Brigid (also known as Bride), is believed to have been born hear Uinmeras, about five miles from Cell Dara (Kildare) in Leinster, of parents of humble origin who had been baptized by Patrick. She was honored by the monastic community at Kildare as their founder and patron. There is little of historical certainty about her life, and some scholars have doubted her historical existence entirely. Many details in her early Lives, two Latin and one Old Irish, are legendary. Her miracle stories portray her as an embodiment of compassion. Some emphasize the multiplication of food, as of butter for the poor or the changing of her bathwater into beer for clerical visitors. Even her cows gave milk three times the same day to enable visiting bishops to have enough to drink.
Despite the historical uncertainty of her life, the extension of her veneration throughout Ireland and in the churches of Irish monastic origin on the Continent, second only to Patrick, is well attested. Her Lives were translated into Old French, Middle English, and German. In England there were at least thirteen ancient church dedications in her honor, the most famous being St Bride’s, Fleet Street in London. There were almost as many dedications to her in Wales, and several places in Wales are to this day called Llansantaffraid (St Bride’s Church). She is still venerated in Alsace, Flanders, and Portugal.
Brigid is commemorated in the Calendars of the Church of England, the Church of Ireland, the Church in Wales, and the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Almighty Father, by the ministry of your blessed servant Brigid you strengthened the Church in Ireland: As we give thanks for her life of devoted service, inspire us with new life and light, fill us with your generous Spirit, and give us perseverance to serve you all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Collect is adapted from the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of Ireland.
The icon of Saint Brigid is from Aidan Hart’s gallery of Western Orthodox saints and is reproduced here with his kind permission.