Feast day: February 1
Saint Brigid was the daughter of an Irish king and a Christian slave woman. She was known for her joy, kindness, and compassion toward the poor, and also for her love and care for animals. Brigid could not stand to see anyone suffering, so she frequently gave away her father’s possessions to help the poor. This angered her father, but Brigid told him that “Christ dwells in every creature.”
Brigid felt called to religious life and went to her bishop to take her vows. She founded several convents, including the famous double monastery at Kildare for both monks and nuns. Her monastery was famous as a center of religion and learning, including the arts of metalworking and illumination (colorful drawings to illustrate books of the Bible).
The site of this monastery is a site of pilgrimage today. A flame that burned at the time of Saint Brigid is still burning today as a symbol of the enduring light and love of Christ. In ancient times, her feast day was considered the first day of spring. Even today, crosses made from reeds (tall and sturdy grasses) are made in celebration of her feast. They are blessed and hung in homes as a sign of Saint Brigid’s protection. In art, Saint Brigid is often pictured with a crosier (symbol of her authority as an abbess) and a lamp, recalling the perpetual flame at her Kildare monastery.
(Image Octave 444, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)