Brigid of Ireland (also known as Brigid of Kildare), was one of those saints who was known in her lifetime for her great holiness. Possessing all seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, she actively dedicated her life to providing many of the ten corporal acts of mercy to whoever needed them. She is the patron saint of babies, children whose parents weren’t married, midwives, nuns, poets, scholars, and travelers.
Want to know more? Here are five fun facts about this amazing saint:
1. She’s co-patron of Ireland alongside Saint Patrick
Many of us know that Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, but many don’t know that Saint Brigid is co-patron saint of Éire due to her contributions to the spread of Catholicism. There are other similarities between both saints. Saint Patrick was taken to Ireland as a slave where he eventually evangelized and drove the Druids out of Ireland. Brigid was the daughter of a pagan Irish chieftain and a Christian slave. Her mother was sold to a Druid while expecting Brigid and was thus born a slave herself. She was eventually freed by her own father, allowing her to become a religious sister and helped evangelize those with whom she came into contact.
2. Her generosity knew no bounds
SaintBrigid was known for her kindness towards those in need. She gave everything she had, even if it meant that she was left with nothing. She gave a group of hungry beggars all the food that was left in the storehouse of her convent and, seeing their tattered clothing, even gave them holy vestments that had been donated. Knowing her tendency to do this, her fellow sisters at the convent were known to hide costly gifts given to them so that she wouldn’t give them away. One day, a leper stopped by the convent asking for alms. Brigid had just received a silver chain from an Irish queen, so she gave it to the leper. Her sisters were not pleased with the act since they had nothing to eat themselves. Brigid asked them to check the place where she always prayed and they found the silver chain still there as if it had never been given away.
Sometimes people took advantage of her generosity, but it never ended well for them. Once, a wealthy young man decided to take advantage of her famous generosity by dressing up like a beggar. When he spotted her tending to her sheep, he asked for alms and, only having sheep with her, she gave him one. He went back to change his disguise and, again, asked her for alms, receiving another sheep. He did this scheme seven times before the day was over. He thought he had outsmarted the generous saint until, the following morning, he woke up to find all the sheep had disappeared without a trace… while Brigid’s flock had recovered the same number of sheep she’d given away.
3. She actually existed
Some people believe that Saint Brigid didn’t exist, pointing out similarities to a Celtic goddess also named Brigid. They claim that the Church used a Christianized version of the Celtic divinity as a tool to evangelize more Irish men and women. However, there are many accounts of her existence by her contemporaries. There was even a biography written by Saint Broccan written around the 7th century, less than a century after her death.
4. There’s a Saint Brigid’s Cross
It is an ancient Irish tradition to weave a “Saint Brigid’s cross” out of rushes on her feast day. The crosses are blessed with holy water and hung near the door for an entire year. The following year, the cross is burned and replaced with a new cross. Some people hang their crosses near the kitchen as it is said that the cross protects the home from fires as well as from evil spirits.
5. She loved a good beer
To those who know the story of Saint Brigid, the word “beer” is synonymous with her name because of how many times the drink was used or appeared in miracles she performed. It is said that when Brigid was still a child, her nurse fell ill. Being the tenderhearted child that she was, she used water that tasted like beer as medicine that cured her nurse! Another time, it is said that she was able to provide beer for seven churches in Tulach for Holy Thursday as well as the first eight days of Easter by multiplying it, much like Jesus’ miracle at the wedding feast at Cana.
There is also a prayer attributed to Saint Brigid that mentions beer (as ale):
“I should like a great lake of ale for the King of the kings.
I should like the family of Heaven to be drinking it through time eternal . . . .
I should like vessels of charity for distribution.
I should like caves of mercy for their company.
I should like cheerfulness to be in their drinking;
I should like Jesus, too, to be there (among them).
I should like the three Marys of illustrious renown;
I should like the people of Heaven there from all parts.
I should like that I should be a rent-payer to the Lord;
That, should I suffer distress,
He would bestow upon me a good blessing.”
Whether you’re Irish or not, you can celebrate Saint Brigid by having a pint of beer, doing an act of charity, making a Saint Brigid’s cross, or simply praying for Ireland and her people.