In Edward Sellner’s book Wisdom of the Celtic Saints we discover St. Brigit of Kildare who was a female leader very early in the beginning of the Celtic church. St. Brigit (452-524) had a “double monastery” of both women and men in Kildare. The story goes that the nuns there kept a flame burning continuously…which may have originated with female druids living at that place many many years before the monastery was built.
Brigit (the original druid leader) was a priestess connected with wisdom, poetry, fire, and hearth. Because of her association with two other “Brigits” (of healing and crafts of the smith) all three of these were known as Celtic goddesses. St. Brigit (taking on their name…) later became identified with all of these attributes. As Sellner states “ It is clear that St. Brigit stands on the boundary between pagan mythology and Christian Spirituality.”
My thoughts? Saint Brigit was what I would call a “shapeshifter” of sorts. She was able to bridge the gap and build new faith where there was no known trail. On-the-cusp of two different periods of time, two different perspectives, two different cultures, two different mind-sets. Shades of Star Trek Discovery. I totally get it. She was outside-the-box. A forerunner. Pioneering a very different way of understanding faith, spirituality, practices, and life itself. And leader of not just one monastery but two. Men and women. Both/And. St. Brigit was on the frontier for God, the Holy Spirit, and for Christ.
In the Middle Ages, St. Brigit was known as “the Mary of the Gael” and was considered to be the patron saint of travelers and pilgrims. She is also prayed to (in Ireland) as the guardian of healers, midwives, and farm animals. As a spiritual guide St. Brigit’s leadership traits remain; inclusivity, prayerfulness, patience, with the greatest of all being compassion. St. Brigit’s ministry as a soul friend or Anam Cara was a blessing.
During these terrible times of grief for all victims of displacement in whatever injustice has befallen them; war, power vs. powerless, home-leaving or forced evacuation for so many whether refugees of war or poverty we need to pray for them; to call the Trinity, on all the patron saints of healing, of traveling and pray that we can be pilgrims for them. We need to be the Pilgrims seeking and finding assistance, comfort, faith, help, solace. Places of rest. Healing. Becoming soul friends, Aman Cara, to help each other survive the journey ahead. They cannot do it alone.
We need to remember St. Brigit and her courage to lead when what she preached and practiced was a new thing. Dangerous. Requiring great courage. A blending of two ways-of-knowing and believing that honored the best of both. We need to remember that St. Brigit was a leader in service for her Christian faith in Christ, in Holy God, and the Holy Spirit. And because of that she did not do it alone. Neither can we.
© Janine C. Hagan. 2022