by Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace
Sister Anne McCarthy, a member of the leadership council for Monasteries of the Heart, recently visited Ireland where she made a pilgrimage to the site of her mentor, Saint Brigid of Kildare. I interviewed Anne when she returned because this is a saint for all members of Monasteries of the Heart.
Who is Brigid of Kildare?
Brigid of Kildare, was a monastic founder, abbess, and church leader known for her great mercy and care for the poor. She was the daughter of a powerful chieftain and a Christian slave woman around 450 in Ireland at a time when Christianity was slowing taking root in the Celtic culture and religion. The lore, hagiography, rituals and traditions of St. Brigid of Kildare are impossible to separate from her namesake, the Celtic goddess, Brigid. Both are identified with the coming of Spring, with sacred wells and with fire. Both are celebrated on Feb. 1st.
Brigid founded a monastery for women and for men that became the thriving monastic city of Kildare (Cill Dara, the church of the oak, named by Brigid after a tree, not a man as was the norm.) Her monastery was an important center of hospitality, culture, education and worship in Ireland and beyond until the suppression of abbeys in the 16th Century. In the early 1800s, the then Bishop of Kildare restored the ancient Order of Brigid, which now carries Brigid’s charism around the world.…