Devotees of St Brigid plan to celebrate her on Sunday with the scheduled return of relics linked to Ireland's so-called patron saint. The celebrations come a thousand years after her remains were removed from Kildare, where she founded a prestigious monastery and inspired a host of colorful legends filled with miracles.
The celebration in her birthplace, southwest Dublin, is part of Brigid 1500 – a series of celebrations around the world centered around the saint's feast day on February 1, marking the 1,500th anniversary of her death around the year 524.
In a sense, Brigid is on her way to success. The celebrations come a year after Ireland began honoring her Annual official holiday – The first Irish woman to be recognized with one.
While Saint Patrick has long been the saint most associated with Ireland, Brigid has gained a growing following in the 21st century. Devotees draw inspiration from Saint Brigid – and from the ancient pagan goddess Brigid, whose name and attributes she shares – as a symbol of feminine spirituality and empowerment. This comes in the middle Growing disappointment With the patriarchal and historically dominant Catholic Church.
Who was Brigid?
First question: Which Brigid?
Brigid is the name of a prominent goddess worshiped by the ancient pagan Celts, and the namesake of the saint who lived in the 5th and 6th centuries.
The goddess Brigid was associated with everything from poetry, healing, and metalsmithing to nature, fertility, and fire. She was honored on the holy day of Imbolc in midwinter, still celebrated on February 1, which also became St. Brigid's Day.
It is said that St. Brigid's father was a governor, and her mother was a slave. Although Brigid's life story has been embellished with legend, it is believed that she was the abbess of a monastic settlement of men and women that became a center of arts and learning and gave the town its Irish name of 'Church of the Oak'. “One legend has it that when the local king agreed to give her just enough land to build her monastery that could fit under her cloak, she miraculously spread it across the surrounding countryside.
Saint Brigid traveled, preached, and healed. They are often depicted with images of fire and light and are associated with fertility, nurturing living beings, and peacemaking.
According to another legend, Brigid gave her father's jeweled sword to a needy man in exchange for food.
What relic will be brought back to Kildare?
Brigid is believed to have been buried in her monastic church in Kildare. In around the 9th century, its remains were moved to the northern town of Downpatrick in the hope of avoiding depredations by Vikings and others. This shrine was later destroyed by English forces during the Protestant Reformation.
Various churches on the European continent claim to have relics of Saint Brigid. This includes a bone fragment of Brigid's skull, which tradition says was brought to a church in Portugal by three Irish knights. Part of this relic was returned in the 1930s to the Brigidine Sisters elsewhere in Ireland and stored in a small metal reliquary, in the shape of an oak tree, an image associated with Brigid. This is the relic that will be brought back to Kildare.
The new resting place for these relics will be the Catholic parish church bearing the name of St. Brigid, which plans to display them permanently.
What are relics, and why do Catholics venerate them?
Catholic canon law says the church “promotes true and authentic veneration” of saints because of their pious example. This can include the veneration of relics, which can include parts of the saints' bodies, as well as their clothing and other objects associated with them.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “A clear distinction must be made between veneration, adoration and adoration, which are due to God alone.”
What is ST. Brigid's day?
Saint Brigid's Day and Imbolc, a pagan holy day associated with the goddess Brigid and heralding the arrival of spring, both fall on February 1, although Ireland celebrates the public holiday on the following Monday.
Why is Brigid gaining followers in the 21st century?
Brigid's moment occurred as Many Irish people are disappointed With traditional Roman Catholicism and its patriarchal leadership amidst a secular culture. Even many devout Catholics are appalled by the scandals, including the cover-up of sexual abuse.
Whether devotees venerate Brigid primarily as a saint, goddess, or a combination of both, they see Brigid as a symbol of feminine spirituality, environmental stewardship, and artistic creativity.
Brigid's Day is “a call to stop the pointless, millennia-long war between Christianity and paganism” and to see “the wisdom and beauty in both lineages,” writes Melanie Lynch, founder of History, which campaigned in support of the new national holiday.
How is ST. Is Brigid's Day commemorated?
The most dramatic event is the scheduled return of the relics to Brigid's birthplace, with a short procession to St Brigid's Parish Church from Solas Priddy – a Christian spiritual center led by the Brighidine Sisters of Kildare with a mission to welcome “people of all faiths and religions”. Of unbelief.” The procession will be led by three girls riding ponies and dressed as medieval Irish knights who, one tradition says, accompanied the relics to Portugal centuries ago.
David Monje, chairman of the local Kildare tourism board, said: “What amazes me is that 1,500 years later, it is still remembered with love in Kildare and Ireland.” Her words, wisdom, and actions mean more today than ever, when you think about how we treat our land, how we treat our environment, how we treat our animals, how we treat each other, and how we treat ourselves. “
Many events are organized by Solas Pride, Irish for “Brigid's Light”, including a “Vigil for Peace” at noon. Thousands of students plan to mark the pause on the nearby Curragh Plains by making a human formation of St Brigid's Great Cross, a square with four symmetrical arms.
Others from around the world are joining the vigil – a minute of silence at noon local time, said Brigidine Sister Rita Minehan, one of the founders of Solace Pride.
“We are sending a message that we are strongly opposed to war in our world and the proliferation of weapons,” she said. “It's kind of scary what's going on in our world. She's desperate for peace, and Brigid has made a reputation as a peacemaker.
Other Kildare sites host music, ecumenical worship and other activities.
The Herstory group, which uses the arts and education to promote female role models, is planning events across Ireland over the holiday and the days following. These displays include dramatic light shows in which artistic images of Brigid are projected onto historic landmarks.
Elsewhere in the world, Irish heritage groups plan to mark the day with concerts and cultural events. Churches plan masses in honor of the saint, while Wiccans and other pagan groups plan meditations and other ceremonies in honor of the goddess and in celebration of Imbolc.
Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP cooperation With The Conversation US, funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., the AP is solely responsible for this content.
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