A day to rejoice in nature as we recall St Brigid

As Ireland marks its first St Brigid’s Day public holiday today, Eilís Uí Bhriain salutes the woman who has long been connected to the onset of spring - a truly blessed time of year
A day to rejoice in nature as we recall St Brigid

St Brigid's Cross.

“Dear St. Brigid of the Kyne, bless these little fields of mine

The pastures and the shady trees, bless the butter and the cheese

Bless the hay and bless the grass, bless the seasons as they pass

And Heavens blessings shall prevail, dear Brigid Mary of the Gael”

WE are heading into Spring, a truly lovely blessed time of year to see the first flowers in bloom and the humble little snowdrops bowing heads as they make their shy, but striking entrance.

It is as if Brigid is spreading her cloak of seeding, growth and fruitfulness all over again and the little hiding shoots reveal themselves.

The grass takes on a verdant carpet countrywide, enhancing our quiet gardens, and fields of fodder awaken in growth for sheltering animals set free.

We love to recap on stories, folklore, and miracles that are attributed to St Brigid, who ranks with Patrick and Colmcille as a patron saint of our Isle, and we will have her holy life of prayer, healing and feeding the poor celebrated with a public holiday today.

According to tradition, she was born at Faughart, Dundalk, in 454 and lived for her 70 years travelling around our country, establishing convents, monasteries, and of course the centre of religion in Kildare where she was an Abbess.

She is very much associated with rural Ireland and as a lover of animals, a patron of livestock, sheep-farming, blacksmiths, ploughing and seeding, all bird life from farmyard fowl to the birds of the air.

Her devotion and inspiration spread to many countries as Irish monks and nuns wandered throughout England, Wales and the Continent.

In England, 19 churches were dedicated to her, most notably St Bride’s Church on London’s Fleet Street, and in Scotland we note ‘Gillebridean’ (the guide of St. Bríd) where she was known to send birds of the sky to guide sailors to safety.

We cherish the St Brigid’s Cross, which is a joyful and educational task of schoolchildren each year, learning the special art of weaving that iconic Cross into its distinctively gaelic mould.

The well-known Redemptorist priest and historian Fr John O’Riordan recorded in his famous publication Where Araglen Silently Flows, reminding readers that rushes were pulled, but never cut to make this special Cross.

These crosses are kept over the door entrance all year to homes and animal sheds as “St Brigid was looked upon as a great woman for the cattle”, as he so sincerely wrote.

The prevailing history of the Cross is told as St Brigid’s way of teaching the true faith to non-believers; she plucked some rushes one day when tending to an Irish pagan Chieftain on his deathbed and as an emblem of The Crucifixion, she wove the Cross in explanation and in his final hour, the Chieftain requested a Christian baptism.

Another ancient custom is St Brigid’s ribbon which is placed outdoors on the windowsill or greenery, on the eve of her feast day; the general belief is that a St Brigid’s blessing and healing powers touch this relic as she passes over our lands on this special night and the hoarfrost, gathered from the grass, has special healing powers.

Whatever our beliefs are, this time of year brings hope and good cheer under a brighter sky, and the vibrant colours of Spring gladden the heart as we welcome the little wobbly, woolly frolicking lambs in nearby fields in this season of Nature.s blooming blossom and new birth.

Well, didn’t our beloved Naomh Bríd promise us “Gachre lá go maith óm’ lá -sa amach agus leath mo lae féinigh”... Bain sult agus súp as iontaisí an Earraigh, a chairde.

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