St. Bridget of Kildare
Abbess & Patron of Ireland
450 - 525
Feast Day 1st February
St Bridget was born about 450 AD in a small village in Ireland named Faughart.
Legend states that her parents were baptized by St Patrick, with whom she developed a close friendship in later life.
Her father was an Irish chieftain and her mother a slave at his court. As a young girl, Bridget had an interest in the religious life and took her first vows from St Macaille at Croghan.
Bridget we think was officially professed as a nun when she was 20 years old by St Mel of Armagh.
It is also believed that he conferred on her the authority to establish a religious order and to be its abbess.
In the year 470 AD, Bridget founded both a monastery and convent at Cill-Dara (Kildare) and was the first abbess of the convent, the first of its kind in Ireland. She built her room or cell under a great oak from where the convent gets its name Cill-Dara (cell of the oak)
The convent became a centre of learning plus St Bridget founded a school of art at Cill-Dara and its illuminated manuscripts became famous, most notable was the Book of Kildare but it disappeared three centuries ago.
Many legends are attributed to St Bridget but she will be remembered for her extraordinary spirituality, her boundless charity and compassion for those in distress.
One of the legends tells us about Bridget as she sat with her dying father, she was meditating and began to weaving a cross made from rushes. Her dying father asked Bridget to explain the cross and its meaning.
Prior to his death her father joined the church and was baptized by St Patrick.
Today St Bridget’s cross is placed in people’s homes and farm buildings believing that with their faith it will protect them and their livestock from evil and deprivation.
On 1st February, the feast of St Bridget, legend states we need to kill a sheep, share the meat, along with butter and milk with the neighbours especially any less fortunate in the area. This was done to carry on the tradition started by St Bridget, of sharing one’s bounty with the poor.
A cake is placed on the windowsills; this is nourishment for Bridget as she made her rounds throughout the country. A sheaf of corn was offered for Bridget’s white cow which always accompanied her on her chartable rounds so legends say.
St Bridget died at Cill-Dara on 1st February 525 AD. She was buried in Downpatrick with two other Irish saints St Patrick and St Columba.
She shares the title "Patron of Ireland" with St Patrick.