Raise a glass to Brigid!

Artist: Sr. Marie Paul O' Brien, pddm
Traditionally in Ireland today, the 1st of February is regarded as the first day of spring though meteorologists would say the 21st of March. Oh, I know that there is no magic switch that flicks on the first day of spring, unleashing new life and green shoots, but there is something about knowing that spring has come that leaves a tingling promise of renewal, and rebirth, in my veins. However this year I will have to wait a little bit longer for Springtime. The ice and the snow still remind us that the weather is not yet warm enough for the buds to peek their head above the soil. More snow is promised tomorrow and next week. The skaters on the Rideau Canal,on the other hand, are probably hoping that the Great Freeze will persevere and stay as long as is possible and not curtail the fun!
However in Ireland today we also celebrate a special woman, the great St. Brigid.In liturgical iconography and statuary Saint Brigid is often depicted holding a reed cross, a crozier of the sort used by abbots, and a lamp (called a "lamp of learning and wisdom", as lamps and fire were regarded sacred to the Celts and druids). Early hagiographers portray Saint Brigid's life and ministry as touched with fire. Brigid also founded a school of art, including metal work and illumination, over which Conleth presided. The Kildare scriptorium produced the Book of Kildare, which elicited high praise from Giraldus Cambrensis, but which has disappeared since the Reformation. According to Giraldus, nothing that he had ever seen was at all comparable to the book, every page of which was gorgeously illuminated, and he concludes by saying that the interlaced work and the harmony of the colours left the impression that "all this is the work of angelic, and not human skill". It is fitting to share with you here the painting done by one of my sisters Sr. Marie Paul O' Brien, who in my humble opinion, presents a wonderful depiction of Brigid.

There are many curious legends and stories attached to the life of Brigid. Apparently she loved the poor and would often bring food and clothing to them. One day she gave away a whole pail of milk, and then began to worry about what her mother would say. She prayed to the Lord to make up for what she had given away. When she got home, her pail was full! Brigid was a very pretty young girl, and her father thought that it was time for her to marry. She, however, had given herself entirely to God from her youth, she would not think of marrying anyone. When she learned that her beauty was the reason for the attentions of so many young men, she prayed fervently to God to take it from her. She wanted to belong to Him alone. God granted her prayer. Seeing that his daughter was no longer pretty, her father gladly agreed when she asked to become a nun. She became the first religious in Ireland and founded a convent so that other young girls might dedicate their lives to Christ. When she consecrated herself to God, a miracle happened and she became very beautiful again, so much so that she made people think of the Blessed Mother because she was so pure and sweet, so lovely and gentle. They called her the "Mary of the Irish" or "Mary of the Gaels".

I had to share this prayer especially for the benefit of my friends and classmates here who were shocked to find an Irish person who didn't drink alcohol! Oh and the irony of ironies...guess who won the bottle of wine at the special dinner which is held every end of the month for those who celebrated their birthdays during that month!

St. Brigid’s Prayer:
I’d like to give a lake of beer to God.
I’d love the Heavenly
Host to be tippling there
For all eternity.
I’d love the men of Heaven to live with me,
To dance and sing.
If they wanted, I’d put at their disposal
Vats of suffering.
White cups of love I”d give them,
With a heart and a half;
Sweet pitchers of mercy I’d offer
To every man.
I’d make Heaven a cheerful spot,
Because the happy heart is true.
I’d make the men contented for their own sake
I’d like Jesus to love me too.
I’d like the people of heaven to gather
From all the parishes around,
I’d give a special welcome to the women,
The three Marys of great renown.
I’d sit with the men, the women of God
There by the lake of beer
We’d be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.

So today wherever you are...raise a glass of beer or wine, water or whatever takes your fancy to the great Naomh Brid!