Saturday, February 1, 2014

Celebrating St. Brigid of Ireland's Feast day

Who is St. Brigid of Ireland?
According to fish eaters:

Per the 1962 Missal, today's Feast is that of St. Ignatius of Antioch, but St. Brigid, though not celebrated liturgically by those using the 1962 Missal, is still honored today, especially among the Irish.
St. Brigid -- her name is correctly pronounced "Brigg-id" or "Bree-id" but almost never is -- was born in A.D. 451 or 452 to a pagan father (Dubthach) and Christian slave mother (Broicsech) just after the time that St. Patrick was preaching (St. Patrick died in A.D. 493). It is said a Bishop -- a follower of St. Patrick -- met the pregnant slave woman and predicted that the child she was carrying would do great things. It is said, too, that a Druid of Dubthach's household had predicted that there would soon be born one who "shall be called from her great virtues the truly pious brigid; she will be another Mary, mother of the great Lord." 
Brigid's mother was sent away at the insistence of her father's wife -- sold to a Druidic poet in Connacht -- but Brigid was to be returned to her father after she was raised (it was undoubtedly he who gave her her name -- most likely in honor of the false goddess, Brigid, whose name means "Fiery Arrow" and who was akin to the Roman goddess Minerva, who concerned herself with fertility, prosperity, and poetry, and who was symbolized by a spear, crown, and globe). Her impoverished, enslaved mother did her best to raise her well, and a white red-eared cow is said to have provided all the food St. Brigid needed to grow, indicating that she was special indeed as white red-eared cows are rare in Ireland. 
When she was around 10 or so, she did move back to be with her father at Faughart Hill. She was given charge of the dairy -- but gave much of the produce away. This enraged her father, but she was strong-willed and continued in her charity.
While still young, Brigid went to visit a Christian mission. The Bishop there was recounting a dream he had in which he saw Our Lady, and as he spoke, Brigid entered the room. He stopped and said that she was the one he'd seen in his vision -- another sign of the special graces she'd been given.
Not too long later, Brigid returned to her mother and found her working hard in a dairy. Brigid stayed on to help her mother, leaving the relative luxury of her father's house out of love for her mother. She continued her charity, of course, churning butter in 13 portions in honor of Christ and the Apostles -- one portion larger than the rest which she'd give to the poor. Despite her giving away much of the produce, her pantry was always full -- miraculously so. This miracle and Brigid's charity changed the hearts of the Druid who'd bought her mother, and he and his wife converted to the Faith and gave Brigid's mother her freedom, whereupon she and Brigid returned to the land of Brigid's pagan father.
Brigid was hated by her father's wife, and her charity wasn't pleasing to her father, either, as she gave away some of his wealth, so her father took her to live as a bond maid with Dunlang, King of Leinster, a Christian. When they arrived, Dubthach went in to speak with the King, leaving Brigid in the chariot. A leper came to her, and she gave him her father's sword so he'd have something of value -- even as Dubthach was complaining to the King about how Brigid was always giving away his things. King Dunlang, after meeting and speaking with Brigid herself and seeing Christian greatness in her, convinced her father to give her her freedom, and then gave him his own sword to compensate for the one Brigid had given away. 
As a freewoman, she became a part of her father's clan, and being a part of the clan made her marriageable to the clansmen. They began to seek her out as she was beautiful, but she consecrated herself to Christ and wanted no part of marriage. It is said that she, like St. Rose of Lima was to do later, disfigured her face so that no man would even want to marry her. Her resolve convinced her father to allow her to take the veil, and she became the first nun in Ireland.
Now, women consecrated themselves to Christ before then, but lived in private homes; Brigid formed the first religious community for women in Ireland. She and 7 companions met with St. Mel, Bishop, in Mag Teloch. On meeting the women, St. Mel "recognized" Brigid, saying that he was the one who'd made the prediction about her when she was still in her mother's womb. He gladly consecrated the women, and when he did, it is said that Brigid's self-disfigurement was healed and her beauty restored.
Brigid and her sisters first set up a convent in Ardagh, but then moved to what is now known as Kildare, "The Church of the Oak," on land given to them by the good King of Leinster who'd convinced Brigid's father to grant her her freedom. The fantastical Irish legend told to children is that she was refused the land near the oak tree that she loved, so told the King she'd be happy to accept whatever land her mantle could cover. The King assented, but her mantle miraculously covered all of Curragh!
Her convent grew, and she travelled to set up others all over Ireland and also a school of illumination and metallurgy. In those travels, she became known for her Christ-given ability to heal and wisdom. Bishops, priests, and chieftans sought her counsel, and she was so beloved that she became known as "The Mary of the Gaels." A common blessing became "Brigid and Mary be with you." 
When St. Brigid died an old woman in A.D. 525 , her sisters kept a fire burning in an enclosure at her Kildare convent. This fire burned for centuries, tended by the Sisters and not burning out until A.D. 1220. It was re-lit and burned for 400 years, when the effects of the Protestant "Reformation" extinguished it again. St. Brigid's association with fire and the proximity of her Feast to Candlemas tomorrow -- a day celebrating Christ as the Light Unto the Nations, make the two Feasts entwined in the Irish imagination. On the day following Candlemas, the Feast of St. Blaise with its blessing of the throats with two crossed candles make for three days associated with light and fire.
St. Brigid (she is often affectionately known as "Bride," "Bridey," or "the Mary of the Gael") is the patroness of dairy maids, infants, midwives, blacksmiths, poets, nuns, and students. Along with SS. Patrick and Columba (Columcille), she is the patroness of Ireland. St. Brigid is depicted in art as a nun with a Cross woven from rushes (see below), with a crozier, with fire (a candle, lamp, or bowl of fire), and/or with a cow.
If you look at the Huffington Post, you'll see the pagan side of things. It's always good to have balance, and know that God can make beauty out all things through the lens of faith. Tomorrow is Candlemas, Groundhog Day, my grandma's birthday, and one of my Aunt's birthdays! Exciting day in our family.

Now that you know everything from that site, here are some traditions of St. Brigid of Ireland:

A Saint Brigid's Cross is to be made every year on the feast of St. Brigid of Ireland, blessed, and put over the doorway of your home. The prior year's is to be burned ceremoniously. If you'd like to make a cross of your own, check out this neat slideshow tutorial. I will post a picture of one if we get around to making it. :) I'm thinking I will hit the craft store for some pipe cleaners.

Printable of St. Bridget of Ireland from Waltzing Matilda's blog.
Peter's (4.75yrs old) is on the left and Edmund's (2.75 yrs old) is the right

Irish Proverb: May your laughter be from God

Bairn Brack
2 packages of dry yeast
1/2 C warm milk
1 C brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 C lukewarm water
4 1.2 C flour
2 tsp salt
4 eggs, well beaten
3-4 Tbsp caraway seed
1/2 C currants
1 healthy pinch each of nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon
Optional 1 small pinch cloves and ginger

Optional glaze:
1 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp sugar

     Dissolve the yeast in the milk. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the brown sugar. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes, or until it is bubbly.
     In a saucepan, melt the butter in the water; cool slightly. Pour into a large bowl. Sitr in the flour and the salt. Add the eggs, stirring well, and the yeast, then stir in the remaining sugar, the caraway seeds, currants, and spices. Beat for 2 or 3 minutes.
     Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for about 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and glossy. The dough should be fairly soft.
     Place the dough in a buttered bowl; turn to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
     Punch the dough down, and form into a large round cake. Place on a buttered pan, cover lightly, and let rise until again doubled in blk, about 1 hour.
     Bake at 375 degrees F. for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. (If the bread begins to get too brown, cover it with a piece of aluminum foil or brown paper.)
      Optional: Glaze the loaf, while hot, with a mixture of 1 Tbsp water and 1 Tbsp sugar.
Yield: 1 12-inch loaf.
Recipe Source: 
A Continual Feast 
by Evelyn Birge Vitz 
Illustrated by Parker Leighton 
ISBN: 0-06-181897-6
It turned out huge, beautiful, and the house smells wonderful from it!
We can't wait to taste it tomorrow morning.

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