By editor - 26 January, 2013
for more information – www.solasbhride.ie
A week long festival commemorating St Brigid begins on Sunday 27th January in Kildare town. The theme of Feile Bride this year is “Gathering around the Hearth”. Organised by a team led by Brigidine sisters and local people, the festival will feature a guided walk around the ancient monastic sites of Kildare, a sharing of customs and traditions, including the weaving of the St Brigid’s Cross, the launch of a new pilgrimage walk from her shrine in Louth to Kildare town, a Justice and Peace conference and a lecture on Celtic Christian Spirituality by Padraigin Clancy.
“I think it is so important to keep St Brigid’s legacy alive,” Sr Mary Minehan told CatholicIreland. “The Feile Bride has so many facets, just like the saint did. It is a very holistic festival, covering mind, body, heart and soul.”
The festival begins today with a tour of the monastic sites associated with the saint in Kildare town and a lesson in weaving St Brigid Crosses. Later in the week, an Afri Conference will focus on the challenge of climate change.
According to Brigidine sister, Phil O’Shea, the saint known as ‘Mary of the Gael’ was the founder of monasticism in Ireland. A contemporary of St Patrick, she was daughter to a pagan chieftain of Leinster and a Christian bondswoman named Broicsech. “Immediately she crossed the divide between rich and poor, pagan and Christian,” remarks Sr Mary Minehan.
Inspired by St Patrick, at an early age she chose to give her life completely to God and enter a convent. Around 470 (aged 20) she founded a double monastery, for nuns and monks, in Kildare. Legend has it that when she was being professed, the bishop used the prayer of consecration for a bishop.
“Afterwards when he was questioned about it, he said it was by the Holy Spirit that the words had come out like that,” says Sr Mary. Brigid was in any case, Abbess of the monastery, and the Abbey of Kildare became one of the most prestigious monasteries in Ireland, and was famous throughout Christian Europe, also due to the school of art which she founded, which included metal work and illumination, over which St. Conleth presided. It was here that the beautiful Book of Kildare was created.
She had a strong relationship with St Patrick. The author of the 9th century Book of Armagh wrote: “Between St. Patrick and Brigid, the pillars of the Irish people, there was so great a friendship of charity that they had but one heart and one mind. Through him and through her Christ performed many great works.”
St Brigid was famous for her love of the poor, her “legendary hospitality” and for her healings, and stories abound of the miracles she worked. She was also a peacemaker and a lover of the earth and nature “A lot of groups would see Brigid as an inspiration in working towards ecology and care for the earth,” says Sr Phil. “She teaches us to have a new relationship with the earth.”
In 2010 the sisters and Solas Bhride community received planning permission for a Centre and Hermitage on a three acre site near St Brigid’s Well which will provide an opportunity for pilgrims to stay and experience solitude and quiet in “a nurturing atmosphere”. But due to the downturn in the economy, they have not yet been able to commence building. People interested in furthering the project, can log onto their website at www.solasbhride.ie.
by Susan Gately
Picture shows statue of St Brigid at St Brigid’s Well, Kildare Town.