Saint Bridget

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Bridget, Saint, one of the three patron saints of Ireland, was born about 455, of illustrious parents, at Faugher, near Dundalk. She received a good education, and to singular modesty and simplicity of manners united great charity. When her parents urged her to accept a suitor, it is said that, in answer to prayer, one of her eyes became frightfully deformed, and she was quietly permitted to take the veil — her eye recovering when the ceremony was over. She was then sixteen years of age. Collecting a number of young girls like herself, she established a religious retreat in the County of Meath; her reputation for sanctity increased daily, and crowds of young women and widows applied for admission to her institution. To establish similar monasteries she visited Limerick, Roscommon, and other parts of Ireland. Between 480 and 490 she removed to Kildare, which will ever be associated with her name. Her charity was only equalled by her humility; occasionally she used herself to tend the cattle belonging to the nunnery; while to poor people she was known to give away the rich vestments of the institution. To meet the religious requirements of the place, Conlaeth, a recluse, was elevated to the bishopric. She died at Kildare about 525, aged about 70, and was buried in the cathedral. By some it is stated that her body was eventually removed to Down, and interred with the remains of SS. Patrick and Columcille. Lanigan says: "It would be superfluous to enlarge on the extraordinary veneration with which her memory has been revered, not only in Ireland and Great Britain, but in every part of the Western Church; or to undertake a formal refutation of the impudent assertion of that pseudo-antiquary, Dr. Ledwich, that St. Bridget was an imaginary saint." Her festival is the 1st of February.

"The bright lamp that shone in Kildare's holy fane"

was a perpetual fire kept up in her cloisters probably for the benefit and relief of the poor. The custom was, in 1220, for a time suppressed by the Archbishop of Dublin, lest there might be supposed to be any connection between it and pagan practices. It was, however, soon relighted, and sustained until the suppression of the monasteries by Henry VIII . For a full discussion of this point, see Notes and Queries, 3rd Series. Doubtless some of the veneration with which, in Pagan times, the Irish regarded Bridh or Bride, their goddess of wisdom and song, was transferred to the memory of St. Bridget.

Sources

119. Ecclesiastical History of Ireland: Rev. John Lanigan. 4 vols. Dublin, 1822.

171. Ireland, History of, from the earliest period to the English Invasion: Rev. Geoffrey Keating: Translated from the Irish, and Noted by John O'Mahony. New York, 1857.

234. Martyrology of Donegal: Edited by J. H. Todd, D.D., and William Reeves, D.D. (I.A.S.) Dublin, 1864.

254. Notes and Queries. London, 1850-'78.
O'Callaghan, John C., see No. 186.

339. Ware, Sir James, Works: Walter Harris. 2 vols. Dublin, 1764.

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