Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February 1 - Brigid of Kildare, Convert, Nun, Abbess

At first, Dubhthach attributed the missing flour and pantry supplies to a variety of sources including simply poor estimations of how much they had left. Yet, he hadn't been pestered by a beggar in some time for food and this made him start to wonder. Then, one day he caught his daughter Brigid hastily giving away flour and oil to a beggar at the front door who thanked her profusely. He was furious that she would give away the family's things to beggars and those in particular need. When he confronted her for what she was doing, she reminded him that she felt a calling to do ministry and that she would do it wherever she was with whatever she had access to. He seethed privately over her confident brand of charity and wondered if the faith she shared with her mother really was enough to change lives, values, and outlooks. He had married her mother knowing she had been convert to the Christian religion who had been baptized by Patrick of Ireland. What he hadn't known was the change that had infected her heart the day she gladly accepted the baptismal waters. Their daughter Brigid had clearly been likewise converted upon hearing the Christian story and the specific story of St. Patrick.

He had left her alone because he didn't quite know how to stop her. He didn't want her to leave and become a nun like she desired because he still hoped to persuade to leave her faith. Yet, he couldn't stand the idea of her using his family's wealth to take care of people he had no desire to help. It seems the decision was made for him when she took the jewel-encrusted sword in their home and gave it to a beggar to sell to feed his family and buy medicines. His fury overran his hesitation and he insisted that she pack her things and leave. She had gone one step too far and it was apparent that she would not be happy until she had given away all that she could to help and love the poor. Even in his rage, he didn't want to see her become destitute, though, and so he sent her to a convent. When she arrived, she took her vows and became a nun under the guidance of St. Moel the Briton.

As a nun, Brigid was known for her piety, devotion, and holiness. She did not take vows to make sure she had a life provided to her but because she wanted a chance to pour herself out for others. Soon, her vibrant prayers and eager charity attracted attention of leaders of the Celtic Church. Her faith was not especially mystical or esoteric and was, in fact, focused on finding ways to live and practice her faith in the every day. Mountain top experiences were alright but they weren't the fuel that maintained Brigid's steady and passionate faith. Eventually, she was appointed abbess of a double-monastery in Kildare. As a double-monastery, it meant that she was a spiritual director and guide both to nuns and monks. As abbess of Kildare, she had the authority and influence of a bishop. Even now, Brigid is considered one of the great saints of Ireland and is remembered alongside Patrick whom she hoped to emulate in her life and faith. When she died in 524, she was buried in the abbey near the altar. Her presence among the faithful continued to inspire them toward a practice faith that called all to pour themselves out whatever the cost.

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