, or another — we have not sufficient grounds for saying with anything like certainty. The work seems to be that of one well acquainted with Kildare and its surroundings, and is more detailed than the others already mentioned. It begins thus: “Brethren, my mind is disturbed by three things—by love, which forces me to set down in writing the Life of St. Brigid, so that the great virtues which she practised, and the wonders which she wrought, may not be forgotten; next by shame, lest my uncouth and simple language may displease the learned and wise men who may read, or hear read, what I am going to write. But fear disturbs me still more, for I am too weak to undertake this work. I fear the sneers of unjust critics, who will scrutinize this work of mine as they do their food. But as the Lord ordered the poor among the people to offer to Him things mean and worthless in themselves for the building of the tabernacle, should not we too make an offering to build up His Church? And what is it but the congregation of the just?”
The 5th Life is the work of Laurence of Durham, a Benedictine monk, who lived about the year 1100. It was taken from a manuscript in the Irish College of Salamanca, the same which the Marquis of Bute lately published in a magnificent quarto volume, edited by the Bollandists.
Lastly, there is the Life by St. Caelan, a monk of Iniscealtra, in the Shannon, near Scariff. It is in Latin hexameters. It was discovered by an Irish Benedictine in the library of the mother-house of the Order, at Monte Cassino. The author lived in the first half of the eighth century. Prefixed to it is a beautiful poem on Ireland by St. Donatus, bishop of Fiesole, of whom Miss Stokes has given an account in her last book, Six Months in the Apennines, who lived a century later.
Besides, there are most valuable appendices:—
I. Offices to be said on the feast—one printed in Venice, in 1522; another in Paris, in 1622; a third in Genoa, not dated; a fourth used by the Canons of St. John of Lateran.
2. Extracts from the Lives of other saints relating to St. Brigid.
3. Accounts of her ancestors, death, her birthday, the number of years she lived, her place of burial.
4. The devotion to the Saint in Ireland and in other countries.
5. The history of the church of Kildare, its bishops, and the ravages by the Danes.
These are the Lives given by Colgan in the Trias. I should weary you if I enumerated to you the others that are now known, not only those written by her own countrymen, as that of Dr. Rothe, bishop of Ossory, On Brigid, the Worker of Miracles, but by French, Italian, German, Flemish, English, and Scottish writers. Even in our time her life has been written by Rev. S. Baring-Gould and by Dr. Forbes, bishop of Brechin. I need hardly say that no subject is oftener met with in our ancient Irish manuscripts than that of St. Brigid’s life. Dr. Whitley Stokes has published an ancient Irish Life of the Saint from the Book of Lismore. Those who wish to know the Saint’s life in detail, and the literature connected with it, will find all they can desire in the Rev. Canon O’Hanlon’s Lives of the Irish Saints, ii. 1.
The pedigree of St. Brigid is given in the Book of Leinster. She was the daughter of Dubtach, son of Demri, son of Bresil, son of Den, son of Conla, son of Art Corb, son of Cairbre, son of Cormac, son of Enghus Mean, son of Eochaidh Finn, son of Feidlimidh Rechtmar, who was ardrigh or chief monarch of Ireland, A.D.111. Her father is said to have been a great and mighty chief, Dux magnus et potens. Dr. Todd gives her genealogy and that of St. Columba, and shows they were descended from a common ancestor, Ugony Mor, supreme monarch of Ireland A.M.4546. Her mother, Brotseach, is said to have been a slave; but it is far more probable that she too was of noble birth, being the daughter of Dallbronach of the Dail Concobair in South Bregia. The Martyrology of Donegal says St. Ultan of Ardbraccan was her brother. Her birthplace was Fochart Muirthemhne, now Fochart, which is three miles north-west of Dundalk; the dun there was possibly the site of her father’s dwelling. There are remains of an old church dedicated to her, and close by is a holy well bearing her name, surmounted by a conical roof. Whether this building is of very remote date I cannot say, not having yet seen it. A stone, too, is pointed out in which it is said she was laid immediately after her birth. Such another stone we find at Gartan, the birthplace of St. Columba. The people of Donegal think that by lying on it before they set out for a foreign land, they will be freed from all danger of home-sickness. St. Bernard, in his Life of St. Malachy, makes mention of “the village of Fochart, which they say is the birthplace of Brigid the virgin.” This is close to the spot where Edward Bruce was slain in the year 1318.
Her parents wished to give her in marriage to a chief who sought her as wife. But she desired to devote herself wholly to the service of God and the poor. Other maidens followed her example, and joined her. They went to St. Macaille, bishop of Hy Failge. One of his clerics told him who she was, and why she and her companions had come to him. He placed the veil on her head, in token of her consecration to God in the religions state. So St. Broegan Claen, in his hymn:
Posuit bonis avibus Maccalleus velum
Super caput sanctae Brigidae,
Clarus est in ejus gestis.
It would seem that she founded a religious establishment first near Uisneagh, in Westmeath. After a while she went, with her disciples, to Connaught, and dwelt in Magh Aoi, a district between Elphin and Roscommon, possibly at a place now bearing her name, called Killbride, in the parish of Killacken. The people of Leinster, hearing of the wonders she wrought, besought her to return to her native province, and she determined to establish her monastery among them. She was welcomed by all. Drum Criadh seemed to her a fit place for her purpose; a large oak spread its branches around. “This,” Animosus tells us, “she loved very much, and she blessed it. Its stem and roots remain to this day.” The date of her settling there is not certain; it is presumed to have been 470; others say 480 and 484. This house, small and mean at first, grew to a great size, and soon it became the head of some hundreds of such houses, scattered throughout the country. Owing to her great repute, Kildare was for a while the metropolitan see of Leinster
The precise date of her death is not known. We shall not be much astray if we take that given by Colgan, namely, A.D. 523; nor is it known what her age was at her death. Colgan, who set down her birth as 439, would,, consequently, make her more than fourscore, while others say she died at the age of seventy.
Cogitosus says she was buried at Kildare. Indeed, he describes the shrines in which her remains and those of St. Conlaeth, the first bishop of this See, were preserved. He says they were ornamented with gold and silver, and precious stones; and crosses of gold and silver were suspended close by, one on the right side, the other on the left. He goes on to describe how the church grew in size, its extent, and the different parts and divisions of it; the door by which the priest, “cum regulari schola,” with his school of religious, entered, that by which the men entered, and the third, by which the women were admitted.
I am aware that some have held she was buried at Downpatrick immediately after her death; but that can hardly be, from what I have said above. Except by the fact of her relics being preserved at Kildare, it is impossible to account for “the vast crowds, the numberless multitudes, that came there from all the provinces of Ireland on her feast day, some for the plentiful banquets given them; others who were sick and diseased, coming to get back their health; others with gifts. All these came on the 1st of February, the day she cast off the burthen of the flesh, and followed the Lamb of God to the heavenly dwelling.” So Cogitosus. Later, very possibly to preserve her relics from the devastations of the Danes, from which Kildare seemed to have suffered oftener than any other place, they may have been removed to Down. Colgan thinks the removal may have taken place in the ninth century; and so the words of the distych would be verified—
Hi tres in Duno tumulo tumulantur in uno,
Brigida, Patricius, atque Columba pius.
Others will have it that John De Courcy got some of her relics transported there, in order to increase the importance of Down, which was the capital of his possessions. It would seem that the precise place where the bodies of the three Saints were laid was somehow forgotten. It is said that it was revealed to Bishop Malachy in 1189, and that the remains were transferred with great solemnity into the interior of the church soon after. When the relics of these Saints were destroyed, in the sixteenth century, during the deputyship of Lord Leonard Gray, St. Brigid’s head was saved by some of the clergy, who carried it to Neustadt, in Austria. In 1587 it was presented to the church of the Society of Jesus at Lisbon by the Emperor Rudolph II.
A few words in conclusion on the extent of the veneration shown to this saint. “So famous is the renown of this holy virgin,” says Hector Boetius, “that the Scots, the Picts, the Irish, and those who live near them, the English, put her next after the Virgin Mother of God.” And Alanus Copus: “She is most famous, not only among the Scots, the English, and the Irish, but churches are named after her throughout the whole world.” “Her feast,” F. Stephen White tells us, “was celebrated in every cathedral church from the Grisons to the German Sea, for nearly a thousand years.” Cogitosus, in a passage given above, speaks of the veneration in which she was held by all the abbesses of the Scoti. The Book of Leinster gives a list of some thirty religious houses of women which were under her obedience in ancient times. Here are some places in the diocese of Dublin which still bear her name. We have Bride’s Church, a parish church, Bride’s street, Bride’s alley, Bride’s hospital; chapels dedicated to St. Brigid at Killosery, Swords, Ward, Tully, Tallaght, Kilbride near Rathfarnham. In Kildare—Kildare itself, Rosenallis, Cloncurry, Rathbride, Rathdrum. At Armagh there was a church and convent of women bearing her name, of which Dr. Reeves speaks in his Ancient Churches of Armagh. Wells bearing her name: Bride street, St. Margaret’s, Clondalkin, Swords, Clonskeagh, Rosslare, Ballysadare, Ballintobber, Kilcock, Buttevant, Tuam, Birchfield, near Ennistymon. Hospitals—Kilmainham, Carrickfergus, Dungarvan, Kells, and Galway. In the Ordnance Survey list of Irish townlands there are thirty-six Kilbrides. In Australia, America, wherever the Irish people are—and where are they not?—will be found churches, and schools, and convents bearing her name; no diocese without one at least; in some several, as in the diocese of Boston, four churches. And if we go to the Continent of Europe, we shall find her name wherever Irish missionaries have set foot—at Amiens, St. Omer, Besancon, Tours, Cologne, Fulda, at Fossey, in the diocese of Namur, at Seville, and Lisbon. An interesting fact bearing on what I have just said has been told me by the parish priest of Kildare. Very lately he received a letter from a parish priest in the neighbourhood of Aix-la-Chapelle, requesting of him a relic, however small, of St. Brigid; his parish church was dedicated to her, and on her feast, February 1st, there was a great concourse of the people to it in her honour. Few things are more touching than the casual inscription which one meets with at times on the margin of an old manuscript in St. Gall or Milan, the work of an Irish scribe in a foreign land; his labour is tedious and trying, working out these endless spirals and convolutions of the Opus Hibernicum; or it may be that a feeling of home-sickness has suddenly come on him, a fond longing to see once more “the fair hills of Eire,” and he stops awhile, and instinctively turns his thoughts to her who is the pride and glory of his race, “Margareta Hiberniae,” the pearl of Ireland, and its protectress, and he writes: “St. Brigid, aid me in the laborious task which I have undertaken,” or “St. Brigid, pray for us.”
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The Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society (J.K.A.S.) Vol. I, (Dublin, 1891-1895), p. 40.
Notes and Queries.
The Breedoge.—Can anyone inform me if the old custom of carrying round “The Breedoge” on St. Bridget’s Eve or Day (the 1st of February) is still kept up? Formerly, I am told, a figure was dressed up to represent the patron saint of Kildare, St. Bridget. This figure was called “The Breedoge” (Bride Oge), or “Young Bridget,” and carried round by the young people from house to house asking for coppers, in the same way as the wren on a holly hush is carried round on St. Stephen’s Day. The result of the day’s round was spent in a jollification. I believe this was a local custom peculiar to the neighbourhood of Kildare.—WALTER FITZ GERALD.
J.K.A.S. Vol. I, pp. 151-152.
Replies to Queries.
“The Breedoge” (JOURNAL, No. 1, p. 40).—In answer to my query in the County Kildare Archaeological Journal, as to whether the custom of carrying round the Breedoge was a local one or not, Ireceived a communication from Dr. P. W. Joyce, M.R.I.A.,of the Educational Department, in which he says he made inquiries among the pupils concerning it, with the result that he got written descriptions of it in the counties of Kilkenny, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, and Mayo, so that the custom is very general over Ireland. I have given below two or three descriptions of this custom, which Ihave selected from several sent to me by Dr. Joyce: —
One from the Co. Mayo.—The children dress up a figure, and decorate it with ribbons and flowers. Then four or more of them carry it from house to house on St. Bridget’s Day,* and ask the housewife to “honour the Breedoge.” One of the girls hums a tune, and the others dance. It is thought a very niggardly thing to refuse to honour the effigy. Eggs are taken where the housekeeper has no coppers to give. There is a spokeswoman for the party, who has a short made-up speech that she delivers at every house. The money and eggs collected are evenly divided between the girls, who purchase sweets and cakes with the proceeds. The girls usually choose the day for their rounds; then, at night, the boys go round with what is ‘called “The Cross.” This is a cross made of two ropes; a boy catches an end each, and then the four boys dance away to the music of a flute; like the girls they, too, gather contributions from each house they visit, and spend the result in a jollification.
Another from the Co. Kerry.—The Breedhogue is an image, supposed to be St Bridget. It consists of a churn-dash, or broomstick, padded round with straw, and covered with a woman’s dress, the head being formed of a bundle of hay, rolled into the form of a ball; the hands are formed of furze branches, stuck up in the sleeves. This figure is carried round from house to house by boys and girls on St Bridget’s Eve. One boy starts a tune, and the others commence dancing, after which they are given pennies, or more generally eggs, in honour of the “Biddy.” No matter what the weather is, the Breedhogue is annually carried round, though since moonlighting commenced in Kerry it had to be discontinued for some time, owing to the fear of being mistaken for members of that band.
A Co. Cork description.—In some parts of the county the boys dress up a female figure in a white dress with gaudy ribbons, which they call “a Breedhoge.” They are generally themselves queerly dressed and disguised. On St. Bridget’s Eve they visit from house to house in the parish, particularly those houses where there are young women who, they say, should get married during Shrove time. If they are welcomed, and given money for a spree, then they will praise up and recommend the girls to their male friends; but if not, they will warn them to avoid them.—WALTER FITZ GERALD.
The practice alluded to by Lord Walter Fitz Gerald at p.40 exists in several parts of Ireland. It is probably a remnant of the procession in honour of St Brigid, when her statue would be carried about. The rude figure, if we can call it such, goes by the name of Breedog, i.e. brigid óig, Brigid the Virgin.—D. M.
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NUMBER 20. SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 1840. VOLUME I.
SAINT BRIDGET’S SHAWL,
BY T. E., AUTHOR OF “DARBY DOYLE,” ETC.
AMONGST the many extraordinary characters with which this country abounds, such as fools, madmen, onshochs, omadhauns, hair-brains, crack-brains, and naturals, I have particularly taken notice of one. His character is rather singular. He begs about Newbridge, county of Kildare: he will accept of any thing offered him, except money—that he scornfully refuses; which fulfils the old adage, “None but a fool will refuse money.” His habitation is the ruins of an old fort or ancient stronghold called Walshe’s Castle, on the road to Kilcullen, near Arthgarvan, and within a few yards of the river Liffey, far away from any dwelling. There he lies on a bundle of straw, with no other covering save the clothes he wears all day. Many is the evening I have seen this poor crazy creature plod along the road to his desolate lodging. There is another stamp of singularity on his character: his name is Pat Mowlds, but who dare attempt to call him Pat? It must be Mr Mowlds, or he will not only be offended himself, but will surely offend those who neglect this respect. In general he is of a downcast, melancholy disposition, boasts of being very learned, is much delighted when any one gives him a ballad or old newspaper. Sometimes he gets into a very good humour, and will relate many anecdotes in a droll style.
About two years ago, as I happened to be sauntering along the border of the Curragh, I overtook this solitary being.
“A fine morning, Mr Mowlds,” was my address.
“Yes, sur, thank God, a very fine morning; shure iv we don’t have fine weather in July, when will we have it ?“
“What a great space of ground this is to lie waste—what a quantity of provisions it would produce—what a number of people it would employ and feed!” said I.
“Oh, that’s very thrue, sur; but was it all sown in pittaties, what would become ov the poor sheep? Shure we want mutton as well as pittaties—besides, all the devarshin we have every year.—Why, thin, maybe ye have e’er an ould newspaper or ballit about ye?“
I said I had not, but a couple of Penny Journals should be at his service which I had in my pocket.
“Och, any thing at all that will keep a body amused, though I have got a great many of them; but among them all I don’t see any pitcher or any account of the round tower furninst ye; nor any account ov the fire Saint Bridget kept in night an’ day for six hundred years; nor any thing about the raison why it was put out; nor any thing about how Saint Bridget came by this piece ov ground; nor any thing about the ould Earl ov Kildare, who rides round the Curragh every seventh year with silver spurs and silver reins to his horse—God bless ye, sur, have ye e’er a bit of tobacky?—there’s not a word about this poor counthry at all.”
My senses were now driven to anxiety—I gave him some tobacco. He then resumed:—
“Och, an’ faix it’s myself that can tell all about those things. Shure my grandfather was brother to one of the ould anshint bards who left him all his books, and he left them to my mother, who left them to me.”
“Well, Mr Mowlds,” I said, “you must have a perfect knowledge of those things—let us hear something of their contents.”
“Why, thin, shure, sur, I can’t do less. Now, you see, sur, it’s my fashion like the priests and ministhers goin’ to praich: they must give a bit ov a text out ov some larned book, and that’s the way with me. So here goes—mind the words:
“The seventeenth ov March, on King Dermot’s great table,
Where ninety-nine beeves were all roast at a time,
We dhrank to the memory, while we wor able,
Ov Pathrick, the saint ov our nation;
And gaily wor dhrinkin’, roarin’, shoutin’,
Cead mille faltha, acushla machree.
There was Cathleen so fair, an’ Elleen so rare!
With Pathrick an’ Nora,
An’ flauntin’ Queen Dorah!
On Pathrick’s day in the mornin’.
County Kildare an’ the sky over it!
Short grass for ever !”
He thus ended with a kick up of his heel which nearly touched the nape of his neck, and a flourish of his stick at the same time. Then turning to me he said,
“I am not going to tell you one word about the fire—I am going to tell you how Saint Bridget got all this ground. Bad luck to Black Noll (a name given to Cromwell) with his crew ov dirty Sasanachs that tore down the church; and if they could have got on the tower, that would be down also. No matther—every dog will have his day. Sit down on this hill till we have a shaugh ov the dhudheen. In this hill lie buried all the bones ov the poor fellows that Gefferds killed the time ov the throuble, peace an’ rest to their souls!”
“But to the story, Mr Mowlds,” I said, as I watched him with impatiencc while he readied his pipe with a large pin.
“Well, sur, here goes. Bad luck to this touch, it’s damp: the rain blew into my pocket t’other night an’ wetted it—ha, I have it.
Now, sur, you persave by the words ov my text that a great feast was kept up every year at the palace of Castledermot on Saint Pathrick’s day. Nothing was to be seen for many days before but slaughtering ov bullocks, skiverin’ ov pullets, rowlin’ in ov barrels, an’ invitin’ all the quolity about the counthry; nor did the roolocks and spalpeens lag behind—they never waited to be axt; all came to lind a frindly hand at the feast; nor war the kings ov those days above raisin’ the ax to slay a bullock. King O’Dermot was one ov those slaughtherin’ kings who wouldn’t cringe at the blood ov any baste.
‘Twas on one ov those festival times that he sallied out with his ax in his hand to show his dexterity in the killin’ way. The butchers brought him the cattle one afther another, an’ he laid them down as fast as they could be dhrained ov their blood.
Afther layin’ down ninety-nine, the last ov a hundhred was brought to him. Just as he riz the ax to give it the clout, the ox with a sudden chuck drew the stake from the ground, and away with him over hill an’ dale, with the swingin’ block an’ a hundred spalpeens at his heels. At last he made into the river just below Kilcullen, when a little gossoon thought to get on his back; but his tail bein’ very long, gave a twitch an’ hitched itself in a black knot round the chap’s body, and so towed him across the river.
Away with him then across the Curragh, ever till he came to where Saint Bridget lived. He roared at the gate as if for marcy. Saint Bridget was just at the door when she saw the ox with his horns thrust through the bars.
‘Arrah, what ails ye, poor baste?’ sez she, not seein’ the boy at his tail.
‘Och,’ sez the boy, makin’ answer for the ox, ‘for marcy sake let me in. I’m the last ov a hundred that was goin’ to be kilt by King O’Dermot for his great feast to.morrow; but he little knows who I am.’
Begor, when she heard the ox spake, she was startled; but rousin’ herself, she said,
‘Why, thin, it ‘ud be fitther for King O’Dermot to give me a few ov yees, than be feedin’ Budhavore: it’s well you come itself.’
‘Ah, but, shure, you won’t kill me, Biddy Darlin,’ sez the chap, takin’ the hint, as it was nigh dark, and Biddy couldn’t see him with her odd eye; for you must know, sur, that she was such a purty girl when she was young, that the boys used to be runnin’ in dozens afther her. At last she prayed for somethin’ to keep them from tormenting her. So you see, sur, she was seized with the small-pox at one side ov her face, which blinded up her eye, and left the whole side ov her face in furrows, while the other side remained as beautiful as ever
‘In troth you needn’t fear me killin’ ye,’ sez she; ‘but where can I keep ye?’
‘Och,’ says the arch wag, ‘shure when I grow up to be a bull I can guard yer ground.’
‘Ground, in yeagh,’ sez the saint; ‘shure I havn’t as much as would sow a ridge ov pittaties, barrin’ the taste I have for the girls to walk on.’
‘And did you ax the king for nane?’ sed the supposed ox.
‘In troth I did, but the ould budhoch refused me twice’t.’
‘Well, Biddy honey,’ sez the chap, ‘the third offer’s lucky. Go to-morrow, when he’s at dinner, and you may come at the soft side ov him. But won’t you give some refreshment to this poor boy that I picked up on the road? I fear he is dead or smothered hanging at my tail.’
Well, to be sure, the chap hung his head (moryeah) when he sed this.
Out St Bridget called a dozen ov nuns, who untied the knot, and afther wipin’ the chap as clean as a new pin, brought him into the kitchen, and crammed him with the best of aitin’ and drinkin’; but while they wor doing this, away legged the ox. St Bridget went out to ax him some questions consarnin’ the king, but he was gone.
“Pon my sowkins,’ sed she, ‘but that was a mighty odd thing entirely. Faix, an it’s myself that will be off to Castledermot to-morrow, hit or miss.’
Well, sur, the next day she gother together about three dozen nuns.
‘Toss on yer mantles,’ sez she, ‘an’ let us be off to Castledermot.’
‘With all harts,’ sez they.
‘Come here, Norah,’ sez she to the sarvint maid. ‘Slack down the fire,’ sez she, ‘and be sure you have the kittle on. I couldn’t go to bed without my tay, was it ever so late.’
So afther givin’ her ordhers off they started.
Well, behould ye, sur, when she got within two miles ov the palace, word was brought to the king that St Bridget and above five hundred nuns were on the road, comin’ to dine with him.
‘O tundheranounthers,’ roared the king, ‘what’ll I do for their dinner? Why the dhoul didn’t she come an hour sooner, or sent word yestherday? Such a time for visithers! Do ye hear me, Paudeen Roorke?’ sez he, turnin’ to his chief butler: ‘run afther Rory Condaugh, and ax him did he give away the two hind quarthers that I sed was a little rare.’
‘Och, yer honor,’ sed Paudeen Roorke, ‘shure he gev them to a parcel of boccochs at the gate.’
‘The dhoul do them good with it! Oh, fire and faggots! what’ll become ov me?—shure she will say I have no hospitality, an’ lave me her curse. But, cooger, Paudeen: did the roolocks overtake the ox that ran away yestherday?’
‘Och, the dhoul a haugh ov him ever was got, yer honor.’
‘Well, it’s no matther; that’ll be a good excuse; do you go and meet her; I lave it all to you to get me out ov this hobble.’
‘Naboclish,’ said Paudeen Roorke, cracking his fingers, an’out he started. Just as he got to the door he met her going to come in. Well become the king, but he shlipt behind the door to hear what ud be sed. ‘Bedhahusth,’ he roared to the guests that wor going to dhrink his health while his back was turned.
‘God save yer reverence!’ said St Bridget to the butler, takin’ him for the king’s chaplain, he had such a grummoch face on him; ‘can I see the king?’
‘God save you kindly!’ sed Paudeen, ‘to be shure ye can.
Who will I say wants him?’ eyeing the black army at her heels.
‘Tell him St Bridget called with a few friends to take pot luck.’
‘Oh, murther!’ sed Paudeen, ‘why didn’t you come an hour sooner? I’m afraid the meat is all cowld, we waited so long for ye.’
‘Och, don’t make any bones about it,’ sed St Bridget: ‘it’s a cowld stummock can’t warm its own mait.’
‘In troth that’s thrue enough,’ sed Paudeen; ‘but I fear there isn’t enough for so many.
‘Why, ye set of cormorals,’ sed she, ‘have ye swallied the whole ninety-nine oxen that ye kilt yestherday?’
‘Oh, blessed hour!’ groaned the king to himself, ‘how did she know that? Och, I suppose she knows I’m here too.’
‘Oh, bad scran to me!’ said Paudeen, ‘but we had the best and fattest keepin’ for you, but he ran away.’
‘In troth you needn’t tell me that,’ sez she; ‘I know all about yer doings. If I’m sent away without my dinner itself, I must see the king.’
Just as she sed this, a hiccup seized the king, so loud that it reached the great hall. The guests, who war all silent by the king’s order, thought he sed hip, hip!—so. Such a shout, my jewel as nearly frightened the saint away.
‘In troth,’ ses she, ‘I’d be very sorry to venthur among such a set of riff-raff, any way. But who’s this behind the door?’ sez she, cockin’ her eye. ‘Oh, I beg pardon!—I hope no inthrusion—there ye are—ye’ll save me the trouble ov goin’ in.’
‘Oh,’ sed the king (hic), ‘I tuck a little sick in my stummock, and came down to get fresh air. I beg pardon. Why didn’t you come in time to dinner?’
‘I want no dinner,’ said she; ‘I came to speak on affairs ov state.’
‘Why, thin,’ said the king, ‘before ye state them, ye must come in and take a bit in yer fingers, at any rate.’
‘In troth,’ sez she, ‘I was always used to full and plenty, and not any scrageen bits; and to think ov a king’s table not having a flaugooloch meal, is all nonsense: that’s like the taste ov ground I axt ye for some time ago.’
Begor, sur, when she sed that, she gev him such a start that the hiccough left him.
‘Ah, Biddy, honey,’ sez he, ‘shure ye wor only passin a joke to cure me: say no more—it’s all gone.’
Just as he sed this, he heard a great shout at a distance: out he pulled his specks, an’ put them on his nose; when to his joy he saw a whole crowd ov spalpeens dhrivin’ the ox before them. The king, forgettin’ who he was spaikin’ to, took off his caubeen, and began to wave it, as he ran off to meet them.
‘Oh! mahurpendhoul, but ye’re brave fellows,’ sez he; ‘whoever it was that cotch him shall have a commission in my life guards. I never wanted a joint more. Galong, every mother’s son ov yees, and borry all the gridirons and frying-pans ye can get. Hand me the axe, till I have some steaks tost up for a few friends.’
So, my jewel, while ye’d say thrap-stick, the ox was down, an’ on the gridirons before the life was half out ov him.
Well, to be shure, St Bridget got mighty hungry, as she had walked a long way. She then tould the king that the gentlemen should lave the room, as she could not sit with any one not in ordhers, and they being a little out ov ordher. So, to make themselves agreeable to her ordhers, they quit the hall, and went out to play at hurdles.
When the king recollected who he was goin’ to give dinner to, sez he to himself, ‘Shure no king ought to be above sarvin’ a saint.’ So over he goes to his wife the queen.
‘Dorah,’ sez he,’ do ye know who’s within?’ ‘Why, to be shure I do,’ sez she; ‘ain’t it Bridheen na Keogue?’
‘Ye’re right,’ sez he, ‘and you know she’s a saint; an’ I think it will be- for the good ov our sowls that she kem here to-day. Come, peel off yer muslins, and help me up wid the dinner.’
‘In troth I’ll not,’ sez the queen; ‘shure ye know I’m a black Prospitarian, an’ bleeve nun ov yer saints.’
‘Arrah, nun ov yer quare ways,’ sez he: ‘don’t you wish my sowl happy, any how?—an’ if you help me, you will be only helpin’ my sowl to heaven.’
‘Oh, in that case,’ sez she, ‘here’s at ye: and the sooner the betther. But one charge I’d give ye: take care how ye open your claub about ground: ye know she thought to come round ye twice before.
So in the twinklin’ ov an eye she went down to the kitchen, an’ put on a prashkeen, an’ was first dish at the table.
The king saw every one lashin’ away at their dinner except Bridget.
‘Arrah, Biddy, honey,’ sez he, ‘why don’t ye help yerself?’
‘Why, thin,’ sez she, ‘the dhoul a bit, bite or sup, I’ll take undher yer roof until ye grant me one favour.’
‘And what is that?’ sez the king; ‘shure ye know a king must stand to his word was it half his kingdom, and how do I know but ye want to chouse me out ov it: let me know first what ye want.’
‘Well, thin, Mr King O’Dermot,’ sez she, ‘all I want is a taste ov ground to sow a few pays in.’
‘Well, an’ how much do ye want, yer reverence,’ sez he, all over ov a thrimble, betune his wife’s dark looks, and the curse he expected from Bridget if he refused.
‘Not much,’ sez she, ‘for the present. You don’t know how I’m situated. All the pilgrims going to Lough Dhearg are sent to me to put the pays in their brogues, an’ ye know I havn’t as much ground as would sow a pint; but if ye only give me about fifty acres, I’ll be contint.’
‘Fifty acres!’ roared the king, stretching his neck like a goose.
‘Fifty acres!’ roared the queen, knitting her brows; ‘shure that much ground would fill their pockets as well as their brogues.’
‘There ye’re out ov it,’ said the saint; ‘why, it would’nt be half enough if they got their dhue according to their sins; but I’ll lave it to yerself.’
‘How much will ye give?’ ‘Not an acre,’ said the queen.
‘Oh, Dorah,’ sed the king, ‘let me give the crathur some.’
‘Not an inch,’ sed the queen, ‘if I’m to be misthress here.’
‘Oh, I beg pardon,’ sez the saint; ‘so, Mr King O’Dermot, you are undher petticoat government I see; but maybe I won’t match ye for all that. Now, take my word, you shall go on penance to Lough Dhearg before nine days is about; and instead ov pays ye shall have pebble stones and swan shot in yer brogues. But it’s well for you, Mrs Queen, that ye’re out ov my reach, or I’d send you there barefooted, with nothing on hut yer stockings.’
When the king heard this, he fell all ov a thrimble. ‘Oh, Dorah,’ sez he, ‘give the crathur a little taste ov ground to satisfy her.’
‘No, not as much as she could play ninepins on,’ sez she, shakin’ her fist and grindin’ her teeth together; ‘and I hope she may send you to Lough Dhearg, as she sed she would.’
‘Why, thin, have ye no feeling for one ov yer own sex?’ sez the saint. ‘I’ll go my way this minit, iv ye only give me as much as my shawl will cover.’
‘Oh, that’s a horse ov another colour,’ sez the queen; ‘you may have that, with a heart and a half. But you know very well if I didn’t watch that fool ov a man, he’d give the very nose off his face if a girl only axt him how he was.’
Well, sur, when the king heard this, he grew as merry as a cricket. ‘Come, Biddy,’ sez he, ‘we mustn’t have a dhry bargain, any how.’
‘Oh, ye’ll excuse me, Mr King O’Dermot,’ sez she; ‘I never drink stronger nor wather.’
‘Oh, son ov Fingal,’ exclaimed the king, ‘do ye hear this, and it Pathrick’s day!’
‘Oh, I intirely forgot that,’ sez she. ‘Well, then, for fear ye’d say I was a bad fellow, I’ll just taste. Shedhurdh.’
Well, sur, after the dhough-an-dheris she went home very well pleased that she was to get ever a taste ov ground at all, and she promised the king to make his pinance light, and that she would boil the pays for him, as she did with young men ov tendher conshinses; but as to ould hardened sinners, she’d keep the pays till they’d be as stale as a sailor’s bisket.
Well, to be shure, when she got home she set upwards ov a hundhred nuns at work to make her shawl, during which time she was never heard of. At last, afther six months’ hard labour, they got it finished.
‘Now, sez she, ‘it’s time I should go see the king, that he may come and see that I take no more than my right. So, taking no one with her barrin’ herself and one nun, off she set.
The king and queen were just sitting down to tay at the parlour window when she got there.
‘Whoo! talk of the dhoul and he’ll appear,’ sez he. ‘Why, thin, Biddy honey, it’s an age since we saw ye. Sit down; we’re just on the first cup. Dorah and myself were afther talkin’ about ye, an’ thought ye forgot us intirely. Well, did ye take that bit ov ground?’
‘Indeed I’d be very sorry to do the likes behind any one’s back. You must come to-morrow and see it measured.’
‘Not I, ‘pon my sowkins,’ sed the king: ‘do ye think me so mane as to doubt yer word?’
‘Pho! pho!’ sed the queen, ‘such a taste is not worth talkin’ ov; but, just to honour ye, we shall attind in state to-morrow. Sit down.’
She took up her station betune the king an’ queen: the purty side ov her face was next the king, an’ the ugly side next the queen.
‘I can’t be jealous ov you, at any rate,’ sod the queen to herself, as she never saw her veil off before.
‘Oh, murther!’ sez the king, ‘what a pity ye’re a saint, and Dorah to be alive. Such a beauty!’
Just as he was starin’, the queen happened to look over at a looking-glass, in which she saw Biddys pretty side.
‘Hem!’ sez she, sippin’ her cup. ‘Dermot,’ sez she, ‘it’s very much out ov manners to be stuck with ladies at their tay. Go take a shaugh ov the dhudheen, while we talk over some affairs ov state.’
Begor, sur, the king was glad ov the excuse to lave them together, in the hopes St Bridget would convart his wife.
Well, sur, whatever discoorse they had, I disremember, but the queen came down in great humour to wish the saint good night, an’ promised to be on the road the next day to Kildare.
‘Faix,’ sez the saint, ‘I was nigh forgettin’ my gentility to wish the king good night. Where is he?’
‘Augh, and shure myself doesn’t know, barrin’ he’s in the kitchen.’
‘In the kitchen!’ exclaimed the saint; ‘oh fie!’
‘Ay, indeed, just cock yer eye,’ sez the queen, ‘to the a key-hole: that dhudheen is his excuse. I can’t keep a maid for him.’
‘Oh! is that the way with him?.—never fear: I’ll make his pinance purty sharp for that. At any rate call him out an’ let us part in friends.’
So, sur, afther all the compliments wor passed, the king sed he should go see her a bit ov the road, as it was late: so off he went. The moon had just got up, an’ he walked alongside the saint at the ugly side; but when he looked round to praise her, an’ pay her a little compliment, he got sich a fright that he’d take his oath it wasn’t her at all, so he was glad to get back to the queen.
Well, sur, next morning the queen ordhered the long car to be got ready, with plenty ov clean straw in it, as in those times they had no coaches; then regulated her life guards, twelve to ride before and twelve behind, the king at one side and the chief butler at the other, for without the butler she couldn’t do at all, as every mile she had to stop the whole retinue till she’d get refreshment. In the meantime, St Bridget placed her nuns twenty-one miles round the Curragh. At last the thrumpet sounded, which gave notice that the king was coming. As soon as they halted, six men lifted the queen up on the throne, which they brought with them on the long car. The king ov coorse got up by her side.
‘Well, Dorah,’ sez he in a whisper, ‘what a laugh we’ll have at Biddy, with her shawl!’
‘I don’t know that neither,’ sez the queen. ‘It looks as thick as Finmocool’s boulsther, as it hangs over her shoulder.’
‘God save yer highness,’ sed the saint, as she kem up to them. ‘Why, ye sted mighty long. I had a snack ready for ye at one o’clock.’
‘Och, it’s no matther,’ sez the queen; ‘measure yer bit ov ground, and we then can have it in comfort.’
So with that St Bridget threw down her shawl, which she had cunningly folded up.
Now, sur, this shawl was made ov fine sewin’ silk, all network, each mesh six feet square, and tuck thirty-six pounds ov silk, and employed six hundred and sixty nuns for three months making it.
Well, sur, as I sed afore, she threw it on the ground.
‘Here, Judy Conway, run to Biddy Conroy with this corner, an’ let her make aff in the direckshin ov Kildare, an’ be shure she runs the corner into the mon’stery. Here, you, Nelly Murphy, make off to Kilcullen; an’ you, Katty Farrel, away with you to Ballysax; an’ you, Nelly Doye, away to Arthgarvan; an’ you, Rose Regan, in the direckshin of Connell; an’ you, Ellen Fogarty, away in the road to Maddenstown an’you, Jenny Purcel, away to Airfield. Just hand it from one to t’other.’
So givin’ three claps ov her hand, off they set like hounds, an’ in a minnit ye’d think a haul ov nuns wor cotched in the net.
‘Oh, millia murther!’ sez the queen, ‘she’s stretchin’ it over my daughter’s ground.’
‘Oh, blud-an’-turf!’ sez the king, ‘now she’s stretchin’ it over my son’s ground. Galong, ye set ov thaulabawns,’ sed he to his life-guards; ‘galong, I say, an’ stop her, else she’ll cover all my dominions.’
“Oh fie, yer honour,’ sez the chief butler; ‘if you break yer word, I’m not shure ov my wages.’
Well behould ye, sur, in less than two hours Saint Bridget had the whole Curragh covered.
‘Now see what a purty kittle of fish you’ve made ov it!’ sez the queen.
‘No, but it’s you, Mrs Queen O’Derrnot, ‘twas you agreed to this.’
‘Ger out, ye ould bosthoon,’ sez the queen, ‘ye desarve it all: ye might aisy guess that she’d chouse ye. Shure iv ye had a grain ov sinse, ye might recollect how yer cousin King O’Toole was choused by Saint Kavin out ov all his ground, by the saint stuffin’ a lump ov a crow into the belly ov the ould goose.’
‘Well, Dorah, never mind; if she makes a hole, I have a peg for it. Now, Biddy,’ sez he, ‘though I gave ye the ground, I forgot to tell ye that I only give it for a certain time. I now tell ye from this day forward you shall only have it while ye keep yer fire in.’”
Here I lost the remainder of his discourse by my ill manners. I got so familiar with Mr Mowlds, and so interested with his story, that I forgot my politeness.
“And what about the fire, PAT ?” said I, without consideration.
Before I could recollect the offence, he turned on me with the eyes of a maniac—
“The dhoul whishper nollege into your ear. Pat! — (hum)
—Pat!—Pat!—this is freedom, with all my heart.”
So saying, he strode away, muttering something between his teeth. However, I hope again to meet him, when I shall be little more cautious in my address.
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St. Brigid ('!), Feb. 1, born about the middle of the 5th century, died in or before 525 (breeyith, Bhide, Bridget, Brighit, Brigida, Briid, Bkitta, Bryde, Brydock ; in France, Bhigitte ; in Holland, Brie, Brighe ; the Mary of Ireland), the "Fiery Dart." Patron of Ireland, Leinster, Kildare, of the family of Douglas, and of cattle and dairies. The dedications in her name are very numerous in Ireland and on the western side of Great Britain. Represented (1) with flames playing round her head; (2) with a cow and a large bowl.
The greatest of all the Irish saints, except St. Patrick. Founder of the first nunnery in Ireland, and chief over many monasteries for both sexes. Bishop Conlaeth, or Conlian, at the time head of the bishops and abbots, attended to the spiritual interests of her nuns and the services of her church.
Montalembert says that Ireland was evangelized by two slaves, Patrick and Bridgid; that Brigid was twice sold, was flogged, insulted, and subjected to the hardest labour required of a female slave in those days; she learnt mercy in the school of suffering and oppression; she became a nun, but by no means a recluse; she travelled all over Ireland, and had frequent and important intercourse with all sorts and conditions of persons, but always in the interest of souls, or with a view to helping the- unfortunate. She was honoured with the friendship and confidence of the holiest and most learned Irishmen of her time, among whom tradition places St. Ere, bishop of Slane, St. Mel of Ardagh, Cailaet, bishop of Kildare, St. Ailbe of Emly, St. Brendan of Clonfert, St. Gildas, who sent her a small bell cast by himself. St. Finnian was also, her contemporary, and once preached before her and her nuns at Kildare. She is believed to have been contemporary with St. Patrick, although much younger. There is considerable uncertainty as to her dates, and still more ns to his. She died, upwards of seventy, in or before 525. In an old Life of St. Patrick, it is said that she fell asleep while he was preaching, and that he made her tell her dream, which he interpreted as referring to the fnture history of Ireland. One legend says that he taught her to play on the harp, and that she embroidered a shroud for him at his- own request, and took it to him at the monastery of Saball; he then charged her to bless Ireland for thirty years after his death.
Here are some of the countless traditions concerning St. Brigid. She was the daughter of Dubtach, a nobleman of Leinster, who was descended from Eochard, brother of King Conn of the Hundred Battles; her mother was Broet- seach or Brocessa O'Connor, his slave. Dubtach's wife had several sons, but no daughter, and her jealousy of Brocessa was increased by the prophecy that Brocessa would give birth to a daughter who should be very illustrious. She insisted that Brocessa should be sent away. So Dubtach sold her to a magician or bard at Faugher, near Dun- dalk, with the condition that her child should be returned to him. The night that she arrived in her new home, a holy man came begging for hospitality. He passed the whole night in prayer, and in the morning told his host he had seen a globe of fire resting over the place where the servant slept. One day the bard iavited his king and qneen to supper, bnt the queen could not come because she was hourly expecting to have a child. The friends and servants of the king inquired of the bard what sort of child the qneen would have, and when it wonld be born. He told them that it would have no equal in Ireland if it were born at sunrise, neither in the house nor ont of the house. At midnight the queen gave birth to a son. Very early in the morning, Brocessa went and milked the cows as usual. She returned with a large pail of milk. As she entered her master's door, having one foot in the house and one foot out, she fell down on the threshold, and there, at the moment of sunrise, she was delivered of a daughter, Brigid, whose infancy was illustrated by prodigies, and who was evidently under the immediate protection of Heaven. Flames often filled her room or surrounded her head, but did not hart her or destroy anything. No food was found to suit her until the magician set apart a beautiful white cow for her use, and got a Christian woman to milk it. According to agreement, the bard cent the child Brigid to her father. Once she went to help her mother, who was making butter and taking care of the cows some distance from her master's house. As fast as the butter was made,
Brigid, who said, " Every guest is Christ," gave it all away to beggars and travellers. After a time the magician and his wife came to the farm to fetch the butter. When Brigid saw what a large cask they had brought to carry it away in, she was much embarrassed, knowing she had only the supply of one day and a half; however, she received them cheerfully, washed their feet, and gave them. food. She then went to her own cell and prayed, and afterwards brought the butter she had to the bard's wife, who laughed at her and said, " Is that all the butter yon have made in so many days?" Brigid said, "Fill the cask: you shall have butter enough." The woman began putting the butter into her large receptacle out of Brigid's little one, and very soon it was quite full. When the magician saw that miracle, ho said to Brigid, " You shall have all the butter for yourself, and the twelve cows which you have milked shall be yours also." Brigid said, " Keep your cows, and give me my mother's freedom." The magician answered, " The cows and the butter and your mother are yours." Then he believed in Christ and was baptized, and Brigid gave all his gifts to the poor, and returned to Dubtach with her mother. Her father offered to sell her to tho king, saying that he wished to get rid of her because she gave to the poor everything she could lay her hands upon. While they were in the house discussing the matter, Brigid was left in the carriage at the door. A beggar asked her for alms, and as she had no money she gave him her father's sword, which was a gift from the king. When he came back, she said that what she gave to the poor she gave to Christ, that her father and the king ought to be glad that the sword was so honoured, and that if she could, she would give them both, and everything that belonged to them, to Christ. The king then gave her a new sword for her father.
Some Christians, travelling through the country, were taken by Dubtach's followers. As they could not give a satisfactory account of themselves, they were condemned to death as rogues and
spies. Brigid said they were minstrels, and bade them play on her harp. " Alas," said the strangers, " we have never learnt music." " Fear not," replied Brigid, " play." And she blessed their hands, laying her own upon them ; whorenpou the strangers played and sang more beautifully than any minstrels that had ever been heard in that hall.
When she was sixteen, her wisdom and beauty wore praised throughout the land. Her father, who had no other daughter, wished her to make nu advantageous marriage; but Brigid, being determined to consecrate her life to the service of God and to works of mercy, prayed that some deformity might come upon her to deliver her from liability to marriage. Immediately one of her eyes burst in her head, thus destroying all her beauty. Dubtach then permitted her to take the veil. As she knelt to receive it, the wood of the altar became green at her touch, and for years afterwards effected miraculous cures. At the same time, her lost eye was restored, and a pillar of fire appeared above her head. Her enthusiasm soon led other women to join her. At first they lived together at Kilbrighde, or Kilbude, near the sea. There are many places of this name in Ireland, but this is supposed to be the one in the county Waterford. After a time, Brigid built herself a cell under a goodly oak, and added a church and other buildings for her nuns. This was Kildare, Kil Dara, the cell or chapel of the oak. There were already communities of men, and there were churches and Christian schools, but this was the first convent of women in Ireland. The dwellings of the nuns were probably a number of huts or cells close to the church. The church was divided into three parts, ono for monks, one for nuns, and one for the people.
Brigid always showed a deep and tender sympathy for slaves and captives, whose troubles she knew by experience. Once she went to ask for the liberty of a captive; the master was absent, but she made friends with his foster-father and brothers by teaching them to play the harp, and had already a strong party in her favour when the chief came home.
Charmed by her music, he begged her blessing, which was granted on condition of his setting his prisoner at liberty.
She took a great interest in young persons, and delighted to encourage them in virtue and piety. Ono day, as she was standing outside the monastery with some of her nuns, she saw a young man, named Nennidh, running very fast. " Bring that youth to me," commanded the abbess. He came with apparent reluctance. " Whither so fast ? " asked Brigid. Nennidh answered, with a laugh, that he was running to the kingdom of heaven. " I wish," said Brigid, " that I were worthy to run there with you to-day. Pray for me, that I may arrive there." The young man, touched by her words, begged her to pray for him, and resolved to embrace a religions life. Brigid then foretold that ho was. the person from whom sho should receive the holy viaticum on the day of her death. Ho took great pains to keep his hand worthy of so great an honour, and was called Nennidh, the clean-handed. He wrote a hymn in honour of St. Brigid, preserved in Colgan's Acts of the Saints, Jan. 18. He is numbered among the saints, but is not the great St. Nennidh, surnamed Laobh-deare, the one-eyed, or squinting.
Many of the stories of the life of St. Brigid relate to the journeys and eicur- sions she used to make in her carriage. On one of these journeys she saw a poor family carrying heavy burdens of wood, and with her usual kindness gave them her horses. She and her sisters sat down by the wayside, and she told them to dig there for water. As soon as they did so, a fountain sprang from the earth, and presently a chieftain passed by and gave his horses to Brigid.
Another time she happened to be alone in a friend's house when some persona camo begging for bread. She looked about for any of tho household, but could see no ono except a boy lying on the ground. He was deaf and paralytic, but Brigid did not know it She said to him, " Boy, thou knowost where the keys are ? " He said, " Yes, I know." The holy woman then told him to go and serve these poor persons, which he did, and hail his faculties ever after.
In a time of famine she went with some of her nuns and asked for provisions from Bishop Ybar. He had no bread, so he set before her a stone with some lard. The stone became bread, and Brigid and the bishop were satisfied to make a meal of it, but two of the virgins, desiring to eat flesh, hid it, and they fonnd it turned into serpents. Brigid rebuked them, and on their repentance the serpents again became bread.
She had power over wild beasts. Once when a wolf had killed a sheep-dog, she made him take the place of his victim, and drive the sheep without frightening them.
Cows, calves, milk, and butter figure largely in the legends of this saint. A number of strangers arrived at her home, and as she had nothing to give them but what she could get from one cow, she milked it throe times, and it gave as much as three cows. It is in allusion to this legend that she appears in some pictures holding a large bowl.
She seems to have shown severity or inflicted punishment only when the objects of her anger wore guilty of un- kindness. For instance, when a woman refused to wash a leper whom Brigid intended to heal, she transferred the leprosy to the unkind one, but afterwards prayed for her, and thereby healed her. One day two lepers came begging, and she gave them a calf Ono of them said he did not want half a calf, and did not care to have it unless be might have it all to himself. Brigid bode him take the animal, and said to the other, "Wait with me a little while, and see if God will send you anything to make up for your share of the calf." She procured another calf for him, and he went and overtook the ungrateful leper. They soon came to a great rivor, and the good leper and his calf arrived safely at the other side, but the thankless one and his calf were washed away and drowned.
Her hospitality and charity were unbounded. The fame of her holiness, her miracles, and her prophetic powers extended to Scotland. It is said that King
Nectan, being driven ont of Scotland, went to Ireland, and there visited Brigid, and asked for her prayers. She promised that if he went back to his own country God would have mercy upon him, and he should possess the kingdom of the Picts in peace.
She was upwards of seventy when she died. She was buried at Kildare, and translated to Downpatriok, where she was laid beside St. Patrick and St. Columba.
It is a mistake to identify her with St. Bbigid Of Glastonbury or St. Brigid Of Abernethy. Several other saints of the same name, contemporary with her, or nearly so, are mentioned hy Colgan. She is honoured in many places and calendars on the Continent, but is perhaps not so universally known there as St. Brigid op Sweden.
After her death, the sacred fire, which she had kept perpetually burning, and which caused the church of Kildare to be called tho house of fire, was kept up on her tomb until 122(1, when sundry accusations of superstition and heathenism having arisen against the custom, Henry London, archbishop of Dublin, ordered it to be put out to avert scandal. It was relighted and kept burning until the time of Henry VIII., when the nuns were banished from Kildare, their goods confiscated, and the churches desecrated.
Her Life was written immediately after her death by Brogan (called also Cloen). Another biography of her was written in the same century, another in the following, and so on. Five Lives are given in the Bollandist collection. E.M. Bede, Mart. Colgan, AA.SS. Hibernise. Forbes, Kalendars. Monta- lembert, Monks of the West. Butler. Cahier.
-A Dictionary of Saintly Women.,Agnes Baillie Cunninghame Dunbar,Bell, 1904
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OH Glorious St. Brigid, Mother of the Churches of Erin, patroness of our missionary race, wherever their lot may be cast I be thou our guide in the paths of virtue, protect us amid temptation, shield us from danger. Preserve to us the heritage of chastity and temperance ; keep ever brightly burning on the altar of our hearts the sacred Fire of Faith, Charity, and Hope, that thus we may emulate the ancient piety of Ireland's children, and the Church of Erin may shine with peerless glory as of old. Thou wert styled by our fathers " The Mary of Erin," secure for us by thy prayers the all-powerful protection of the Blessed Virgin, that we may be numbered here among her most fervent clients, and may hereafter merit a place together with Thee and the countless Saints of Ireland, in the ranks of her triumphant children in Paradise. Amen.
-PAtrick F. Cardinal Moran. In St. Brigid, Patroness of Ireland.,Joseph A. Knowles,Browne and Nolan, 1907
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LADY GILBERT (ROSA MULHOLLAND)
A Popular and gifted Irish poetess and novelist of the day, born in Belfast about fifty years ago. She has published one volume of delicate verse (vagrant Verses, 1886); all her other writings, which are numerous, being stories. In 1891 she married Mr. (afterwards Sir J. T.) Gilbert, the noted Irish archaeologist.
A Treasury of Irish Poetry in the English Tongue., Stopford Augustus Brooke, Thomas William Rolleston, Smith, Elder, 1900, pg. 408.
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- Antar and Zara, an Eastern Romance: Inisfail and Other Poems, Meditative and Lyrical., Aubrey De Vere, Stephen Edward Spring-Rice,Henry S. King & Co, 1877,p.216
S. BRIDGET, V. ABSS.
S. Bridget, or Bride as she is called in England, is the Patroness of Ireland, and was famous throughout northern Europe. Leslie says, " She is held in so great honour by Picts, Britons, Angles, and Irish, that more churches are dedicated to God in her memory, than to any other of the saints;" and Hector Boece says, that she was regarded by Scots, Picts, and Irish as only second to the B. Virgin Mary. Unfortunately, little authentic is known of her. The lives extant are for the most part of late composition, and are collected from oral traditions of various value. One life is attributed, however, to Bishop Ultan Mac Concubar, d. circ. 662 ; another, a metrical one, is by the monk Chilian, circ. 740 ; another by one Cogitosus, is of uncertain date ; another is by Laurence, prior of Durham, d. 1154; and there is another, considered ancient, by an anonymous author.]
Ireland was, of old, called the Isle of Saints, because of the great number of holy ones of both sexes who flourished there in former ages; or, who, coming thence, propagated the faith amongst other nations. Of this great number of saints the three most eminent, and who have therefore been honoured as the special patrons of the island, were S. Patrick their apostle, S. Columba, who converted the Picts, and S. Bridget, the virgin of Kildare, whose festival is marked in all the Martyrologies on the 1st day of February.
This holy virgin was born about the middle of the fifth century, in the village of Fochard, in the diocese of Armagh. Her father was a nobleman, called Dubtach, descended from Eschaid, the brother of King Constantine of the Hundred Battles, as he is surnamed by the Irish historians. The legend of her origin is as follows, but it is not to be relied upon, as it is not given by Ultan, Cogitosus, or Chilian of Inis-Keltra.1 Dubtach had a young and beautiful slave- girl, whom he dearly loved, and she became pregnant by him, whereat his wife, in great jealousy and rage, gave him no peace till he had sold her to a bard, but Dubtach, though he sold the slave-girl, stipulated with the purchaser that the child should not go with the mother, but should be returned to him when he claimed it.
Now one day, the king and queen visited the bard to ask an augury as to the child they expected shortly, and to be advised as to the place where the queen should be confined. Then the bard said, " Happy is the child that is born neither in the house nor out of the house!" Now it fell out that Brotseach, the slave-girl, was shortly after returning to the house with a pitcher of fresh warm milk from the cow, when she was seized with labour, and sank down on the threshold, and was delivered neither in the house nor out of the house, and the pitcher of warm sweet milk, falling, was poured over the little child.
When Bridget grew up, her father reclaimed her, and treated her with the same tenderness that he showed to his legitimate children. She had a most compassionate heart,
1 Moreover it contradicts the positive statements of more reliable authors, that Bridget was the legitimate daughter of Brotseach, the wife of Dubtach.
and gave to every beggar what he asked, whether it were hers or not . This rather annoyed her father, who took her one day with him to the king's court, and leaving her outside, in the chariot, went within to the king, and asked his majesty to buy his daughter, as she was too expensive for him to keep, owing to her excessive charity. The king asked to see the girl, and they went together to the door. In the meantime, a beggar had approached Bridget, and unable to resist his importunities, she had given him the only thing she could find, her father's sword, which was a present that had been made him by the king. When Dub- tach discovered this, he burst forth into angry abuse, and the king asked, " Why didst thou give away the royal sword, child ?" " If beggars assailed me," answered Bridget calmly, "and asked for my king and my father, I would give them both away also." "Ah !" said the king, " I cannot buy a girl who holds us so cheap."
Her great beauty caused her to be sought in marriage by a young noble of the neighbourhood, but as she had already consecrated herself by vow to Jesus, the Spouse of virgins, she would not hear of this match. To rid herself of the importunity of her suitor, she prayed to God, that He would render her so deformed that no one might regard her. Her prayer was heard, and a distemper fell on one of her eyes, by which she lost that eye, and became so disagreeable to the sight, that no one thought of giving her any further molestation.1 Thus she easily gained her father's consent that she should consecrate her virginity to God, and become a nun. She took with her three other virgins of that country, and bidding farewell to her friends, went in 469 to the holy bishop Maccail, then at Usny hill, Westmeath; who gave the sacred veil to her and her companions, and received
1 But this legend is given very differently in another Life, and Cogitosus and the 6rst and fourth Lives do not say anything about it. their profession of perpetual virginity. S. Bridget was then only fourteen years old, as some authors assert . The Almighty was pleased on this occasion to declare how acceptable this sacrifice was, by restoring to Bridget the use of her eye, and her former beauty, and, what is still more remarkable, and is particularly celebrated, as well in the Roman, as in other ancient Martyrologies, was, that when the holy virgin, bowing her head, kissed the dry wood of the feet of the altar, it immediately grew green, in token of her purity and sanctity. The story is told of her, that when she was a little child, playing at holy things, she got a smooth slab of stone which she tried to set up as a little altar; then a beautiful angel joined in her play, and made wooden legs to the altar, and bored four holes in the stone, into which the legs might be driven, so as to make it stand.
S. Bridget having consecrated herself to God, built a cell for her abode, under a goodly oak, thence called Kil-dare or the Cell of the Oak; and this foundation grew into a large community, for a great number of virgins resorted to her, attracted by her sanctity, and put themselves under her direction. And so great was the reputation of her virtues, and the place of her abode was so renowned and frequented on her account, that the many buildings erected in the neighbourhood during her lifetime formed a large town, which was soon made the seat of a bishop, and in process of time, the metropolitan see of the whole province.
What the rule embraced by S. Bridget was, is not known, but it appears from her history, that the habit which she received at her profession from S. Maccail was white. Afterwards, she herself gave a rule to her nuns; so that she is justly numbered among the founders of religious Orders. This rule was followed for a long time by the greatest part of the monasteries of sacred virgins in Ireland; all acknowledging our Saint as their mother and mistress, and the monastery of Kildare as the headquarters of their Order. Moreover, Cogitosus informs us, in his prologue to her life, that not only did she rule nuns, but also a large community of men, who lived in a separate monastery. This obliged the Saint to call to her aid out of his solitude, the holy bishop S. Conlaeth, to be the director and father to her monks; and at the same time to be the bishop of the city. The church of Kildare, to suit the requirements of the double monastery and the laity, was divided by partitions into three parts, Cogitosus says, one for the monks, one for the nuns, and the third for the lay people.
As S. Bridget was obliged to go long journeys, the bishop ordained her coachman priest, and the story is told that one day as she and a favourite nun sat in the chariot, the coachman preached to them the Word of God, turning his head over his shoulder. Then said the abbess, " Turn round, that we may hear better, and throw down the reins." So he cast the reins over the front of the chariot, and addressed his discourse to them with his back to the horses. Then one of the horses slipped its neck from the yoke, and ran free; and so engrossed were Bridget and her companion in the sermon of the priestly charioteer, that they did not observe that the horse was loose, and the carriage running all on one side. On another occasion she was being driven over a common near the Liffey, when they came to a long hedge, for a man had enclosed a portion of the common. Then the man shouted to them to go round, and Bridget bade her charioteer so do. But he, thinking that they had a right of way across the newly made field, drove straight at the hedge ; then the proprietor of the field ran forward, and the horses started, and the jolt of the chariot threw S. Bridget and the coachman out of the vehicle, and severely bruised them both. Then the abbess, picking herself up said, " Better to have gone round; short cuts bring broken bones."
Once a family came to Kildare, leaving their house and cattle unguarded, that they might attend a festival in the church, and receive advice from S. Bridget. Whilst they were absent, some thieves stole their cows, and drove them away.
They had to pass the Liffey, which was much swollen, consequently the thieves stripped, and tied their clothes to the horns of the cattle, intending to drive the cows into the river, and swim after them. But the cows ran away, carrying off with them the clothes of the robbers attached to their horns, and they did not stop till they reached the gates of the convent of S. Bridget, the nude thieves racing after them. The holy abbess restored to them their garments, and severely reprimanded them for their attempted robbery.
Other strange miracles are attributed to her, of which it is impossible to relate a tithe. She is said, after a shower of rain, to have come hastily into a chamber, and cast her wet cloak over a sunbeam, mistaking it, in her hurry, for a beam of wood. And the cloak remained there, and the ray of sun did not move, till late at night one of her maidens ran to her, to tell her that the sunbeam waited its release, so she hasted, and removed her cloak, and the ray retired after the long departed sun.
Once a rustic, seeing a wolf run about in proximity to the palace, killed it; not knowing that it was the tame creature of the king; and he brought the dead beast to the king, expecting a reward. Then the prince in anger ordered the man to be cast into prison and executed. Now when Bridget heard this, her spirit was stirred within her, and mounting her chariot, she drove to the court, to intercede for the life of the poor countryman. And on the way, there came a wolf over the bog racing towards her, and it leaped into the chariot, and allowed her to caress it.
Then, when she reached the palace, she went before the king, with the wolf at her side, and said, " Sire ! I have brought thee a better wolf than that thou hast lost, spare therefore the life of the poor man who unwittingly slew thy beast." Then the king accepted her present with great joy, and ordered the prisoner to be released.
One evening she sat with sister Dara, a holy nun, who was blind, as the sun went down ; and they talked of the love of Jesus Christ, and the joys of Paradise. Now their hearts were so full, that the night fled away whilst they spoke together, and neither knew that so many hours had sped. Then the sun came up from behind Wicklow mountains, and the pure white light made the face of earth bright and gay. Then Bridget sighed, when she saw how lovely were earth and sky, and knew that Dara's eyes were closed to all this beauty. So she bowed her head and prayed, and extended her hand and signed the dark orbs of the gentle sister. Then the darkness passed away from them, and Dara saw the golden ball in the east, and all the trees and flowers glittering with dew in the morning light. She looked a little while, and then, turning to the abbess, said, " Close my eyes again, dear mother, for when the world is so visible to the eyes, God is seen less clearly to the soul." So Bridget prayed once more, and Dara's eyes grew dark again.
A madman, who troubled all the neighbourhood, came one day across the path of the holy abbess. Bridget arrested him, and said, " Preach to me the Word of God, and go thy way." Then he stood still and said, " O Bridget, I obey thee. Love God, and all will love thee. Honour God, and all will honour thee. Fear God, and all will fear thee." Then with a howl he ran away. Was there ever a better sermon preached in fewer words.
A very remarkable prophesy of the heresies and false doctrines of later years must not be omitted. One day Bridget fell asleep whilst a sermon was being preached by S. Patrick, and when the sermon was over, she awoke. Then the preacher asked her, " O Bridget, why didst thou sleep, when the Word of Christ was spoken ? " She fell on her knees and asked pardon, saying, " Spare me, spare me, my father, for I have had a dream." Then said Patrick, "Relate thy vision to me." And Bridget said, "Thy hand-maiden saw, and behold the land was ploughed far and wide, and sowers went forth in white raiment, and sowed good seed. And it sprang up a white and goodly harvest. Then came other ploughers in black, and sowers in black, and they hacked, and tore up, and destroyed that beauteous harvest, and strewed tares far and wide. And after that, I looked, and behold, the island was full of sheep and swine, and dogs and wolves, striving with one another and rending one another." Then said S. Patrick, "Alas, my daughter! in the latter days will come false teachers having false doctrine; who shall lead away many, and the good harvest which has sprung up from the Gospel seed we have sown will be trodden under foot; and there shall be controversies in the faith between the faithful and the bringers-in of strange doctrine."
Now when the time of her departure drew nigh, Bridget called to her a dear pupil, named Darlugdach and foretold the day on which she should die. Then Darlugdach wept bitterly, and besought her mother to suffer her to die with her. But the blessed Bridget said, "Nay, my daughter, thou shalt live a whole year after my departure ; and then shalt thou follow me." And so it came to pass. Having received the sacred viaticum from the hands of S. Nennidh, the bishop, the holy abbess exchanged her mortal life for a happy immortality, on February 1st, 525.' Her body was
1 As near as can be ascertained; see Lanigan, Eccl. Hist, of Ireland, vol. 1, p. 455.
interred in the church of Kildare; where her nuns for some ages, to honour her memory, kept a fire always burning ; from which that convent was called the House of Fire, till Henry of London, Archbishop of Dublin, to take away all occasion of superstition, in 1220, ordered it to be extinguished.
The body of the Saint was afterwards translated to Down- Patrick, where it was found in a triple vault, together with the bodies of S. Patrick and S. Columba, in the year 1185. These bodies were, with great solemnity, translated the following year by the Pope's legate, accompanied by fifteen bishops, in presence of an immense number of the clergy, nobility, and people, to a more honourable place of the cathedral of Down ; where they were kept, with due honour, till the time of Henry VIII., when the monument was destroyed by Leonard, Lord Grey, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. S. Bridget's head was saved by some of the clergy, who carried it to Neustadt, in Austria; and from thence, in 1587, it was taken to the church of the Jesuits at Lisbon, to whom the Emperor Rudolf II. gave it.
In art, S. Bridget is usually represented with her perpetual flame as a symbol; sometimes with a column of fire, said to have been seen above her head when she took the veil.
- The Lives of the Saints., Sabine Baring-Gould, J.C. Nimmo, 1897, Vol.2,p.14.
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- The Poems of
Richard D'Alton Williams: "Shamrock" of "The Nation."
Richard D'Alton Williams, P. A. Sillard, James Duffy and Co., ltd., 1894,p.264.
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- Feona McLeod, (William Sharp) -From the hills of dream: threnodies, songs and later poems, by Fiona Macleod: threnodies, songs and later poems, by Fiona Macleod
By William Sharp
Published by , 1907
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Oh, Baby Christ, so dear to me,
Sang Bridget Bride:
Heavy her body was with thee,
Sit on my knee, Sang Bridget
My Lord, my Prince, I sing :
-From the hills of dream: threnodies, songs and later poems, by Fiona Macleod., Fiona Macleod/William Sharp, 1907
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I have heard many names of St. Briget, most beloved of Gaelic saints, with whom the month of February is identified . . . the month of " Bride min, gentle St. Bride "... Brighid boidheach Muime Chriosd, Bride the Beautiful, Christ's Foster Mother . . . but there are three so less common that many even of my readers familiar with the Highland West may not know them. These are " the Fair Woman of February," " St. Bride of the Kindly Fire," and "St. Bride (or Briget) of the Shores." They are of the Isles, and may be heard in some of the sgeu- lachdan gaidhealach, or Gaelic tales, still told among seafaring and hill folk, where the curse of cheap ignoble periodicals is unknown and books are rare. True, in several of the isles . . . Colonsay, Tiree, the Outer Hebrides ..." St. Bride of the Shores " is not infrequent in songs and seasonal hymns, for when her signals are seen along the grey beaches, on the sandy machars, by the meadow path, the glen-track, the white shore-road,
the islanders know that the new year is disclosed at last, that food, warmth, and gladness are coming out of the south. As " the Fair Woman of February," though whatever other designation St. Bride goes by, she is often revealed. Her humble yellow fires are lit among the grasses, on the shore-ways, during this month. Everywhere in the Gaelic lands " Candlemas-Queen" is honoured at this time. Am Fheill Bhride, the Festival of St. Briget, was till recently a festival of joy throughout the west, from the Highland Line to the last weedy shores of Barra or the Lews: in the isles and in the remote Highlands, still is.
It is an old tale, this association of St. Briget with February. It goes further back than the days of the monkish chroniclers who first attempted to put the disguise of verbal Christian raiment on the most widely-loved and revered beings of the ancient Gaelic pantheon. Long before the maiden Brigida (whether of Ireland or Scotland matters little) made her fame as a " daughter of God "; long before to Colum in lona or to Patrick "the great Cleric" in Ireland "Holy St. Bride" revealed in a vision the service she had done to Mary and the Child in far-away Bethlehem in the East; before ever the first bell of Christ was heard by startled Druids coming across the hills and forest lands of Gaul, the Gaels worshipped a Brighde or Bride, goddess of women, of fire, of poetry. When, to-day, a Gaelic islesman alludes to Briget of the Songs, or when a woman of South Uist prays to Good St. Bride to bless the empty cradle that is soon to be filled, or when a shennachie or teller of tales speaks of an oath taken by Briget of the Flame, they refer, though probably unconsciously, to a far older Brighid than do they who speak with loving familiarity of Muime Chriosd, Christ's Foster Mother, or Brighid - nam - Bratta, St. Bride of the Mantle. They refer to one who in the dim, far-off days of the forgotten pagan world of our ancestors was a noble and great goddess. They refer to one to whom the women of the Gael went with offerings and prayers, as went the women of ancient Hellas to the temples of Aphrodite, as went the Syrian women to the altars of Astarte, as went the women of Egypt to the milk-fed shrines of Isis. They refer to one whom the Druids held in honour as a torch bearer of the eternal light, a Daughter of the Morning, who held sunrise in one hand as a little yellow flame, and in the other held the red flower of fire without which men would be as the beasts who live in caves and holes, or as the dark Fomor who have their habitations in cloud and wind and the wilderness. They refer to one whom the bards and singers revered as mistress of their craft, she whose breath was a flame, and that flame song: she whose secret name was fire and whose inmost soul was radiant air, she therefore who was the divine impersonation of the divine thing she stood for, Poetry.
" St. Bride of the Kindly Fire," of whom one may hear to-day as " oh, just Bhrighde m\n Muim (gentle St. Bride the Foster Mother), she herself an' no other," is she, that ancient goddess, whom our ancestors saw lighting the torches of sunrise on the brows of hills, or thrusting the quenchless flame above the horizons of the sea: whom the Druids hailed with hymns at the turn of the year, when, in the season we call February, the firstcomers of the advancing Spring are to be seen on the grey land or on the grey wave or by the grey shores: whom every poet, from the humblest wandering singer to Oisin of the Songs, from Oisin of the Songs to Angus £)g on the rainbow or to Midir of the Under-world, blessed, because of the flame she put in the heart of poets as well as the red life she put in the flame that springs from wood and peat. None forgot that she was the daughter of the ancient God of the Earth, but greater than he, because in him there was but earth and water, whereas in her veins ran the elements of air and fire. Was she not born at sunrise? On the day she reached womanhood did not the house wherein she dwelled become wrapped in a flame which consumed it not, though the crown of that flame licked the high unburn- ing roof of Heaven? In that hour when, her ancient divinity relinquished and she reborn a Christian saint, she took the white veil, did not a column of golden light rise from her head till no eyes could follow it ? In that moment when she died from earth, having taken mortality upon her so as to know a divine resurrection to a new and still more enduring Country of the Immortal, were there not wings of fire seen flashing along all the shores of the west and upon the summits of all Gaelic hills? And how could one forget that at any time she had but to bend above the dead, and her breath would quicken, and a pulse would come back into the still heart, and what was dust would arise and be once more glad.
The Fair Woman of February is still loved, still revered. Few remember the last fading traditions of her ancient greatness: few, even, know that she lived before the coming of the Cross: but all love her, because of her service to Mary in Her travail and to the newborn Child, and because she looks with eyes of love into every cradle and puts the hand of peace on the troubled hearts of women: and all delight in her return to the world after the ninety days of the winter-sleep, when her heralds are manifest.
What, then, are the insignia of St. Briget of the Shores? They are simple. They are the dandelion, the lamb, and the sea-bird, popularly called the oyster-opener. From time immemorial, this humble, familiar yellow plant of the wayside has been identified with St. Bride. To this day shepherds, on Am Fheill Bhrighde, are wont to hear among the mists the crying of innumerable young lambs, and this without the bleating of ewes, and so by that token know that Holy St. Bride has passed by, coming earthward with her flock of the countless lambs soon to be born on all the hillsides and pastures of the world. Fisherfolk on the shores of the west and on the far isles have gladdened at the first prolonged repetitive whistle of the oyster
opener, for its advent means that the hosts of the good fish are moving towards the welcoming coasts once more, that the wind of the south is unloosened, that greenness will creep to the grass, that birds will seek the bushes, that song will come to them, and that everywhere a new gladness will be abroad. By these signs is St. Briget of the Shores known. One, perhaps, must live in the remote places, and where wind and cloud, rain and tempest, great tides and uprising floods are the common companions of day and night, in order to realise the joy with which things so simple are welcomed. To see the bright sunsweet face of the dandelion once more— an dealan Dhe, the little flame of God, am bearnan Bhrighde, St. Bride's forerunner — what a joy this is. It comes into the grass like a sunray. Often before the new green is in the blade it flaunts its bright laughter in the sere bent. It will lie in ditches and stare at the sun. It will climb broken walls, and lean from nooks and corners. It will come close to the sands and rocks, sometimes will even join company with the sea- pink, though it cannot find footing where later the bind-weed and the horned poppy, those children of the seawind who love to be near and yet shrink from the spray of the salt wave, defy wind and rain. It is worthier the name " Traveller's Joy" than the wild clematis of the autumnal hedgerows: for its bright yellow leaps at one from the roadside like a smile, and its homeliness is pleasant as the gladness of playing children.
It is a herald of Spring that precedes even the first loud flute-like calls of the missel- thrush. When snow is still on the track of the three winds of the north it is, by the wayside, a glad companion. Soon it will be everywhere. Before long the milk-white sheen of the daisy and the moon-daisy, the green-gold of the tansy, the pale gold of the gorse and the broom, the yellow of the primrose and wild colchicum, of the cowslip and buttercup, of the copse-loving celandine and meadow-rejoicing crowsfoot, all these yellows of first spring will soon be abroad: but the dandelion comes first. I have known days when, after midwinter, one could go a mile and catch never a glimpse of this bright comrade of the ways, and then suddenly see one or two or three, and rejoice forthwith as though at the first blossom on the blackthorn, at the first wild-roses, at the first swallow, at the first thrilling bells of the cuckoo. We are so apt to lose the old delight in familiar humble things. So apt to ignore what is by the way, just because it is by the way. I recall a dour old lowland gardener in a loch-and-hill-set region of Argyll, who, having listened to exclamations of delight at a rainbow, muttered, " Weel, I juist think naethin ava' o' thon rainbows ... ye can see one whenever ye tak the trouble to look for them hereaboots." He saw them daily, or so frequently that for him all beauty and strangeness had faded from these sudden evanescent Children of Beauty. Beauty has only to be perceptible to give an immediate joy, and it is no paradoxical extravagance to say that one may receive the thrilling communication from " the little flame of God" by the homely roadside as well as from these leaning towers built of air and water which a mysterious alchemy reveals to us on the cloudy deserts of heaven. " Man is surprised," Emerson says, " to find that things near and familiar are not less beautiful and wondrous than things remote." Certainly no Gaelic lover of St. Bride's Flower, of the Flower of February, but rejoices to see its welcome face after the snow and sleet of winter have first sullenly receded, if only for a time, and to know that St. Bride of the Shores wears it at her breast, and that when she throws it broadcast the world is become a green place again and the quickening sunlight a gladsome reality.
In these desolate far isles where life is so hard, where the grey winds from the north and east prevail for weeks at a time on the grey tempestuous seas, and where so much depends on such small things—a little driftwood, a few heaps of peat, a few shoal of fish now of one kind now of another, a few cartloads of seaweed, a rejoicing sound is that in truth when the Gille-Bhride is heard crying along the shores. Who that has heard its rapid whirling cry as it darts from haunt to haunt but will recognise its own testimony to being " Servant of Breed " (the common pronunciation of the Gaelic Brighid or Bride) —for does it not cry over and over again with swift incessant iterance, Gilly - breed, gilly-breed, gilly-breed, gilly-breed, gilly- breed.
"White may my milking be,
White as thee;
Thy face is white, thy neck is
Yellow may my butter be,
Firm, and round:
Safe, St. Bride:
May my kye come home at even,
St. Bride thou
Keepest tryst with God in heav'n,
Far and wide—
When the first lambs appear, many are the invocations among the Irish and Hebridean Gaels to good St. Bride. At the hearth-side, too, the women, carding wool, knitting, telling tales, singing songs, dreaming — these know her whether they name her in thought, or have forgotten what was dear wisdom to their mothers of old. She leans over cradles, and when babies smile they have seen her face. When the cra'thull swings in the twilight, the
slow rhythm, which is music in the mother's ear, is the quiet clapping of her hushing hands. St. Bride, too, loves the byres or the pastures when the kye are milked, though now she is no longer " the Woman of February," but simply " good St. Bride of the yellow hair."
-The Silence of Amor [and] Where the Forest Murmurs: ., William Sharp,Duffield, 1910, p. 132.
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Brigida Thaumaturga sive Dissertatio partim encomiastica in laudem ipsius sanctae, partim archaica, ex sacra et antiqua historia ecclesiastica, partim etiam parenetica ad alumnos Collegiorum, in qua elucidatur prodigium ligni aridi reviriscantis ex attractu B. Brigidae Virginis, et symbolico sensu accommodatur ad antiquam quod intercesserat commercium inter Galliam et Hiberniam in rebus sacris, literariis, et civilibus, habita in Collegio Hibernorum Parisiense, Kalendis Februarii, die festo ejusdem sanctae. Parisiis apud Sebastianum Cramois sub ciconiis, via Jacobaea. M.D.C.XX.'
IN the Mazarin Library in Paris is to be found a copy of a work entitled Brigida Thaumaturga, printed and published in Paris A.D. 1620. This work is now so rare that a short account of it may not be uninteresting to the clients of St. Brigid, Patroness of Ireland, in the twentieth century. Its author is the Most Rev. David Rothe, Bishop of Ossory. That distinguished man, eminent as a bishop, as a patriot, and a scholar, was born in Kilkenny in 1568. Having received his early education in his native city, he proceeded to the Continent, where he made his studies in philosophy and theology at Douai, and subsequently at Salamanca. Having obtained the degree of Doctor of Theology at the famous University of Salamanca, David Rothe visited Rome, whence he returned to Ireland in 1610, with rank of Apostolic Protonotary, and with a commission from the Holy See to labour for the restoration of fraternal union amongst the clergy of Ireland. The success with which he fulfilled his mission was the prelude of still higher honours. In 1614 Dr. Rothe was appointed Bishop of Ossory, and received episcopal consecration in Paris. Returning to Ireland he applied himself with zeal to his Episcopal functions; and on behalf of Primate Lombard, then resident in Rome, he held diocesan synods in the diocese of Armagh in 1614, and again in 1618.
But the numerous duties of his episcopal office were not enough to satisfy the zeal of Dr. Rothe. His moments of leisure he devoted to literary work, and in 1617 he published the first part of a valuable work entitled Analecta Sacra, in which he placed on record, with the authority of a contemporary witness, the constancy of Irishmen who suffered persecution for the faith in the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. of England. The concluding part of that valuable work was published in 1619. The entire work was reprinted with an introductory notice in 1884, by an eminent successor of the author. Dr. Moran, Bishop of Ossory, subsequently Cardinal-Archbishop of Sydney, whose memory will long survive as a great Irish scholar, and a great Irish churchman.
While Dr. Rothe was thus engaged the persecution of Irish Catholics became more violent. The Lord-Deputy, Sir Oliver St. John, issued an edict ordering the banishment of priests and bishops. With the object of discovering such persons, the houses of the Catholic gentry were frequently searched. Dr. Rothe judged it prudent to withdraw before the storm for a time, and he took up his residence in Paris.
Here, on February 1, 1620, he delivered a remarkable address in the Irish College in Paris on St. Brigid, the sainted Patroness of Ireland—an address which was printed the same year with a dedication to John L'Escalopier, Baron de Saint-Just, President of the Parliament of Paris, and benefactor of the Irish College in that city. The work is written throughout in Latin. The title-page is as follows:
'Brigida Thaumaturga, etc. Brigid the wonder-worker; or a dissertation partly laudatory, in praise of the Saint, partly archaeological drawn from sacred and from ecclesiastical history, and partly also hortatory, addressed to the students of the (Irish) Colleges. In it the miracle of the wood growing green again at the touch of the Virgin Brigid is explained; and symbolically applied to the ancient intercourse between France and Ireland, in things sacred, literary and civil. Delivered in the Irish College in Paris on February I, Feast of the Saint. Published by Sebastian Cramois, under the Sign of the Storks. Rue Saint-Jacques, 1620.'
The title-page is followed by a letter of dedication to John L'Escalopier, in which the author refers to the liberality of that generous man towards the Irish exiles, and assures him that as he has been their patron, so St. Brigid will be his ('tu patronus illorum, tibi ilia patrona erit'). The letter of dedication is signed 'D.R.E.O.V.H.’ the initials of 'David Rothe, Episcopus Ossoriensis, Vice-Primas Hiberniae.' That the work is due to his pen is expressly mentioned by Lynch in his MS. Lives of the Bishops of Ireland.
From the dedication we pass on to the work itself. In the first part the learned author speaks in praise of St. Brigid. He begins by narrating the miracle of the wood of the altar growing green at the touch of the Virgin, on the occasion of her religious profession, and he points out instances of similar miracles in the case of St. Francis of Assisi and other saints. He then dwells on the rank which St. Brigid holds amongst the saints of Ireland. As St. Patrick is the head of the hierarchy, and St. Columba of the monks, so St. Brigid is the head of the virgins of Ireland. Her life was a model of Christian virtue, especially of faith and charity. Her sanctity was manifested by numerous miracles performed in favour of the blind, the lame, lepers, and persons possessed by the devil. Her sanctity, like a fruitful vine, spread its branches through the whole of Ireland.
In the second part of the work the author draws a parallel between the virtues of St. Brigid, overflowing, as it were, upon all who came within the sphere of her influence, and the sanctity of the Church in Ireland increasing, and then overflowing upon foreign nations, and especially upon France in the threefold relation of religion, learning, and civil intercourse.
Starting with the bonds which connected St. Patrick by blood with St. Martin of Tours, and by education with St. Germain of Auxerre, he dwells on the religious intercourse between France and Ireland; and he enumerates the most remarkable of the Irish saints who lived and laboured in France, especially from the sixth to the twelfth century. In the reign of Clotaire, Columban exercised a widespread influence and founded a monastery at Luxeuil, and his footprints may be traced along the banks of the Seine, the Marne, the Loire, and the Rhone. The work for religion in France, commenced by Columban, was continued under Dagobert by the sainted brothers St. Fursey, St. Livinus, and St. Ultan, whose memory still flourished in the monastery of Perrone. An Irish saint, St. Wirro, was the confessor and adviser of Pepin d'Heristal. Vincent, a layman, whom the author claims as an Irishman, was related by marriage to Dagobert. Two Irish priests, Sadochim (or Cardocum) and Adrian, evangelized Picardy. St. Malo, if not an Irishman, was the pupil of an Irishman, Albinus. As time rolled on communication between Ireland and France continued. St. Fiacre shed the lustre of his virtues upon the country around Meaux, where his shrine was long a centre of pilgrimage, and where he was honoured in particular as the patron of gardeners.
Nor were holy women wanting in the list of Irish saints in France. St. Syra, sister of St. Fiacre, and St. Ommana, both Irishwomen, shed the odour of their virtues around them in French cloisters. Nor did Frenchmen neglect to honour Irish saints. St. Patrick at Rouen, St. Malachy at Clairvaux, and St. Laurence at Eu, were the objects of special veneration and shrines were dedicated in their honour.
Passing from religion to literature, the author points out what France owes to Ireland. Under Charlemagne two Irishmen, Clement and Albinus, established on the banks of the Seine a school which became the cradle of the great University of Paris. Under Charles the Bald, another Irishman, Scotus Erigena, brought to France a knowledge of Greek literature and philosophy, which marked him out as the foremost Greek scholar of the period.
He then laments that while Ireland was once a fountain pouring forth streams of learning upon Europe, her schools are now closed through persecution, and her sons compelled to seek education in foreign lands.
Passing to the intercourse of civil life, the author points out that even in the days of Tacitus there was frequent communication between Ireland and the Continent, and the harbours of Ireland were widely known to traders. In course of time trade was followed by alliances. Vincent, an Irishman, otherwise called Waldegaire, married Waldetrude, a relative of King Dagobert. From their union sprang four saints: St. Landry, subsequently Bishop of Meaux; St. Dentlinus, who died in his seventh year; St. Aldetrude; and St. Madelberta. St. Landry invited Irishmen to come to France to aid him in the harvest of souls. The journeys and the influence of Columban and Gall and Virgil were not without their influence upon the communication between France and Ireland.
The author also sees another though a less direct proof of the intercourse between the two countries in the numerous family names of French origin which are to be met with in Ireland. The names de la Roche, de la Cource, Nogent, Barneville, Netterville, de Lacy, de la Blancheville, de la Groose, de St. Leger, S. Salem, Burnell, Boucher, Verdun, Moucler, Rochfort, de Burgo, Petit, Belleau, are all, at least remotely, of French origin.
In the third part of the work the author addresses himself to the Irish ecclesiastical students on the Continent, and exhorts them to imitate the virtues of St. Brigid and of the other saints of Ireland. Ireland lies prostrate under persecution; but as the wood of the altar became green at the touch of St. Brigid, the prosperity of Ireland may bloom again. That happy restoration, however, must be the work of the young Levites of Ireland. The author hopes that the day will come when the students of the period, all lovers of their brethren, will be engaged in missionary work in Ireland. It will then be said: ‘This one and that one and that other are pupils of the College in Paris; those others of Douai, and Antwerp, and Tournai; those others of Salamanca, and Compostella, and Lisbon, not omitting those of Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Rouen. They are all lovers of the brethren, all angels of peace, all ambassadors for Christ.' A great door is open to them. As the spirit of life entered into the dry bones at the words of the prophet, so by their preaching, religion will be made to flourish again in Ireland. They are not few in number, but they are few when compared with the multitude of their adversaries. If they are to succeed in their work they must be united in charity, and lead a life worthy of their vocation.
The dissertation in praise of Brigida Thaumaturga is followed by a Latin poem in alternate hexameter and pentameter verses, in which the author relates how on a voyage from France to Ireland he was saved from shipwreck through prayer to St. Brigid. Beneath the poem of Dr. Rothe are printed two verses by J. Ley, in whom we recognize the founder and first rector of the Irish College in Paris, praying St. Brigid, as she had saved Dr. Rothe from shipwreck, to protect him from other dangers also. This interesting ode in honour of St. Brigid runs thus:-
Carmen Thalassicum invocatorium B. Brigidae Virginis et Patronae Hiberniae.
Brigida, Hibernipetas quae ducis in aequore classes,
Te sibi ductricem nostra carina petit.
Eurus Hyperboreis alternans flatibus auram
Instat in occiduum carbasa tensa latus.
Ante, sed ex oculis quam gleba Acquitana nostris
Egressa est pelago subjicienda suo,
Inguine succusso latebrosa carina fatiscit,
Atque subintrantes rima capessit aquas.
Brachia remigibus sentina repanda fatigat
Inque suas veniunt acta redacta vices.
Clepsydra deciduas quoties discrevit arenas
Fundat inexhaustum fistula puppis onus.
Nec tutum est regredi ad littus, nec pergere tutum,
Unica res miseris tuta, vovere Deo.
Vovimus, alme pater, ne despice vota precantium,
Sed, duce te, optatum dirige navis iter.
Brigida, Hibernigenum supplex pro gente precatur,
Virginis haec pietas quod petit accipiet.
In periculo naufragii constitutus pangebat eidem virgini
patronae suae, indignus ipsius cliens,
Brigida, quem rapidis mire tutavit ab undis
Hunc, ut ab hoste, precor, protegat ipsa tetro.
A sailor's song invoking St. Brigid, Patroness of Ireland:—
'Brigid, who guidest upon the deep the fleets that sail for Ireland, our bark prays thee to be her guide.
The south-eastern alternating with the northern blasts stretches our expanded sails towards the western side.
But ere the shores of Aquitaine, disappearing below the main, were lost to view;
our vessel lashed by the waves gapes wide, and a leak admits the entering waters.
The water-filled hold fatigues the arms of the sailors relieving each other by turns.
As often as the sand glass counts the hours, the ship's pump pours out the exhaustless burden.
To go back was unsafe, unsafe to advance.
The sole safety for the wretched was to offer prayers to God.
We pray, merciful Father, despise not the prayers of Thy suppliants,
but under Thy guidance direct the ship's course to the desired port.
Brigid suppliantly prays for those of Irish birth,
The pious prayer of the Virgin shall obtain what she asks.
'In danger of shipwreck these verses were composed in honour of the same Virgin, his Patroness, by her unworthy client, D. R.'
'Whom Brigid wondrously saved from the stormy waves.
Him may she protect from dire enemies, I pray.'
The work Brigida Thaumaturga is followed by an appendix entitled ' De Scriptorum Scotorum nomenclatura a Thoma Dempstero edita praecidaneum.' The appendix is a reply to a work of the Scotch writer, Thomas Dempster, who claimed for Scotland most of the Irish saints and writers. Dr. Rothe states that he wrote his reply chiefly to vindicate for Ireland the honour of being the country of St. Brigid, whom Dempster attempted to take away from the plains of Lagenia, and carrying her over Pictish hills and rocks, to set her down in the woods of Caledonia.' Then taking up Dempster's list in alphabetical order for the letters A, B, and C, he proves from authoritative sources that the names claimed by Dempster are, with few exceptions, either Irish or Welsh. Dr. Rothe's labours in defence of the right of Ireland to her native saints, did not end with this brief appendix to the Brigida Thaumaturga. The following years, 1621, he published a still more complete reply to Dempster in a work published under the title Hibernia Resurgens, under the pseudonym of 'Donatus Rourk.'
But the devotion of Dr. Rothe to the sainted Patroness of Ireland manifested itself in a still more practical form. In 1620, the same year in which he published his Brigida Thaumaturga, he instituted a Confraternity in Ireland in honour of St. Brigid. The object of that sodality was to pray through the intercession of St. Brigid for peace and union in Ireland. For that purpose the members met on the first Sunday of each month. The Holy See approved of the Sodality, and it quickly spread over the whole of Ireland to the great spiritual profit of the faithful.
We are not here concerned with the other events of the life of the great Bishop of Ossory, with his share in the deliberations of the Confederation of Kilkenny, and his death, in 1650, at the age of eighty-two. He was a man of great attainments and of great zeal to promote the honour of the saints of Ireland. He collaborated with Dr. Messingham in editing the Florilegium Insulae Sanctorum, and that author makes express mention that the whole dissertation on the conversion of Ireland, together with remarks on some chapters of Jocelyn, as well as several paragraphs of the account of St. Patrick's Purgatory in the Florilegium are from the pen of Dr. Rothe.
He also laboured long in preparing an elaborate work on the saints of Ireland under the title Hierographia Hiberniae, which unhappily perished during the siege of Kilkenny by Cromwell. He also wrote a shorter treatise on Irish places of pilgrimage, Opusculum de Peregrinationibus Hiberniae.
His treatise Brigida Thaumaturga, for many reasons, merits to be remembered. It is a monument to the Irish College in Paris, and the first printed book which issued from it. It is a monument to the widespread devotion of the Irish at home and abroad towards St. Brigid in the seventeenth century. It is a monument to the author, whom Messingham, in his preface to the account of St. Patrick's Purgatory, describes as
a man of wide information, an eloquent speaker, a subtle philosopher, a profound theologian, and a celebrated historian, a zealous reprover of vice, a champion of the liberty of the Church, the defender of the rights of the nation devoted to the relief of the sufferings of Ireland, and a diligent promoter of union and peace amongst ecclesiastics.
The Brigida Thaumaturga is also a monument to the ecclesiastical culture of the period. It shows a familiarity with the Scriptures, with the classics, with history and hagiology; and a mastery of the Latin language in prose and verse. The Irish ecclesiastics of the period wrote Latin with correctness, ease, and grace. The Carmen Thalassicum is but one instance. In the Introductory pages of Messingham's Florilegium there are Latin odes in commendation of the work from the pens of Eugene Sweeny, Peter Cadill, Hugh Reilly, Edmund O'Dwyer, Thomas Messingham, J. Colgan, William Coghlin, Patrick Cahill, Roger Moloy, Laurence Sedgrave, James Delan, and Thomas Guyer, all Irish priests.
Nearly three centuries have passed since St. Brigid's Feast, 1620. Since that date religious, literary, and civil intercourse between France and Ireland attained an expansion which Dr. Rothe could hardly have foreseen. Irish students received their ecclesiastical formation in France. Irish students frequented the halls, and Irish professors occupied chairs in the University of Paris. Irish soldiers stood side by side with Frenchmen on many a hard fought field. Irish vessels traded with France on a scale undreamt of in the days of the author of the Brigida Thaumaturga. The resurrection of Ireland, which Dr. Rothe looked forward to, has taken place; but even now the students of the colleges in Paris, Salamanca, and Rome are working side by side with the home-trained clergy,'all lovers of the brethren, all angels of peace.'
Let us hope that, like those who have gone before them, they will always be full of devotion to 'Brigida Thaumaturga, the Patroness of Ireland.'
Patrick Boyle, C.M.
Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Fourth Series, VOL. XXX, (1911), 225-234.
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Chapter XIII Volume II of Lives of the Irish Saints.
Like that peerless Mother of our Lord, to whom she has been compared, Brigid was beautiful with the beauty of Heaven and earth mingled together, with eyes sweet and dove-like, and with a countenance most soft and pure. She was both lovely to see, as well as perfect, in heart and in soul. Nor did the lapse of years steal away any single grace or charm, for her heart and feelings were ever freshened with religious inspiration. The biographers of this illustrious saint are unmeasured in terms, used to describe her virtues and merits; but, they do not exaggerate her praises, however they may dilate on various miracles, attributed to her powerful intercession. We are told, how this wondrous pearl of virginity neither deflected to the right or left, but always pursued a just and virtuous course. She never spoke without blushing, a sign of her great modesty. She never yielded to carnal illusions; for no person could be more chaste and continent. She considered her prestige and virtues to have been gifts coming from Divine Providence. She examined her acquirements and merits, according to those severe judgments, pronounced by a mind, filled with prudence and true faith; while, she took little heed of popular applause or flattery. She considered ill-regulated public opinion and mere human praise, as tending only to produce vanity and selfishness, or as savouring of a worldly spirit. Her whole desires consisted in not appearing to be holy, while she aspired to the most exalted degree of sanctity. And, as Brigid ever willed a most perfect conformity to the decrees of Heaven, so did Divine mercy bestow on her countless treasures of grace; for, according to Holy Scripture, to every one possessing them shall yet be given, and they shall abound, while to those wanting them, what they seem to possess shall be taken away. So excellent did Brigid appear in the sight of God, that He was pleased to manifest her sanctity by the performance of most renowned miracles. These are abundantly instanced, throughout her acts. Whenever liberality is hoped for, it will usually be fully tested; and, an opinion of unrestricted and active charity must inevitably draw together needy and afflicted, towards benevolently-disposed persons. Hence, it happened, that so many poor and infirm individuals flocked to St. Brigid, not only from her own locality, but from most distant places. Those were allured by a report of her virtues and charities, while, they hoped relief under privation from their various distresses. When our saint had satisfied the wants of one pauper, she was ready to perform a like charitable office for a petitioner succeeding; while the same generous disposition was manifested towards all, without personal favour or exception. However her bounty had been extended to the whole flock, notwithstanding her charity was still moderated, according to various necessities; she gave abundantly to those most in need, more restrictedly to those in middling circumstances, and a little was only distributed to those needing little. Yet, no gift of hers could be considered small, when her hands administered relief, and her warm heart became the prompter of her largesses. Again, she was very humble, and she attended or was accustomed to the herding of sheep, as an occupation, and to early rising as conducive to health. This her life proves, and Cuimin of Coindeire states, in his poem, referring to her great perfections. She spent indeed many years, diligently serving the Lord, performing signs and miracles, curing every disease and sickness. Her vigils were incessant, and she watched over those subjects committed to her charge, with extraordinary care and tenderness. Her numerous miracles are compared to the grass of the field, because it grows in such abundance, by one of her many eulogists. Those wonders, recorded in her various Acts, would seem to confirm such a statement. She is specially ranked among the friends and disciples of our great Irish Apostle, St. Patrick; and, among his numerous religious daughters, not one was more distinguished for great force of character, for high intellectual accomplishments, and for sublime spiritual gifts.
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In further reference to the spring feature of Saint Brigid I am indebted to Miss Delap for a curious legend from Valentia Island which, with fine disregard of chronology, makes Saint Brigid a friend of the Virgin Mary. It is said that when the Virgin was shy about facing the congregation in the Temple, Saint Brigid procured a harrow, took out the spikes and putting a candle in every hole, placed it on her head, walked up before the Virgin and escorted her down again. According to another version, which it is believed came from the north of Ireland, it was a hoop with lighted candles which the Saint wore as she danced up the aisle before the Virgin and down again. For this service Saint Brigid’s Day is the eve of Candlemas or the Purification of the Virgin.
Elizabeth Andrews, Man, Vol. 22 (December 1922), 187.
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ON ST. BRIGID, PATRONESS OF IRELAND.
" Tu gloria Jerusalem, tu laetitia Israel, tu honorificentia populi nostri."—Judith, Xv, 10.
ST. Brigid, one of the first of our saints, and the queen of our virgins, shed a lustre and a purity on the ancient Church of Ireland. Innocent like Eve in the garden before her fall, animated with strength and fortitude such as Judith had when God nerved her arm and made her the protection of Israel, endowed with the greatest perfections like the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the refuge of all sinners and the mother of many virtues, St. Brigid was the light and glory of the infant Church, and contributed in no small degree to the spread of the faith, and to the observance of virtue among the people.
What St. Patrick was to the whole Church generally, St. Brigid was to those of her own sex in particular, instructing and infusing into them the spirit of true religion, and leaving them the example of perfect virtue. Though St. Patrick was the great founder and apostle of the Church in this country— though his labours were great and unceasing—though his missionaries went on all sides, and he himself " exultavit ut gigas ad currendam viam" still it was impossible for him to do everything required. The special need which the Church then had, the Almighty God supplied by raising up St. Brigid, who not only greatly contributed to the conversion of the people, and to the practice of piety amongst them, but also infused into many of the women of Ireland the love of the religious life, and the devotion to the virtues and perfections of the cloister, which have never since passed away. This was the flame which St. Brigid lighted up in faithful hearts, which was symbolised by that perpetual fire burning for many ages at her shrine, which has survived the change of manners and the lapse of time, and the spirit of which is to-day as rife among the people as when St. Brigid laboured at her noble mission with so much success, when God spoke through the wonders of her power, and through the works of her hands.
1. Her virtues and her miracles.
Consider and admire the inscrutable ways of that God who is " wonderful in his saints" and who chose a weak woman to be a tower of strength and a prodigy of virtue. No flesh should glory in his sight, for he has made the weak to confound the strong, he has selected a poor virgin, who was an outcast and a wanderer, not only to be an example of the greatest perfection by the subjugation of her passions, and to reflect in her life the virtues of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but also to exercise a wonderful influence in leading souls to God, and in bringing them to the observance of the counsels of the Gospel, and to the highest practice of religious discipline.
St. Brigid not only excelled in the ordinary Christian virtues in an uncommon degree, but God gave her gifts and powers which are bestowed on few. St. Brigid had great humility; she had a heart full of kindness and compassion; she had the open and melting hand of charity. Her purity shone above all her other virtues, shunning and flying from every thing which could wound it in the slightest degree. In this she most resembled the Blessed Virgin Mary, and hence was she truly called " the Mary of Erin," because of her angelic purity, and of the perfection of her divine love.
This holy soul, so full of God's grace and such a vessel of election, God did not suffer to pass her tranquil years in the quiet and innocence of her cloister life, and in the strict observance of holy discipline. God had other designs, and for their accomplishment in his Church he gave to St. Brigid extraordinary gifts, and mysterious power. Accordingly, like her Divine Saviour she went about in signs and wonders. Wherever she went she left the evidence of her merciful compassion, and she spread around her the gifts and the blessings of God. She made the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, the blind to see, and the dead she restored to life, until all confessed that God spoke through the mouth of his servant, and that his power was in her hands.
As our Divine Saviour went through Palestine, visiting different places, so St. Brigid went about doing good in different parts of Ireland. She passed her early youth and made the vows of her religious life at Ussny, under the care of St. Maccaille. She visited the sainted prelate of Ardagh—St. Mel, who was rich in faith and in many virtues. St. Patrick, who was her great and sainted friend, she saw on his death bed, hearing his last prayer, and receiving his last sigh. Many years of her life she passed in the South, founding, wherever she went, houses of religion, and maintaining in them the observance of discipline and the practice of virtue, but it was on the vast plain of Kildare, by the Cell of the Oak, that she fixed her permanent home, and at the foot of that tower which even now exists, and which is the memorial of the ancient days and the mystery of our own, she lighted up the fire of true religion, and spread around far and near the faith and the love of Jesus Christ in the hearts of the people.
2. Her special mission.
Consider also the noble work and special mission which God called on her to fulfil. Even at that early period of the conversion of the island, the Christian religion took such hold, and made such progress in the hearts of many, that they not only observed the precepts of the Gospel, but they were also anxious to practise and to observe the evangelical counsels. Men and women with holy enthusiasm went to the altar, to give their lives to God as a perpetual sacrifice, and it was in the religious life, which regulates and sustains this divine ardour, that they found the fullest gratification of their hopes and wishes.
Inspired by God, St. Brigid continued, if she did not commence, the conventual institution in Ireland, and brought it, even in her own time, to a most happy issue, and made it produce the most wonderful results. Communities of holy virgins, overcoming the weakness of their sex, and the temptations of the world, sprung up under the hand of St. Brigid, and living under the rule which she prescribed, served God in holiness and fear, and made their lives the practice of the perfection and of the praise of God. This was the seed which St. Brigid sowed in Ireland, which even in the worst of times has produced the most happy fruits, and which, thanks be to the Almighty God, the Father of mercies and the giver of every good gift, is reviving to-day with a strength and power which are worthy of the best and most noble ages of the faith.
O holy St. Brigid, thou who art the light, the ornament, and the glory of the Church of Ireland, be the heavenly patron of its people, and be the especial friend and the protectress of the priests of the sanctuary. Let those who offer sacrifice to the name of God, be worthy of their exalted duties. Shew forth in their lives the form of all perfection and cover them with the robe of holiness. Let them love justice and hate iniquity. Let their prayer be like incense in the sight of heaven. Let their doctrine be saving and salutary to the people, and let the odour of their lives be the delight of the Church of God.
-Ecclesiastical Meditations Suitable for Priests on the Mission and Students in Diocesan Seminaries by a Catholic Clergyman (Dublin, 1866), 250-255.
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O'Hanlon, John, Lives of the Irish Saints,1875
A miracle, which occurred in repairing this church, and which, Cogitosus thinks should not be passed over in silence, has been placed on record. When the old door of the left side passage, through which St. Brigid used to enter the church, had been altered, repaired, and placed on its former hinges, by artisans, it could not exactly cover the opening as required. A fourth part of this space appeared exposed, without anything left to fill it ; and, if a fourth more were added and joined to the height of the gate, then it might fill up the entire altitude of this reconstructed and lofty passage. The workmen held a consultation, about making another new and larger door to fill up this entrance, or to prepare a panel for an addition to the old door, so as to make it the required size. A principal artisan among the Irish then spoke :"On this night, we should fervently implore the Lord, before St. Brigid, that before morning she may counsel us what course we ought to pursue, in reference to this matter," After these words, he passed a whole night in prayer, beside St. Brigid's tomb. On the morning he arose. He then found, on forcing and settling the old door on its hinge, the whole passage was filled, so that a single chink was not left uncovered, nor in its height was any, even the least, excess discovered. Thus, it happened, as the whole aperture was filled, that St. Brigid—as was generally believed—had miraculously extended that door in height. Nor did any part appear open, except when the door was moved on entering her church. This miracle, accomplished by Divine omnipotence, was evidently manifested to the eyes of all, who looked upon the door and the passage.
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A Brigit bennach ar sét
nachar táir bét arar cúairt;
a challech a Lifi lán
co rísem slán ar tech úait.
O Brigit bless our road
May misfortune not find us on our journey;
O nun from the full Liffey
until we reach our house safely
because of you.
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Adest dies leticie
The day of rejoicing is come,
In which the holy virgin Brigid
From the shadows of misery
passes to the realms of light.
From a modest station
She strove to serve God,
Mighty in the gift of purity
She was pleasing unto the Bridegroom on high.
As a sign of her virtue
The wood of the altar which had dried out
By a touch of the hand of the virgin
Was at once made green again.
This is Ireland's laurel
Whose green verdure never fades,
Filled with loving kindness
She fails none who entreat her aid.
For ages without end
To God alone be glory,
Who by the prayers of such a virgin
Leads us to the Kingdom of Heaven.
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Hymn to Saint Brigid, 1936.
Soft as an Angel's whisper,
Comes the thought of thee, dear Saint,
Erin's Bride and gentle Guardian,
Free from evil and its taint.
Come, and with thy mantle shelter
The children of our Isle;
Dangers threaten, O protect them
From the demon's treacherous smile.
Neath that shield no dart shall pierce them,
Oft of yore it screened from foes
Those who claimed its trustful succour,
In the midst of cruel foes.
Save the youth; the tempter's watching
To beguile them from the way
Of loyal Faith and stern duty,
Oh! dear Saint, we humbly pray.
Come to those who claim thy succour,
The evening of whose life draws near,
Stay uphold them in the struggle;
Near thy heart they need not fear.
Ask that Ireland ne'er may sever
The "Triple leaf" of Faith,
Faith in prayer, in love, in duty
To God and country unto death.
-Community Manual for the Use of Religious Orders Compiled by a Religious from Approved Sources (Pellegrini and Co. Ltd, (1936), 484.
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Last time I wrote I wrote from a rustic table
Under magnolias in South Carolina
As blossoms fell on me, and a white gable
As clean-lined as the prow of a white liner
Bisected sunlight in the sunlit yard.
I was glad of the early heat and the first quiet
I'd had for weeks. I heard the mocking bird
And a delicious, articulate
Flight of small plinkings from a dulcimer
Like feminine rhymes migrating to the north
Where you faced the music and the ache of summer
And earth's foreknowledge gathered in the earth.
Now it's St Brigid's Day and the first snowdrop
In County Wicklow, and this a Brigid's Girdle
I'm plaiting for you, an airy fairy hoop
(Like one of those old crinolines they'd trindle),
Twisted straw that's lifted in a circle
To handsel and to heal, a rite of spring
As strange and lightsome and traditional
As the motions you go through going through the thing.
-The Spirit Level (1996)
From the collection 'Crossings'
On St. Brigid's Day the new life could be entered
By going through her girdle of straw rope
The proper way for men was right leg first
Then right arm and right shoulder, head, then left
Shoulder, arm and leg.
Women drew it down
Over the body and stepped out of it
The open they came into by these moves
Stood opener, hoops came off the world
They could feel the February air
Still soft above their heads and imagine
The limp rope fray and flare like wind-born gleanings
Or an unhindered goldfinch over ploughland.
To go to the top of this page click hereDuan Bhríde - Dearc Anuas
Dearc anuas, féach mar táimid;
A naoimh álainn, féach sinn.
Feacamid ár nglún id láthair;
Dearc mar mháthair ar do chlainn.
Cuidigh linn, a mháthair aoibhinn;
Bí a choíche ag éisteacht linn.
A Naoimh Bríd, a chéile Chríosta,
Mar an fhaoileann ar an toinn.
Níl aon áit a bhfuil na Gaela
Ar an tsaol seo abhus nó thall,
Nach bfuil grá acu ina gcroíthe
Ortsa, a Bhríd gheal, moch is mall.
Líon le grá an croí atá brúite,
Bain den tsúil atá fliuch an deor;
Stiúraigh, treoraigh, ardaigh sinne.
Nó go dtigimid i do ghlóir.
-The Confraternity Hymn Book (Belfast, 1959), 138.
Traditional Hymn to St Brigid
Far above enthroned in glory,
Sweetest saint of Erin’s isle
See your people here before you
Cast on us a mother’s smile.
Sainted mother hear our pleading
Faith and hope and holy love.
Sweet St Brigid, Spouse of Jesus
Sent to us from heav’n above.
Sweet St Brigid, all your people
Far and near, o’er land and sea
‘Mid the world and in the cloister
Fondly turn with love to you.
Sainted mother, soothe the mourner
Shield the weary tempted soul
Sweet St Brigid, guide your people
To your bright and happy home.
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Antiphona: Deo carnis dedidit
Deo carnis dedidit
sic cum lignum niveum
ad tactum virgineum
Brigit devoted to God
The purity of her body
And in His loving kindness
He gave her honour in proportion due.
As when the dried out wood,
In token of her modesty,
At her virgin touch
Resumed its green freshness.
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INSTRUCTION ON THE FESTIVAL OF ST. BRIDGET, VIRGIN.
ABBESS, AND PATRONESS OF IRELAND.
ST. BRIDGET was born at Fochard, in Ulster, soon after Ireland had been blessed with the light of the faith. It was about the year 453 that she saw for the first time the light of this world. Her parents, Dubtach and Bronchessa, were both Christians. By her father she was lineally descended from "Con of the Hundred Battles," and her mother, Bronchessa, was descended from the noble house of the O'Connors.
Bridget spent her early years in Connaught, and was reared by a nurse who fortunately for her, was a Christian. She grew up beautiful in appearance, but still more so in her heavenly virtues, her meekness, humility and sweetness of manner. Her mother and her nurse carefully instructed her in the Christian religion; and deeply impressed upon her young mind the goodness and mercy of Jesus, and the loving tenderness of His holy mother Mary. And when told not to offend Jesus or Mary, with childlike simplicity she would ask how she could please them, and when told, would reply that she would never do anything to offend them. Thus were the purest impressions made on her infant mind, and as she grew in years, she became rich in all the Christian virtues.
Bridget, even when a child, accustomed herself to prayer and pious works, and loved to retire in solitude to commune with God. She was exceedingly modest, and the least indelicacy of word or action hurt her tender soul very deeply. No wonder she was admired and loved by everybody.
Our saint was never more happy then when she found ways and means to assist the sick and the poor. Her charity knew no bounds. One time when visiting the sick neighbors, (she was then only nine years of age) it happened that she had nothing to relieve the wants of the needy; so she gave them the jewels from a precious sword which the king of Leinster had given her father, as a token of his good will and liking for his valiant service. The king heard of this and was angry, and shortly afterward came to a banquet in her father's house, and calling the little maid he asked her how she dared to deface the gift of a king in such a manner as she had done the gift to her father. She fearlessly replied that she had given the jewels to a better king than he was, "whom” she continued, "finding in such extremities, I would have given all that my father has, and all that you have, yea, yourself too and "all you have, were it in my power to give them, rather than Christ or His children, the poor, should starve." The king was so touched with her answer that he said to her father that his whole possessions would not be an equivalent for his daughter; and that he should let her have her own way in future, and not restrain the extraordinary graces God had conferred on her. He then gave Dubtach another sword more valuable than the former, as a mark of the esteem he entertained for him and his daughter.
When Bridget approached maturity, her father wished that she should wed a certain young man. Our saint was astonished at such a proposal, and firmly refused, and told her father that she was resolved to consecrate her virginity to God. All her relations opposed this resolution for a long time, but seeing that Bridget was determined they finally consented, and allowed her to choose her state of life. She made known her intention to several pious virgins, all of whom resolved to accompany her. Bishop Mel, nephew and disciple of St. Patrick, gave her the veil. It is said that she made her vows in the sixteenth year of her age.
Bridget's first community was established at Bridget's-Town or Ballyboy, near Ussna Hill. Her community soon became celebrated for its piety and charity. The poor flocked around her, and even the sick came from afar to be cured by St. Bridget's prayers. Several bishops requested her to establish communities in their dioceses. She visited Munster and established several convents there. While there she cured by her prayers a man who had been blind for years. Then she passed into the county Waterford, and established in the neighborhood of the present village of Tramore a community of nuns. We next find her in the county of Limerick establishing convents.
Society in Ireland in pagan times was divided into freemen and slaves; the former regarded the latter as beings of an inferior order, and treated them as mere chattels, as is the case in all slave countries even in our own times. The Catholic Church endeavored from the beginning to abolish this barbarous custom, and finally succeeded. St. Bridget labored hard to obtain the freedom of poor culprits, or at least to mitigate the bitterness of their captivity.
Her numerous miracles
and the respect and veneration entertained for her, gave power to her
influence, which seldom failed in gaining the boon of mercy. St. Bridget was
great in miracles, great in Christian charity. She shares with St. Patrick the
glory and sanctity of being the first to bring the pious young virgins of
Ireland into conventual communities. Her success in this holy work was
wonderful, for soon religious establishments of the kind extended over all the
land. Thus she aided powerfully the work of St. Patrick in christianizing
the inhabitants of Ireland. No wonder that after her death many churches were
dedicated to God under her name. A portion of her relics was kept with great
veneration in a monastery of regular canons at Aburnethi, once the capital of
the kingdom of the Picts. Her body was found with those of SS. Patrick and
Columba, in a triple vault in Down-Patrick, in 1185. The head of St.
Bridget is now kept in the church of the Jesuits at Lisbon.
The Introit of the Mass reads: Thou hast loved justice, and hated iniquity: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the King. (Ps. xliv.) Glory be &c.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Graciously hear us, O God of our salvation: that, as we rejoice in the festivity of the blessed Bridget, Thy virgin, we may be instructed in the affection of a loving devotion. Through, etc.
LESSON, (ii Cor. x. ry-xi. i, 2.) BRETHREN, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved; but he whom God commendeth. Would to God you could bear with some little of my folly, but do bear with me. For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God. For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
EXPLANATION. The Apostle exhorts the Corinthians to avoid all self-praise and vainglory. To acknowledge our merits, however, is not wrong, provided we attribute such merits to the grace of God, giving all honor to Him, who works the good in us. Self-praise is no proof that we are faithful servants of God; we are no more than what we are in the eyes of God. St. Paul indeed endeavors to draw the attention of the Corinthians to his dignity and merits, but does it to honor God, and to save for Christ those whom he had by their conversion to Christianity brought to Christ as a spouse to her bridegroom; he speaks of his dignity, and is jealous to oppose the heretics who tried to lessen his influence by decrying his merits, and who endeavored to make the Christians abandon the true faith. When self-praise proceeds from a motive of honoring God and saving the souls of our neighbors it is allowable.
GOSPEL. (Matt. xxv. i 13.) AT THAT TIME, Jesus spoke to his disciples this parable: The kingdom of heaven shall be like to ten virgins, who, taking their lamps, went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride. And five of them were foolish, and five wise: but the five foolish, having taken their lamps, did not take oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with the lamps. And the bridegroom tarrying, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made: Behold, the bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise: Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. The wise answered, saying: Lest perhaps there be not enough for us and for you, go you rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. Now whilst they went to buy, the bridegroom came: and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. But at last came also the other virgins, saying: Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answering, said: Amen, I say to you, I know you not. Watch ye, therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour.
Who is the bridegroom?
Christ the Lord who has united Himself to His Church, and enters into an intimate union with every soul of the faithful who keeps His commandments.
Why is the kingdom of heaven compared to virgins?
Because virginity is similar to the integrity of holy faith. Only those who preserve the faith inviolate will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Why does Christ make mention of “ten" virgins?
The number ten was in ancient times made use of to express a whole. Here according to SS. Jerome and Ambrose all the faithful are to be understood. This is evident from the words of Christ who says of the virgins that they had lamps. The lamp signifies the light of faith. This holy faith is infused into the soul in baptism.
Who are the wise and who the foolish virgins?
The wise are all those of the faithful who not only believe in the doctrine of Christ, but also live according to the faith, performing good works; the foolish are those Christians who have indeed the true faith, but not the works according to the faith.
What is understood by the oil?
It means good works, especially works of charity.
Without good works our faith does not shine forth, is, therefore, not burning light, but dead as St. James says: "Faith without works is dead."
What mean the vessels that contain the oil?
Our conscience, which is the seat and receptacle of good works.
What does His coming at midnight signify?
It signifies the time when we least expect; for who would suppose the coming of the bridegroom at that unexpected hour when every one is asleep! Let us, therefore, be careful that we are not wanting in faith and good works, let us take warning also from the words of Christ to be ever ready, as we know not the day nor the hour when we shall be called upon to appear before our Judge.
-Rev. Leonard Goffine, Explanation of the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays, Holydays and Festivals throughout the Ecclesiastical Year, to which are added the Lives of Many Saints, (New York, 51st edition, 1880), 687-693
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Brigit, and certain virgins with her, went to Bishop Mel, in Telcha Mide, to take the veil. Glad was he thereat. For humbleness Brigit staid, so that she might be the last to whom the veil should be given. A fiery pillar arose from her head to the ridgepole of the church. Bishop Mel asked :"What virgin is there ?" Answered MacCaille : "That is Brigit," saith he. "Come thou, O holy Brigit," saith Bishop Mel, " that the veil may be sained on thy head before the other virgins." It came to pass then, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, that the form of ordaining a bishop was read over Brigit. Mac Caille said that the order of a bishop should not be(conferred) on a woman." Dixit Bishop Mel: " No power have I in this matter, inasmuch as by God hath been given unto her this honour beyond every woman." Hence, it is that the men of Ireland give the honour of a bishop to Brigit's successor.
In the eighth (day) of the lunar month (?) was she born. On the eighteenth did she take the veil on her head. On the twenty-eighth did she go to heaven. Together with eight virgins was Brigit consecrated. According to the number of the eight beatitudes of the gospel did she fulfil (her course).
This was one of Brigit's miracles. When the solemnity of Easter drew nigh, Brigit set up, shortly before Maunday-Thursday, in a certain place near unto Bishop Mel. Brigit desired, through (her) charity, to brew ale for the many churches that were around her, and it was not usual to brew ale at that time. Brigit possessed only one measure of malt, and Brigit's family had no vessels save two troughs. They made a tub of one of the two vessels, and they filled the other vessel with the ale, and the virgins kept taking the ale from Brigit to the churches, and still the vessel before Brigit remained full. And thus the produce of one measure of malt, through Brigit's blessing, supplied (?) seven churches of Fir Telach for Maunday-Thursday and for the eight days of Easter.
When the solemnity of Easter was fulfilled, Brigit asked her maidens whether they had the leavings of the Easter ale. Replied the virgins: "God will give food," say they. Then two maidens came in with a tub full of water. " The Virgin's Son knoweth," says Brigit, "that there is good (ale) there." She thought that it was ale. Quicker than speech, as she said that, the water was turned into choice ale forthwith.
Brigit went to a certain church in the land of Teffia to celebrate Easter, when Brigit took to washing the feet of the old men and the feeble folk who were in the church. Four of the sick people there, were a maimed man, a madman, a blind man, and a leper. Brigit washed the feet of the four, and they were straightway healed from every disease that was on them.
Once Brigit was in a house as a guest, and all went out, save a stripling of fourteen years. He had never spoken, nor moved foot or hand, and Brigit knew not that he was thus. So then came guests into the house to Brigit. Said Brigit to the stripling : "Attend on the guests." "I will do so," saith the stripling. He got up at once and did service to the guests, and he was quite whole thenceforward.
Then there came to pass a meeting of the men of Ireland in Tailtin,in the place where Patrick abode, with a synod of Ireland's clerics around him. Now Brigit and Bishop Mel went to the meeting, and a certain woman (also) went thither with a babe on her arm, and she said that the babe was by Bishop Bron. The Bishop, however, denied that. Brigit asked the woman by whom the child had been conceived, and told her not to utter a lie. And the woman answered: It is by Bishop Bron. Then a swelling straightway filled her tongue, so that she was unable to speak. Brigit made the sign of the cross over the infant's mouth and asked it : "Who is thy father ?" The infant answered and said : "A wretched man who is in the outskirts of the assembly, that is my father," saith he. So in that wise Bishop Bron was saved through the grace of Brigit.
Brigit went to converse with Patrick in Mag Lemne while he was preaching the gospel. And Brigit fell asleep at the preaching. Dixit Patrick : "Wherefore hast thou slept ?" Brigit bent her knees thrice and said : "I saw a vision," quoth she. Dixit Patrick : "Tell us the vision." "I saw," quoth she, "four ploughs in the south-east, and they ploughed the whole island, and before the sowing was finished the harvest grew up, and clear wellsprings and shining streams came out of the furrows, and white garments were round the sowers and the ploughmen. I beheld four other ploughs in the north, and they ploughed the island athwart, and before the harvest came again, the oats which they had sown grew up at once and ripened, and black streams came out of the furrows, and black garments were on the sowers and on the ploughmen. And I am sorrowful thereat," quoth Brigit. Dixit Patrick : "Be not in sadness, for good is that which thou beheldest. The first four ploughs which thou beheldest, those are I and thou. We sow the four books of the gospel with seed of faith and confession. The harvest which appeared to thee, that is the perfect faith of those men-folk. The four other ploughs, those are the false teachers and the liars, and they will overturn the teachings that we sow, and those we shall not uplift. But we, I and thou, shall then be in the presence of the Creator."
Then Brigit went to Dunlaing to ask him to forfeit to her father the sword which he had given to him while he was in the door-way of the fortress. Then a slave of the slaves of the King came to speak with Brigit and said to her : "If thou wouldst save me from the servitude wherein I am, I would become a Christian, and I would serve thee thyself." Brigit said : "I will ask that of the King." So Brigit went into the fortress and asked her two boons of the King the forfeiture of the sword to Dubthach, and his freedom for the slave. Said Brigit to the King: "If thou desirest excellent children and a kingdom for thy sons and Heaven for thyself, give me the two boons that I ask." Said the King to Brigit : "The kingdom of Heaven, as I see it not, and as no one knows what thing it is, I seek not, and a kingdom for my sons I seek not, for I shall not myself be extant, and let each one serve his time. But give me length of life in my kingdom and victory always over the Hui Neill, for there is often warfare between us. And give me victory in the first battle, so that I may be trustful in the other fights." And this was fulfilled in the battle of Lochar, (which he fought) against the Hui Neill.
Once upon a time the King of Leinster came unto Brigit to listen to preaching and celebration at Easter-day. After the ending of the form of celebration, the King fared forth on his way and Brigit went to refection. Lomman, Brigit's leper, said he would eat nothing until the weapons of the King of Leinster were given to him both spears and sword and shield. A messenger went from Brigit after the King. From mid-day to evening a thousand paces until the weapons were given by him, and bestowed on the leper.
Once upon a time Bishop Ercc and Brigit were in the land of Leinster. She said to Bishop Ercc : "There is at present a battle between thy tribe and its neighbours." Dixit a student of Bishop Ercc's family : "We think not," saith he, "that that is true." Brigit sained the student's eyes. Said the student: "I see my brothers a-slaughtering now." Then the student repented greatly.
Once upon a time a certain leper came to Brigit to ask for a cow. Dixit Brigit to him : "Which wouldst thou prefer, to carry off a cow or to be healed of the leprosy ?" The leper said, that he would rather be healed of his leprosy than have the kingdom of all the world, for every sound man is a king, saith he. Then Brigit made prayer to God and the leper was healed and served Brigit afterwards.
Now, when Brigit's fame in miracles and marvels had travelled throughout all Ireland, there came unto Brigit for their healing two blind men from Britain, and a little leper boy with them, and they put trust in Bishop Mel to get them healed. Said Brigit : "Let them stay outside just now till mass is over." Said the Britons (for those people are impatient), " Thou healedst folk of thy own race yesterday, though thou healest not us to-day." Brigit made prayer and the three were healed at once.
Brigit went afterwards with her virgins to Ardachad of Bishop Mel. The king of Teffia was at a feast near them. There was a vessel covered with many gems in the king's hand. And a certain careless man took it out of his hand, and it fell and broke into pieces. That man was seized by the king. Bishop Mel went to ask for him, but nothing could be got from the king save his death. However, Bishop Mel asked that the broken vessel might be given to him by the king, and then he had it and took it with him to the house wherein was Brigit. And Brigit made prayer to the Lord, and the vessel was restored in a form that was better than before, and then it was taken to the king, and the captive was loosed. And Bishop Mel said : "Not for me hath God wrought this miracle, but for Brigit."
Once upon a time Brigit went to watch over a certain virgin, namely, Brigit, the daughter of Congaile, who used to work many miracles. And when Brigit and her virgins were at dinner, Brigit paused in the middle of the meal, and she said to a certain virgin : "Make thou Christ's cross over thy face and over thine eyes that thou mayest see what I see." So then the virgin beheld Satan beside the table with his head down and his feet up, his smoke and his flame out of his gullet and out of his nostrils. Said Brigit to the demon that he should answer her : "I cannot, O nun, be without conversing with thee, for thou keepest God's commandments and thou art .... to God's poor and to His family." "Tell us," saith Brigit, "why thou art hurtful in thy deeds to the human race ?"
Said the demon : "That the race may not attain unto Paradise." Said Brigit to the demon : "Wherefore hast thou come to us among our nuns ?"
"A certain pious virgin is here," saith the demon, " and in her company am I." Said Brigit to the virgin: "Put Christ's cross over thine eyes." And the virgin beheld at once the hideous monster there, and great fear seized the virgin when she beheld the demon." Wherefore shunnest thou," saith Brigit, "the fosterling whom thou hast been cherishing (?) for long seasons ?" Then the virgin repented, and she was healed of the devil of gluttony and lust that had dwelt in her company.
Once upon a time Brigit went over Teffia, and there were great hosts along with her. There were two lepers behind them, who quarrelled on the road. The hand of him that first raised his hand withers, and then the hand of the other leper withered. Thereafter they repented and Brigit cured them of their leprosy.
Once upon a time Brigit, with her virgins, was at Armagh, and two went by her bearing a tub of water. They came to Brigit to be blessed, and the tub fell behind them and went back over back from the door of the Rath as far as Loch Lapan. And it brake not, and not a drop fell thereout. It was well known to every one that Brigit's blessing had caused this, and Patrick said : "Deal ye the water throughout Armagh and Airthir." So it was dealt, and it cured every disease and every anguish that was in the land.
Brigit went into the province of Fir Ross to loosen a captive who was in manu with the King of Fir Ross. Said Brigit : "Wilt thou set that captive free for me ?" The King replied : "Though thou shouldst give me the realm of the men of Breg, I would not give him to thee. But go not with a refusal," saith the King. "For one night thou shalt have the right to guard his life for him" Then Brigit appeared at the close of day to the captive and said to him : "When the chain shall be opened for thee repeat this hymn, Nunc populus, and turn to thy right hand and flee." Thus it is done, and the captive flees at the word of Brigit.
Brigit one day came over Sliab Breg. There was a madman on the mountain who used to be destroying the companies. Great fear seized the virgins who were near Brigit, when they saw the madman. Said Brigit to the demoniac : "Since thou hast gone there, preach the word of God to us."
"I cannot," he saith, "be ungentle to thee, for thou art merciful to the Lord's family, to wit, to the poor and to the wretched." So then said the madman : "Reverence the LORD, O nun, and every one will reverence thee; love the LORD, and every one will love thee ; fear the LORD, and every one will fear thee!" Then the madman went from them and did no hurt to them.
Brigit was once journeying in Mag Laigen, and she saw running past her a student, namely, Ninnid the scholar. "What art thou doing, O Sage! " saith Brigit, "and whither art thou wending (so) quickly?" "To heaven," saith the scholar. "The Son of the Virgin knoweth," saith Brigit, "that I would fain fare with thee !" Dixit the scholar : "O nun," saith he, "hinder me not from my road ; or, if thou hinderest, beseech the Lord with me that the journey to heaven may be happy, and I will beseech God with thee that it may be easy for thee, and that thou mayst bring many thousands with thee to heaven."
Brigit repeated a Paternoster with him, and he was pious thenceforward ; and Brigit said that neither gallows nor punishment would be for him ; and he it is that afterwards administered communion and sacrifice to Brigit.
Brigit went to Bishop Ibair that he might mark out her city for her. So they came thereafter to the place where Kildare is to-day. That was the season and the time that Ailill son of Dunlaing, with a hundred horse-loads of peeled rods, chanced to be going through the ground of Kildare. Two girls came from Brigit to ask for some of the rods, and they got a refusal. Forthwith all the horses were struck down under their loads against the ground. Stakes and wattles were taken from them, and they arose not until Ailill son of Dunlaing had offered unto Brigit those hundred horse-loads ; and thereout was built Brigit's house in Kildare. Then said Brigit -
“........................................ my house
Let the kingship of Leinster for ever be
From Ailill son of Dunlaing.
On a time came two lepers unto Brigit to ask an alms. Nought else was in the kitchen save a single cow. So Brigit gave the single cow to the lepers. One of the two lepers gave thanks unto God for the cow. But the other leper was displeased, for he was haughty. "I alone," saith he, "have been set at nought with a cow ! Till to-day," saith he, "O ye nuns, I have never been counted among Culdees and amongst the poor and feeble, and I am not to be slighted with a single cow." Said Brigit to
the lowly leper : "Stay thou here to see whether God will put anything into the kitchen, and let that haughty leper fare forth with his cow." Then came a certain heathen having a cow for Brigit. So Brigit gave that cow to the lowly leper. And when the haughty leper went on his way he was unable to drive his cow alone, so he came back again to Brigit and to his comrade, and was reviling and blaming Brigit. "Not for God's sake," saith he, "bestowedst thou thine offering, but for mischief and oppressiveness thou gavest to me."
Thereafter the two lepers come to the Barrow. The river riseth against them. Through Brigit's blessing the lowly leper escapes with his cow. But the haughty leper and his cow fell into the stream, and went to the bottom, and were drowned.
Once upon a time the Queen of Cremthan, son of Ennae Cennselach, came and brought a chain of silver to Brigit as an offering. The semblance of a human shape was at one of its ends, and an apple of silver on the other end. Brigit gave it to her virgins ; they stored it up without her knowledge, for greatly used Brigit to take her wealth and give it to the poor. Nevertheless, a leper came to Brigit, and without her virgins knowledge, she went to the chain and gave it unto him. When the virgins knew this, they said, with much angry bitterness and wrath, "Little good have we from thy compassion to every one," say they, "and we ourselves in need of food and raiment." "Ye are sinning," saith Brigit : "Go ye into the church : the place wherein I make prayer, there will ye find your chain." They went at Brigit's word. But, though it had been given to the poor man, the virgins found their chain therein.
Once upon a time Brigit beheld a man with salt on his back."What is that on thy back ?" saith Brigit: "Stones," saith the man. "Let them be stones then," saith Brigit, and of the salt stones were made. The same man again cometh to (or past) Brigit. "What is that on thy back ?" saith Brigit: "Salt," saith the man. "It shall be salt then," saith Brigit. Salt was made again thereof through Brigit's word.
On a time came two lepers unto Brigit to be healed. Said Brigit to one of the two lepers : "Wash thou the other."Thus was it done, and he was quite sound forthwith. Said Brigit to the sound leper: "Bathe and wash thy comrade even as he did service unto thee." "Besides the time that we have [already] come together," says he, "we will never come together, for it is not fair for thee, O nun, (to expect) me, a sound man with fresh limbs and fresh clean raiment, to wash that loathsome leper there, with his livid limbs falling out of him." However, Brigit herself washed the poor, lowly leper. The haughty leper who had been washen first, then spake, "Meseems," saith he, "that sparks of fire are breaking through my skin." Swifter than speech he was straightway smitten with leprosy from the crown of his head to his soles, because of his disobedience to Brigit.
Another time as Brigit was going to confess to the bishop there was shewn to her a he-goat's head in the mass-chalice. Brigit refused the chalice. "Why," saith the ecclesiastic, "dost thou refuse it ?" "Not hard to say," saith Brigit, "this is why I refuse : the head of a he-goat is shewn unto me in the chalice." The bishop called the gillie who brought the imaltoir (credence-table?) " Make thy confessions, O gillie," saith the bishop. "This very morning," saith the gillie, "I went to the goat-house, and took thereout a fat he-goat, and his flesh I ate." The gillie did penance and repented. Brigit thereafter went to confession, and saw not the semblance.
Once upon a time came seven bishops to Brigit, and she had nought to give them after milking the cows thrice. So the cows were milked again the third time, and it was greater than any milking.
Once upon a time a certain nun of Brigit's family took a longing for salt. Brigit made prayer, and the stone before her she turned into salt, and then the nun was cured.
Once upon a time a bondsman of Brigid's family was cutting firewood. It came to pass that he killed a pet fox of the King of Leinster's. The bondsman was seized by the King. Brigit ordered a wild fox to come out of the wood. So he came and was playing and sporting for the hosts and the King at Brigit's order. But when the fox had finished his feats he went safe back through the wood, with the hosts of Leinster behind him, both foot and horse and hound.
(This) was (one) of Brigit's miracles. She had a great band of reapers a-reaping. A rain-storm poured on the plain of Liffey, but, through Brigit's prayer, not a drop fell on her field.
(This) was (one) of Brigit's miracles. She blessed the table-faced man, so that his two eyes were whole.
(This) was (one) of Brigit's miracles. Robbers stole her oxen. The river Liffey rose against them. The oxen came home on the morrow with the robbers clothes on their horns.
(This) was (one) of Brigit's miracles. When she came to the widow Lassair on Mag Coel, and Lassair killed her cow's calf for Brigit and burnt the beam of her loom thereunder, God so wrought for Brigit that the beam was whole on the morrow and the calf was along with its mother.
Once upon a time Brenainn came from the west of Ireland to Brigit, to the plain of Liffey. For he wondered at the fame that Brigit had in miracles and marvels. Brigit came from her sheep to welcome Brenainn. As Brigit entered the house she put her wet cloak on the rays of the sun, and they supported it like pot-hooks. Brenainn told his gillie to put his cloak on the same rays, and the gillie put it on them, but it fell from them twice. Brenainn himself put it, the third time, with anger and wrath, and the cloak staid upon them.
Each of them confessed to the other. Said Brenainn: - Not usual is it for me to go over seven ridges without (giving) my mind to God." Said Brigit: "Since I first gave my mind to God. I never took it from Him at all."
While Brigit was herding sheep, there came a thief unto her and stole seven wethers from her, after having first besought her (for them). Nevertheless, when the flock was counted the wethers were found again (therein) through Brigit's prayer.
A certain man of Brigit's family once made (some) mead for the King of Leinster. When the King came to consume it, not a drop thereof was found, for Brigit had given all the mead to the poor. Brigit at once rose up to protect the host, and blessed the vessels, and they were at once full of choice mead. For everything which Brigit used to ask of the Lord used to be given to her at once. For this was her desire : to feed the poor, to repel every hardship, to be gentle to every misery.
Many miracles and marvels in that wise the Lord wrought for Saint Brigit. Such is their number that no one could relate them unless her own spirit, or an angel of God, should come from heaven to relate them.
Now there never hath been any one more bashful or more modest than that holy virgin. She never washed her hands, or her feet, or her head, amongst men. She never looked into a male person's face. She never spoke without blushing. She was abstinent, innocent, liberal, patient. She was joyous in God's commandments, steadfast, lowly, forgiving, charitable. She was a consecrated vessel for keeping Christ's Body. She was a temple of God. Her heart and her mind were a throne of rest for the Holy Ghost. Towards God she was simple : towards the wretched she was compassionate: in miracles she was splendid. Therefore her type among created things is the Dove among birds, the Vine among trees, the Sun above stars.
This is the father of this holy virgin the Heavenly Father. This is her son Jesus Christ. This is her fosterer the Holy Ghost: and thence it is that this holy virgin wrought these great innumerable marvels.
She it is that helpeth every one who is in straits and in danger. She it is that abateth the pestilences. She it is that quelleth the wave-voice and the wrath of the great sea. This is the prophesied woman of Christ. She is the Queen of the South. She is the Mary of the Gael.
Now when Brigit came to the ending-days, after founding churches and church buildings in plenty, after miracles and wondrous deeds in number (like) sand of sea or stars of heaven, after charity and mercy, she received communion and sacrifice from Ninnid the Pure-handed, when he had returned from Rome of Latium, and sent her spirit thereafter to heaven. But her remains and her relics are on earth with great honour and with primacy and pre-eminence, with miracles and marvels. Her soul is like the sun in the heavenly City among quires of angels and archangels, in union with cherubim and seraphim, in union with Mary's Son, to wit, in the union with all the Holy Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Ghost.
I beseech the Lord's mercy, through Saint Brigit's intercession. May we all attain that union in scecula sceculorum. Amen.
-W.Stokes, ed.and trans., 'On the Life of Saint Brigit' in Three Middle-Irish Homilies on the Lives of Saints Patrick, Brigit and Columba (Calcutta, 1877), 50-89.
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Hymn taken from a 15th-century Sarum Rite Office for the Feast of Saint Brigid
Hymn: Christo canamus gloriam
Christo canamus gloriam,
qui per beatam Brigidam
vitam dans eius lucidam.
Hec speculum mundicie
quae mundo late claruit;
hec rosa temperancie
cuius virtus non languit.
Manco manum restituit;
leprosos mundans maculis;
gressum claudis exhibuit;
sanans privatos oculis.
Cenam fecit mirabilem
multis de uno modio;
totum prebens durabilem
toto paschali gaudio.
Per secla sine terminis
soli Deo sit gloria;
qui prece tante virginis
nos ducat ad celestia.
Christ's glory let us sing
Who through the blessed Brigid
Granting it her light-giving life.
She is the mirror of purity
That lit up the wide world,
She is the rose of temperance
Whose strength never failed.
She restored the hand that was withered
Cleansed lepers from their ills,
She showed the lame how to walk,
Healed those who had lost their sight.
She made a marvellous banquet
For many from a single peck of corn,
Granting all the peck to last
For the whole joy of Eastertide.
Throughout the endless ages
To God alone be glory.
That through the prayers of such a virgin
He may lead us up to heaven.
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(From the Breviary)
The holy virgin, Brigit, born in the province of Leinster, in Ireland, of parents of noble blood and of the Christian faith, became the mother in Christ of many consecrated virgins. While she was yet a little child, her father saw in a vision men clothed in white garments, pouring oil upon her head. As she reached the early years of girlhood she chose Christ the Saviour as her Spouse, and clung to Him so ardently, from her inmost heart, as, for His love, to give away all she had to the poor. Her matchless beauty drew around her a multitude of suitors; and fearing that their importunity might render impossible her purpose of devoting her life to God in holy virginity, she prayed that her beauty might be changed into ugliness. Her prayer was at once heard. One of her eyes became quite swollen, and her whole face so altered, that all her suitors retired in disgust, leaving her free to consecrate her virginity to Christ by a solemn vow.
Taking with her three young maidens, she repaired without delay to Bishop Macheas, a disciple of St, Patrick. The good Bishop, seeing a pillar of fire over her head, clothed her in a fair garment and a white mantle; and reciting the Ritual prayers, received her to holy profession, according to the Canonical form introduced into Ireland by blessed Patrick. In the course of the ceremony, as she bent her head to receive the sacred veil, she leant her hand on the wooden altar-step. At the moment, the dry, seasoned wood became green and fresh; on the instant her eye was cured, and her whole face recovered its former beauty. In process of time, her example drew young maidens to embrace the religious life in such numbers as to cover all Ireland with communities of nuns, of that order over which Brigit herself presided, and upon which all the rest were dependent.
The virgin's sanctity is attested by the miracles she wrought in her life time, as well as after death. She frequently cleansed lepers, and by her prayers obtained cure for people sick of divers diseases; she gave sight to one blind from his birth. An abandoned woman sought to father her base-born child upon Bishop Brooney. The Saint, making the sign of the cross upon the poor baby's lips, made it declare the name of its true father, thus vindicating the Bishop's character. Filled with the spirit of prophecy, she foretold things to come as if they were passing before her eyes.
She enjoyed the most intimate friendship of St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, and foretold the time of his departure from this world, and the place of his burial. She was present at his death, and supplied the winding sheet, which she had long and carefully kept for the purpose, in which his blessed remains were wrapped; and when she came to give back her beautiful soul to Christ, her Spouse, she was laid in the same grave with him.
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Hi sunt, etc. These are the folk that follow the unpolluted Lamb, whatsoever way He may wend.
John, son of Zebedee, Jesus bosom-fosterling, heir of theVirgin, he it is that wrote these words, and that left them in the Church Christian in memory of the reward and guerdon which God hath given to the third grade of the Church, namely, to the Virgins, that is, the following of the unpolluted Lamb.
Inde Johannes, etc. Now this is the parallel part of the declaration by John, as far as where he previously said in his Gospel (sic) Nemo potest, etc. There cometh not to any one on earth to make unto the Lord meet praise or fitting quire-song, save only of a surety one of the all-fullness of either Church, who hath been brought up in chastity and in virginity, and hath been redeemed with the price of Christ s blood.
Virgines enim sunt. For those are the virgins assuredly. So on the track of these words John saith Hi sunt, etc. Nihil enim prodest, etc. It profiteth not any one to have the flesh a virgin if he be corrupt in mind. Virginitas enim, etc.
Hoc est enim in Evangelio, etc. For this is in the Gospel, that these are the virgins that have not oil in their vessels, namely,the virgins that do not keep (to themselves) the approbation of the Lord, but (make) boasting before every one.
Haec est falsa castitas, etc.
Now Patriarchs fulfilled the testament of virginity in prefiguration of Christ. And apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ son of the living God, fulfilled it also, the martyrs and anchorites of the Lord, the saints and holy virgins of the world besides, even as the holy, venerable virgin fulfilled it, she that hath a festival and a commemoration on the occasion of this season and this time, to wit, sancta virgo Dei Brigida, for then it is that the Christians celebrate the feast and festal day of this holy Brigit, to wit, the Kalends of February as to the day of the solar month.
Here then is related in the churches of the Christians some what of her miracles and marvels, and of her birth according to flesh.
Brigit (was the) daughter of Dubthach, son of Demre (or Dreimne), son of Bresal, son of Den, son of Conla, son of Artair (?) son of Art Corb. son of Cairpre the Champion, son of Cormac, son of Oengus the Dumb, son of Eochaid Find Fuathnart, son of Fedlimid the Lawgiver, etc.
Now that Dubthach son of Demre bought a bondmaid, named Broicsech, daughter of Dallbronach of Dal Conchobair in the south of Bregia. Dubthach united himself in wedlock to her, and she became pregnant by him. Thereafter Dubthach's consort grew jealous of the bondmaid (Brechtnat Blaithbec was the name of Dubthach's wife), and the queen said "unless thou sellest this bondmaid in far-off lands, I will demand my dowry of thee, and I will go from thee." Dubthach did not at all desire to sell the bondmaid.
Dubthach went, and his bondmaid along with him, in a chariot past the house of a certain wizard. When the wizard heard the noise of the chariot, this he said : "See, O gillie, who is in the chariot, for this is the noise of a chariot under a king. Said the gillie, “Dubthach is therein." Then the wizard went to meet the chariot, and he asked whose (was) the woman who was biding in the chariot. Said Dubthach, That is a bondmaid of mine," quoth he, Maithgen was the wizard s name, and from him Ross Maithgen is named. The wizard asked by whom the bondmaid was pregnant. "By Dubthach." says the bondmaid. Said the wizard, “Marvellous will be the offspring, the like of her will not be in (all) the land.
Said Dubthach, " My consort did not allow me not to sell this bondmaid."
Said the wizard through his gift of prophecy, "Thy wife's seed shall serve this bondmaid's seed, for the bondmaid will bring forth a daughter, noble, revered, before the men of the earth. As sun shineth among stars, (so) will shine the maiden's deeds and merits."
Dubthach and the bondmaid rejoiced thereat, (and) Dubthach said, "Since I have (already) sons, I should like to have a daughter." Then Dubthach went (back) to his house and his bondmaid with him. The wife however was still jealous of the bondmaid.
Great was the honour in which God held this girl. For two bishops of the Britons came to her from Alba to prophesy of her and to sanctify her, to wit, Bishop Mel and Melchu nomina eorum. So Dubthach gave them a welcome and the bondmaid served them and tended them. Now Dubthach's consort was mournful thereat, and Bishop Mel asked her the cause of her sadness. Said the wife, "Because Dubthach hath distinguished his bondmaid from me."Said Bishop Mel, " Thus shall it be as thou sayest, for thy seed shall serve the seed of the bondmaid, but her seed shall be profitable unto thy seed." She was angry with him. So the bishop asked her," How many sons hast thou ?" Said the wife,"Six sons." Dixit Bishop Mel, " Thou shalt bear the seventh son, and he will be the worst of them, and the other sons will be bad unless the bondmaid's seed ennobles them, and thou thyself shalt be accursed, because of the cruelty which thou shewest to the bondmaid."
After these words there came to Dubthach's house, out of the border of Hui-Maiccuais, another wizard who had been gathering treasures. Now when the wizard knew that the bondmaid was the cause of the anger of Dubthach's wife, he said, "Wilt thou sell the bondmaid?" "I will sell," saith Dubthach. Quoth the bishops,"Sell the bondmaid, but sell not the child that is in her womb." Thus did Dubthach.
The wizard went forth and the bondmaid with him. The wizard with his bondmaid arrived at his house.
A certain poet came out of the province of Conaille to the house of the wizard aforesaid in order to buy a slave or a bondmaid. The wizard sold him the bondmaid, but sold him not the offspring. Then it came to pass that the wizard made a great feast, and bade the king of Conaille to the feast, and it was then the time for the king's wife to bear a child. There was a prophet along with the king, and a friend of the king's asked him what hour would be lucky for the queen to bring forth the royal offspring. Dixit propheta," The child that shall be brought forth to-morrow at sunrise shall overtop every birth in Ireland." Now the queen's travail came on before that hour, and she brought forth a dead son. Then the poet asked the prophet what hour would be lucky for the bondmaid to bring forth? Said the poet, "The child that shall be brought forth to-morrow at sunrise, and neither within the house nor without, shall surpass every child in Ireland."
Now on the morrow, at sunrise, when the bondmaid was going with a vessel full of milk in her hand, and when she put one foot over the threshold of the house inside and the other foot outside, then did she bring forth the girl, to wit, Brigit.
The maid-servants washed the girl with the milk that was in her mother's hand. Now that was in accord with the merits of Saint Brigit, to wit, with the brightness and sheen of her chastity. On a Wednesday and in the eighth moon was Brigit born in Fothart Murthemni. Still, to the south-east of the church is the flagstone whereon Brigit was born, and the girl was taken straightway after her birth to the queen's dead son, and when Brigit's breath came to him he swiftly arose out of death.
Then the wizard and the bondmaid with her daughter went into the province of Connaught: her mother (was) of Connaught, her father out of Munster, her abode with the Connaughtmen.
On a certain day the bondmaid went to her island, and covered up her daughter in her house. Certain neighbours saw the house wherein was the girl all ablaze, so that a flame of fire was made of it from earth to heaven. But when they went to rescue the house, the fire appeared not, and this they said, that the girl was full of the Holy Spirit.
One day the wizard went with his bondmaid to visit the cattle. The cow-dung (?) that lay before the girl was seen ablaze. But when the wizard and the bondmaid stretched down their hands to it, the fire appeared not.
Once upon a time when the wizard was sleeping, he saw three clerics in white garments, to wit, three angels of heaven, and they poured oil on St. Brigit s head, and they, completed the order of baptism. And the third cleric said to the wizard " This shall be the name of this holy maiden : Sancta Brigita". The wizard arose, and told what he had beheld.
Now this holy virgin, namely, Brigit, was nourished with food and like to her compeers (?) besides, and she rejected the guidance of the, wizard and used to give it (the food) away. The wizard meditated on the girl, and it seemed to him that it was because of the impurity and the corruption of his food. Then he enjoined a white red-eared cow to give milk to Brigit, and he enjoined a faithful woman to milk the cow. The virgin took her fill of that.
That holy virgin was reared till she was a handmaiden, and everything to which her hand was set used to increase and reverence God. Every store of food which she saw and served used to grow. She bettered the sheep: she tended the blind: she fed the poor.
Brigit was minded to go and watch over her fatherland. And the wizard sent messengers to Dubthach, that he might come for his daughter. The messengers declared unto Dubthach the maiden's miracles and many wonders. Then Dubthach came, and the wizard bade him welcome, and gave him his daughter free.
Then they went to their country, Dubthach and his daughter Brigit, in the province of Offaly and there did Brigit work a wondrous miracle, to wit, her fostermother was in weakness of disease, and the fostermother sent the holy Brigit and another maiden with her to the house of a certain man named Boethchu, to ask him for a draught of ale. He refused Brigit. Then Brigit filled a vessel out of a certain well, and blessed it, and (the water) was turned into the taste of ale, and she gave it to her fostermother, who straightway became whole thereby. Now when they went to drink the banquet not a drop thereof was found.
This (was another) of Brigit's miracles : while she was herding Dubthach's swine, there came two robbers and carried off two boars of the flock. They fared over the plain, and Dubthach met them and bound on them the erc (mulct) of his swine. Said Dubthach to Brigit, "Is the herding of the swine good, my girl?" saith he. Dixit Brigit to Dubthach, "Count thou the swine." Dubthach counted the swine, and not one of them was wanting.
Guests, then, came to Dubthach. Dubthach sundered a gammon of bacon into five pieces, and left them with Brigit to be boiled. And a miserable, greedy hound came into the house to Brigit. Brigit out of pity gave him the fifth piece. When the hound had eaten that piece Brigit gave another piece to him. Then Dubthach came and said to Brigit : "Hast thou boiled the bacon, and do all the portions remain?" "Count them," saith Brigit. Dubthach counted them, and none of them was wanting.
The guests declared unto Dubthach what Brigit had done."Abundant," saith Dubthach, " are the miracles of that maiden." Now the guests ate not the food, for they were unworthy (thereof), but it was dealt out to the poor and to the needy of the LORD.
Once upon a time a certain faithful woman asked Dubthach that Brigit might go with her into the plain of the Liffey, for a congregation of the synod of Leinster was held there. And it was revealed in a vision to a certain holy man who was in the assembly, that Mary the Virgin was coming thereto, and it was told him that she would not be (accompanied) by a man in the assembly. On the morrow came the woman to the assembly, and Brigit along with her. And he that had seen the vision said "This is the Mary that I beheld" saith he to Brigit. The holy Brigit blessed all the hosts under the name and honour of Mary. Wherefore Brigit was (called) the Mary of the Gael thenceforward.
On a time it came into Brigit's mind, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, to go and see her mother who was in bondage. So she asked her father's leave, and he gave it not. Nevertheless, she went without permission from Dubthach. Glad was her mother when she arrived. Toil-worn and sickly was the mother and she (Brigit) for her mother, and took to bettering the dairy. The first churning that Brigit had she divided the fruit thereof into twelve shares in honour of the twelve apostles of the Creator, and she set the thirteenth portion so that it was greater than every (other) portion in honour of Jesus Christ, and she gave them all then to the poor of the Lord. Now the wizard's herdsman marvelled at the ordering that Brigit gave the butter. Then said Brigit:"Christ with his twelve apostles preached to the men of the world. In His name it is that I feed the poor, for Christ is in the person of every faithful poor man."
The charioteer (that is the herdsman) went to the wizard's house, and the wizard and his wife asked him "hath the virgin well cared for the dairy?" And the charioteer (i.e., the herdsman) said "I am thankful anyhow, and the calves are fat" for he durst not carp at Brigit in her absence. The charioteer took with him a firkin(?), eight fists in height. Said the charioteer to Brigit :"The wizard will come with his wife to fill this firkin with the butter of the dairy." "They are welcome," saith Brigit. The wizard and his consort came to the dairy, and beheld the calves fat. And Brigit made them welcome and brought them food. Then said the wizard's wife to Brigit : "We have come to know whether that which hath been entrusted to thee hath profited. Of butter what hast thou?" She had none in readiness, except the making of one churning and a half making, and she first brought the half. The wizard s wife mocked thereat and said : "This quantity of butter," says she, "is good to fill the big firkin that I have" "Fill your firkin" saith Brigit, "and God will put butter into it."
So she kept going still into her kitchen and carrying out of it a half making at every journey, for God did not wish to deprive her of honour, so in that wise the firkin was filled. And this is what she repeated on going into her kitchen -
O God, O my Prince
Who canst do all these things,
Bless, O God (a cry unforbidden),
With thy right hand this kitchen !
May Mary's Son, my Friend, come
To bless my kitchen !
The Prince of the world to the border,
May we have abundance with Him !
The wizard and his consort venerated the Lord because of the miracle which they beheld; wherefore then said the wizard to Brigit: "The butter and the kine that thou hast milked, I offer them to thee. Thou shalt not abide in bondage to me, but serve thou the Lord”. Brigit answered him and said: "Take thou the kine and give me my mother's freedom." Said the wizard: "Not only shall thy mother be freed,(but) the kine shall be given to thee, and whatsoever thou shalt say (that) will I do." Then Brigit dealt out the kine unto the poor and the needy of God. The wizard was baptized and was faithful, and accompanied Brigit from that time forth.
Then came Brigit, and her mother with her, to her father's house. Thereafter Dubthach and his consort were minded to sell the holy Brigit into bondage ; for Dubthach liked not his cattle and his wealth to be dealt out to the poor, and that is what Brigit used to do. So Dubthach fared in his chariot, and Brigit along with him. Said Dubthach to Brigit :"Not for honour or reverence to thee art thou carried in a chariot, but to take thee to sell thee, and to grind the quern for Dunlang MacEnda, King of Leinster.” When they came to the King s fortress, Dubthach went in to the King and Brigit remained in her chariot at the fortress door. Dubthach had left his sword in the chariot near Brigit. A leper came to Brigit to ask an alms. She gave him Dubthach's sword. Dixit Dubthach to the King: "Wilt thou buy a bondmaid, namely, my daughter?" says he. Dixit Dunlang: "Why sellest thou thine own daughter ?" Dixit Dubthach : " She stayeth not from selling my wealth and giving it to the poor." Dixit the King : "Let the maiden come into the fortress." Dubthach went for Brigit and was enraged against her, because she had given his sword to the poor man. When Brigit came into the King's presence, the King said to her : "Since it is thy father's wealth that thou takest, much more, if I buy thee, wilt thou take my wealth and my cattle and give them to the poor ?" Dixit Brigit: "The Son of the Virgin knoweth if I had thy might with (all) Leinster, and with all thy wealth I would give (them) to the Lord of the Elements." Said the King to Dubthach : "Thou art not fit on either hand to bargain about this maiden, for her merit is higher before God than before men." And the King gave Dubthach for her an ivory-hilled sword, et sic liberata est sancta virgo Brigita captivitate.
Shortly after that came a certain nobleman unto Dubthach to ask for his daughter (in marriage). Dubthach and his sons were willing, but Brigit refused. Said a brother of her brethren named Beccan unto her : "Idle is the fair eye that is in thy head not to be on a pillow near a husband."
"The Son of the Virgin knoweth," says Brigit, "it is not lively for us if it brings harm upon us." Then Brigit put her finger under her eye, and drew it out of her head till it was on her cheek ; and she said : "Lo, here for thee is thy delightful eye, O Beccan !" Then his eye burst forthwith. When Dubthach and her brethren beheld that, they promised that she should never be told to go unto a husband. Then she put her palm to her eye and it was quite whole at once. But Beecan's eye was not whole till his death.
Said Dubthach to Brigit : "O daughter, says he, "put a veil on thy head. If thou hast dedicated thy virginity to God, I will not snatch it from Him." Deo gratias, says Brigit.
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BRIGID, the daughter of Duffy, she wasn't like other
Dreaming of lads for her lovers, and twirling her bracelets and rings;
Combing and coiling and curling her hair that was black
as the sloes,
Painting her lips and her cheeks that were ruddy and
fresh as the rose.
Ah, 'twasn't Brigid would waste all her days in such
follies as these -
Christ was the Lover she worshipped for hour after hour
on her knees;
Christ and His Church and His poor, - and 'twas many
a mile that she trod
Serving the loathsomest lepers that ever were stricken
Brigid, the daughter of Duffy, she sold all her jewels and
Sold all her finely-spun robes that were braided with
gold to the hems;
Kept to her back but one garment, one dress that was
faded and old,
Gave all her goods to the poor who were famished with
hunger and cold.
Ah, 'twasn't Brigid would fling at the poor the hard word
like a stone -
Christ the Redeemer she saw in each wretch that was
ragged and lone;
Every wandering beggar who asked for a bite or a bed
Knocked at her heart like the Man who had nowhere to
shelter His head.
Brigid, the daughter of Duffy, she angered her father
"Where are your dresses, my daughter? Crom Cruach!
You wear them out fast!
Where are the chains that I bought you all wrought in
red gold from the mine?
Where the bright brooches of silver that once on your
bosom would shine?"
Ah, but 'twas he was the man that was proud of his
name and his race,
Proud of their prowess in battle and proud of their deeds
in the chase!
Knew not the Christ, the pale God Whom the priests
from afar had brought in,
Held to the old Gaelic gods that were known to Cuchullin
Brigid, the daughter of Duffy, made answer, "O father,"
"What is the richest of raiment, and what are bright
jewels to me?
Lepers of Christ must I care for, the hungry of Christ
must I feed;
How can I walk in rich robes when His people and mine
are in need ?"
Ah, but 'twas she didn't fear for herself when he blustered and swore,
Meekly she bowed when he ordered his chariot brought
to the door;
Meekly obeyed when he bade her get in at the point of
Knowing whatever her fate she'd be safe with her Lover
Brigid, the daughter of Duffy, was brought to the court
of the King,
(Monarch of Leinster, MacEnda, whose praises the poets
"Hither, O monarch," said Duffy, "I've come with a
maiden to sell;
Buy her and bind her to bondage - she's needing such
Ah, but 'twas wise was the King. From the maid to the
chieftain he turned;
Mildness he saw in her face, in the other 'twas anger
"This is no bondmaid, I'll swear it, O chief, but a girl
of your own.
Why sells the father the flesh of his flesh and the bone
of his bone?"
Brigid, the daughter of Duffy, was mute while her father
"Monarch, this maid has no place as the child of a
chieftain of pride.
Beggars and wretches whose wounds would the soul of
a soldier affright,
Sure, 'tis on these she is wasting my substance from
morning till night!"
Ah, but 'twas bitter was Duffy; he spoke like a man that
Musing, the monarch was silent; he pondered the question perplexed.
"Maiden," said he, "if 'tis true, as I've just from your
father heard tell,
Might it not be, as my bondmaid, you'd waste all my
substance as well?"
Brigid, the daughter of Duffy, made answer. "O monarch," she said,
"Had I the wealth from your coffers, and had I the crown from your head
Yea, if the plentiful yield of the broad breasts of Erin
All would I give to the people of Christ who in poverty
Ah, but 'twas then that the King felt the heart in his
"I am not worthy," he cried, "such a maiden in bondage
Here's a king's sword for her ransom, and here's a
king's word to decree
Never to other than Christ and His poor let her servitude
-DREAMS AND IMAGES AN ANTHOLOGY of CATHOLIC POETS
Edited by JOYCE KILMER, N.Y. 1917, 156-60.
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(The Legend tells that Brigid was the Foster-Nurse of Jesus.)
FIRST I kiss the eyelids sweet—
Little eyes that soon shall know
All the dark of human woe—
Peace that comes when sorrows seize us
Fill the dreams of Baby Jesus.
Then I kiss the little feet—
Hard your way, and sharp and fierce
Little feet the nails shall pierce.
Hope that lifts and Faith that frees us
Guide the feet of Baby Jesus.
Then the kisses I repeat
On the hands in slumber curled—
Little hands that hold the world.
Love whose circling arms appease us,
Cradle softly Baby Jesus.
And shadow fails, and a Terror pales the dazzle of eyeless walls,
Fierce stifling gusts of the desert-dusts up lanes and up alleys beat—
And all things gasp in the fever grasp of the merciless hands of Heat.
I chant the tune of a mountain rune to screen my Babe from the glare.
And spells I weave of the dews of eve and of Ireland's radiant air,
I loop a twist of her rainbow mist, and a film of her twilit skies,
And silver strains of her rills and rains through the liit of my lullabies.
As low I croon of the pale green noon and the long Atlantic roll,
It sometimes seems as if Ireland's dreams may slide into Baby's soul.
That in the prime of a future time, on my hills and my isles remote
His words of speech all hearts shall reach with a sweet familiar note.
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"Far in the west they tell of a matchless land,
Which goes in ancient books by the name of Scotia;
Rich in resources this land having silver,
Precious stones, vesture and gold;
Well suited to earth-born creatures as regards
Its climate, its sun and its arable soil,
That Scotia with lovely fields
Hath skill with husbandry and raiments, and arms and arts and fruits
There are no fierce bears there, nor ever
Has the land of Scotia brought forth savage
Broods of lions. No poisons hurt no serpent
Creeps through the grass, nor does the babbling frog
Croak and complain by the lake. In this land
The Scottish race are worthy to dwell, a renowned race of men
In war, in peace, in fidelity. Here was born in former days
The most holy virgin,
Brigid, glory of the Scots; her name, her honour,
A tower reaching to the highest points of the flame-bearing heaven.
An inexhaustible light, a noble crown of God,
A blessed fountain rejoicing, reforming the hearts of the Scots;
While recreating them, she takes care of herself, she feeds, she grows;
A ladder prepared for men, excellent for youths and girls.
For mothers and for saints, she reaches to the stars of heaven.
Her father was called by name Dubtacus;
A man renowned for his good deeds, of famous ancestry;
Noble and humble, gentle and full of piety ;
Nobler because of his wife and pious offspring.
Many have written of the virtues of this virgin soul.
The learned Ultan and Eleran honouring her ;
One called Animosus has written many books
Concerning the life and studies of this virgin and her good deeds.
I shall begin from the least, nor shall greater things follow,
But so shall I gather fitting blossoms in a garden full of flowers.
If, beholding the glittering stars of heaven, we seek to know
their order and high-aspiring course,
If we could number the minutest grains of sand which the troubled
waves of the sea have scattered on our shores,
Then might we number the virtues of this virgin
Whose body was the temple of the Most High God."
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-Margaret Stokes, Six months in the Apennines; or, A pilgrimage in search of vestiges of the Irish saints in Italy (London, 1892), p237-8.
From- Life of Saint Gildas, the Monk of Ruys
10. Now, St. Bridget, an illustrious virgin, who dwelt and flourished at that time in the island of Hibernia, and presided as abbess over a nunnery, on hearing of the renown of St. Gildas, sent a messenger to him, saying with entreating words: Rejoice, holy father, and be always strong in the Lord. I beseech thee to deem it worthy to send me some token of thy holiness, that the memory of thee may ever, without ceasing, be held in honour amongst us. Then St. Gildas, having heard the holy virgin’s ambassador, made with his own hands a mould of wrought work and, according to her petition, constructed a bell, and despatched it to her by means of the messenger whom she had sent. She joyfully took it, and gladly received it as a heavenly gift sent to her from him.