Born in Dundalk in 450 AD St Brigid was the founder of the first monastery in County Kildare, Ireland. Her father was a pagan chieftain of Leinster and her mother was a Christian. St Patrick inspired her to deepen her faith and spread the word of God.
St Brigid died at the age of 75 in AD 525 and was buried in the church she created. Her remains were exhumed years later and brought to Downpatrick to be buried alongside Saints Patrick and Columcille. However, her skull was brought to Lisbon where it remains today.
Patron Saint of Ireland
St Brigid is also known as Mary of the Gael or Muire na nGael aka Our Lady of the Irish. She is one of the Patron Saints of Ireland, along with St Patrick and St Columcille.
Taking a stand
When she was young, St Brigid wanted to join a convent however her father took a firm stand and insisted that she marry the wealthy man he had promised her to. The story goes that she asked for God’s help to take away her beauty so that the man wouldn’t want to marry her. Her wish was granted, her father caved and she joined the convent. Not only did her beauty return but apparently she was even more beautiful than ever. She called on God’s help again to convince her father to give her land in Kildare to set up a convent. Her father said that he would only give her as much land as her cloak could cover. Silly man. With God’s help, the cloak grew to cover acres of land.
The story of the Cross
St Brigid was by the sick bed of a dying pagan chieftain, possibly her father, soothing him with stories about her faith and her unwavering trust in God. She began telling the story of Christ on the Cross, picking up rushes from the ground to make a cross. Before his death, the chieftain asked to be baptised. Initially, legend has it, people used to make similar crosses to hang over the door of their homes to ward off evil, fire and hunger. Over time, word spread about St Brigid, her kindness, faith and the making of the cross became synonymous with her and the tradition now bears her name.
Candlemas Day: 2nd February
Candlemas is celebrated on 2 February and marks the return of light, a symbol of protection and prosperity. This Christian festival commemorates the presentation of Jesus at the Temple of Jerusalem, referring to him as the light of the people of Israel.
St Blaise: 3rd February
Saint Blaise was originally born in Sebastea. He preached Christianity in his home town and was well-known as a healer. He became famous for performing certain miracles such as helping the sick animals and people around his home town.
He is recognised as the saint of throat disease or ‘The Blessing of the Throats’ in the Roman Catholic Church. Saint Blaise Day is celebrated on the 3rd of February each year by Christians globally.
His most famous and memorable act was when he healed a young boy that choked on a fishbone. The boy was placed at the Saints feet by his mother, and he healed straight away! The governor, however, led him to jail due to his faith. The governor was unsuccessful in encouraging Saint Blaise to renounce his faith and therefore he beheaded him in 316 AD.
Crossed candles are an important part of Saint Blaise Day, they commemorate the mother of the boy who choked on the fishbone. She presented Saint Blaise with crossed candles to light his way to jail when the ruler of Sebastea ordered his arrest. The origin of the blessing of throats uses crossed candles as a symbol.