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Feast of St. Brigid of Kildare

February 1, 2024

Today’s Invitation

Today we invite you to explore Brigid, the woman, saint, and goddess of Kildare, Ireland, and her messages of care for the poor and peace; engage Brigid’s role as connector to the earth and to a decolonial future; and embody the example of Brigid with a reflection, and the story of a returned relic this year.


Commentary by Shannon Michaela Doree Smith

Feast of St. Brigid of Kildare


Reading 1

Job 31:16-20, 24-25, 31-32

If I have denied anything to the poor,
or allowed the widow or widower’s eyes to fail,
or at my meal in peace
while the orphan went without –
if I didn’t act like a parent to them from my youth,
like a benefactor, almost from my infancy:
or if I have let anyone freeze for lack of clothing,
or ignored a homeless person –
if their bodies didn’t bless me wholeheartedly
as they felt the warmth of my wool clothing;
How could I defend my actions before the Almight?
If I had made a pact with gold,
or made the finest gold my security;
if I had gloated over the value of my wealth;
Or the abundance my hands managed to acquire.
Haven’t the members of my household said of me,
“Is there anyone who hasn’t eaten your food?”
I’ve always taken in wayfarers for a night
rather than make them spend the night in the open.



Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 107

Response: Give thanks for God’s goodness; God’s love endures forever!

God changes desert into streams, thirsty ground into springs of water.
There God settles the hungry and they build a city to dwell in.
Give thanks for God’s goodness; God’s love endures forever!

For God’s love has no end.
They sow fields and plants their vines; these yield crops for the harvest.
God blesses them; they grow in numbers. God does not let their herds decrease.
Give thanks for God’s goodness; God’s love endures forever!for his love has no end.

God raises the needy from distress; makes families numerous as a flock.
The upright see it and rejoice but all who do wrong are silenced.
Give thanks for God’s goodness; God’s love endures forever!

Reading 2

Ephesians 3:14-21

That is why I kneel before Abba God,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.
And I pray that God, out of the riches of divine glory,
will strengthen you inwardly with power through the working of the Spirit.
May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith,
so that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
will be able to grasp fully the breadth, length, height and depth of Christ’s love and,
with all God’s holy ones, experience this love that surpasses all understanding,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
To God– whose power now at work in us can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine —
to God be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus through all generations,
world without end!
Amen.

Gospel

Luke 6:32-38

Jesus said to them,
“If you love those who love you, what credit does that do you?
Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.
If you do good only to those who do good to you, what credit does that do you?
Even ‘sinners’ do as much.
If you lend to those you expect to repay you, what credit does that do you?
Even ‘sinners’ lend to other ‘sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.
Love your enemies and do good to them.
Lend without expecting repayment, and your reward will be great.
You’ll rightly be called children of the Most High,
since God is good even to the ungrateful and the wicked.

 “Be compassionate, as your loving God is compassionate.
Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged.
Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned.
Pardon, and you’ll be pardoned.
Give, and it will be given to you: a full measure-packed down,
shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap.
For the amount you measure out is the amount you’ll be given back.”


The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved. 

The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.

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Brigid: A woman for our time


As long as we love one another,
God will live in us
and his love will be complete in us. 

The themes of Job and Ephesias draw our attention to care for the poor and in need. They encourage us to not turn a blind eye but to give, to see, to bear witness, and to respond. They encourage us to do so knowing that the arc of the universe bends towards justice when we work with it for our mutual liberation. 

The message beneath connects us to this day – Brigid’s Day. 

We know her as a woman for our time. Brigid was also known as a “woman of peace.” Rita Minehan, csb, a scholar and member of the Brigidine Sisters of Kildare, writes in her book Rekindling the Flame: A Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Brigid of Kildare of Brigid and her legacy of hospitality, generosity, care for the poor and for the stranger. So much so in fact she notes that in The Life of Brigid or Vita Brigitae, attributed to the writer Cogitosus in 650 AD, “…twenty three of the thirty-two chapters tell of her extraordinary concern for the poor.” 

The stories of Brigid and her care for the poor are many. One is of the woman who gave her a gift of the finest apples, which she promptly gave to the hungry, much to the dismay of the woman who provided them. “But I gave the choice apples to you, Brigid, as a gift.” Brigid replied, “What’s mine is theirs.”

She is also well known for giving a jewel-encrusted sword to a poor family to trade for food. “In Brigid’s hands, swords become plowshares.” She is also known for the blessings bestowed upon her, the Abbess ordained as Bishop, so that she might provide such hospitality. Legend has it that when Brigid asked the King of Leinster for land to build her abbey, he said she could have as much land as her cloak could cover. And so she unfurled it and it spread across the plain. Today, Kildare, Ireland stands as a beacon of peace. The home of Brigid the Peacemaker who gave council to many is even the home of the Irish Peacekeepers who bring aid and sanctuary across the world. 

Here the work of justice accompanies the call for peace. The Brigidine call is a holistic one. Both a devotional and socially active path, those called to continue Brigid’s work do so in embodied sacred practice tending the elements of fire and water – a literal perpetual flame, and holy well sites – providing sustenance to the physical and spiritual life of the pilgrim, while turning their attention to the difficult issues of our time: “human trafficking, the plight of the displaced person in our world and the welfare of the planet,” as Rita Minehan says in her work “From the Acorn to the Oak: Celebrating the Brigadine Story.”

The Sisters offer hope to do the true work of truth and reconciliation – which means we tell the truth first, and build relationships on the foundations of acknowledgement, of grieving, and of celebration. There is no festival of Bhride (Brigid) without a convening of diverse members of society oriented towards mutual respect, appreciation, service, education and support of our youth. We leave behind forced assimilation and feigned ignorance. We build from a place of healing and forgiveness. We build from our care and reverence for the land, as well as each other.

Brigid is said to have been a woman of healing – through water, through prayer, through reeds into crosses, which continues to this day.  She is the advocate and carer for the stranger, for the sick. She did not allow opinion to sway her from her values nor from her devotions. Her teachings and example of community is like the many petaled rose of the Magdalene. Yet it is the fire and the water in her case that brings us home. 

At Brigid’s Feast, February 1st, we remember we are also at the threshold of Imbolc, one of the eight sacred festivals of the Celtic Wheel, a pre-Christian Irish cycle of seasonal festivals, and the first day of Spring. We are reminded of our old ways of timekeeping in rhythm with the cycles of nature. It is in this remembrance we come home to ourselves in connection with heaven and earth – in the cycles of planting and growing and harvesting. Our true love, our true spirituality is not separate from our vision of God, neither is it separate from the Earth. Brigid’s gift to us is an arc of mending, of sanctuary and of repair. It is a field of consciousness in which the fabric of life is not torn – where the earth is healing, where people are mending, where we as humans are liberated to our full potential as creators, as life givers, as the keepers of this sacred earth, to be mindful, and joyful and humble and free. 

A prayer sung during Brigid’s Eve, January 31st, as pilgrims approach Brigid’s Wayside Well in Kildare, Ireland – Rita Minehan, csb also writes this prayer in her book, Rekindling the Flame

St. Brigid’s Well

Oh, come to the water all who are thirsty;
Though you have nothing, I bid you come
And be filled with the goodness I have to offer,
Come, listen, live.
-Is 55:1-3

ALLELUIA  

As long as we love one another,
God will live in us
and his love will be complete in us. 

                 1 John 4:12

We are free to love.

 

Commentary by Shannon Michaela Doree Smith


Shannon is an ancestral recovery and ecosomatics practitioner and researcher, water carrier, contemplative dancer and educator. She is the founder and vision keeper of Women of the Water and an advocate for the protection of our sacred waters internationally. She has served in communications and projects at the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in NYC since 2016. She finds the place of art, spirituality and ecology to be one of the most fulfilling marriages in her life.
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Engage Catholic Social Teaching

Environmental Justice

Brigid: A Woman of the Land

In Rita Minehan’s book Rekindling the Flame, she recommends meditation at the first prayer stone by Brigid’s well in Kildare, dedicated to “Brigid: A Woman of the Land…One may also say ‘A Naoimh Bhrid, gui orainn,’ or, ‘St. Brigid, pray for us’” (48).

Minehan quotes Hildegard of Bingen:

“‘The earth is at the same time mother,
She is mother of all that is natural, mother of all that is human, she is mother of all,
For contained in her
Are the seeds of all.’” 

We are at peace when we come home to the body. We are at peace when we come home to the earth. We are at peace when we come home to the realization of our bodies and the body of the earth as sacred. We are at peace when we include the sacredness of Mother and of Mother Earth into our lives. 

Whether at holy well or at sacred fire we can remember our connection to the earth and to Christ, to the Mother and the Water, to ourselves and to Spirit – we are made of star stuff. No less than the stars and the planets, we have a right to be here. All of us. We have a right to be happy. 

“You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here… Strive to be happy.” – “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann, 1927

We are free to live a life of justice. We are free to live a life of restoration of the earth.
We are free to love. 

Brigid’s Day was only named a federal holiday in Ireland last year. As we see the flag of justice unfurled in a rare moment of victory with the declaration of Brigid’s Day, a real world action that has made a permanent change in Irish identity, and a real world action that will change the way all of us view not only Brigid, but women – woman in spiritual leadership – woman, Goddess and Saint – … I can’t help but wonder what it can mean for the Irish diaspora, and especially for women in the US and UK whose leadership toward a decolonized future is sorely needed. 

We go together or not at all. 

“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – a phrase originating from collaboration within Aboriginal Rights community and spoken by Lilla Watson, Murri (Dawson River) artist and educator at the UN Decade for Women Conference in Nairobi in 1985.

Will Brigid’s recognition serve as a tidal wave of inspiration for westernized women to return to their roots and ‘old ways’? What if? What if more people in the Americas were to celebrate the Feast of Guadalupe? Exploring her relevance as a Christian and Pre-Christian figure, examining the expression of Tonantzin – the Great Mother – venerated at Tepayc Hill before the vision…What were her healing legends? What did She teach? And what woman or women are part of this story? What would a festival of five-to-seven days throughout the Americas do to American thought and sensibilities? To celebrate the Patroness of the land itself? One that does not require borders. One whose expression of the mystical, of the feminine is recognizable by all denominations and traditions in the presentation of the Rose. 

What would this say about how we care for the stranger?
What would this say about ‘ownership’ over the land? 

 

Engage

A Contemplative Exercise


On February 1st, the Feast Day of our Saint Brigid, the Brigadine Sisters of Kildare call us to a moment of presence, a Pause for Peace, at 12 noon in your local time. 

The sisters have been preparing youth ambassadors for peace, spreading light among the new generations.

You are very welcome to join us as we focus our intent on a healed world. In honor of Brigid you may wish to light a candle or be beside sacred waters, whether you are alone or in community. 

“You may feel your light is small or insignificant. Be assured your light can make a difference in other people’s lives and in our fragile world.

You may wish to send out light from your heart to family and friends from this special place.

You may wish to send out light to all who are suffering in our world at this time.

You may wish to send out light to planet Earth, our common home.

As you come to the end of your meditation, focus again on your breath, breathing in gently and breathing out gently.

Be in the present moment.

Be at peace.”

-From Rekindling the Flame, by Rita Minehan, csb


A Community

Brigid’s Homecoming

On January 28, 2024, during the 1500 year anniversary of the passing of the Saint, a relic of Brigid came home to Kildare. After 1000 years, the woman of the land has made her way home. Kildare is the English of Cille Dara, the Church of the Oak, and this is where Brigid made her home, her abbey of both men and women, her community, her pride of place. At Solas Bhride where the Flame of Brigid burns once again, we celebrate an Irish Saint’s life who, 1500 years ago, taught us that there is a place at the table for everyone. We will continue to honor her legacy holding strong behind the water and the light. We will hold. Here the modern day Brigids, artists and poets work together, all unified in the work of spirit moving through us bringing justice and healing to our world. Whether you relate to the woman, the Goddess, or the Saint, Brigid as keeper of flame and healing water, hearth and home, poetry and earth, for the poor and for the just – she is the woman for our time.

As long as we love one another, God will live in us and his love will be complete in us. 

Embody