1st February, Feast of Saint Brigid
Saint Brigid is the secondary patron of Ireland, after Saint Patrick. She was born around 454. When she was young her father wished to make a suitable marriage for her but she insisted that she wanted to consecrate herself to God. She received the veil and spiritual formation probably from Saint Mel and she stayed for a while under his direction in Ardagh. Others followed her example and this led to her founding a double monastery in Kildare, with a section for men and a section for women. Through Brigid’s reputation as a spiritual teacher, the monastery became a centre of pilgrimage. She died in 524 and she is venerated not only throughout Ireland but in several European lands. She was renowned for her hospitality, almsgiving and care of the sick. Saint Brigid’s cross remains a popular sign of God’s protection. In legend it was used by Brigid to explain the Christian faith. As a woman of deep prayer, it is appropriate that the first reading for her feast is that wonderful prayer of Saint Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. He prays that our hidden self would grow strong, that Christ would live in our hearts. When we allow Christ to live in our hearts, then our hidden self, our deepest self, grows strong. Paul equates allowing Christ to live in our hearts with gospel reading. Jesus is calling there for a life of love that reflects the love that is in God, ‘Be compassionate as your Father in compassionate’. Paul reminds us that such a life flows from Christ living in us.