St. Brigid’s Light – The Rev. Michelle Meech
February 05, 2023
This is a story told for All Ages Worship.
In church, we sometimes talk about something called a saint. When we talk about saints, sometimes we are talking about a particular person and sometimes we are talking about all of us. Because we are all saints of God. We are all close to God and God is close to us. God is so close to us that we can’t even see God because she is in our cells and in our soul. God is just a part of who we are.
And sometimes we forget that. We get focused on things that happen around us and the people we meet. Sometimes the things we go through are wonderful and full of beauty. And sometimes they are really hard and sad. But most of the time, they are somewhere in between. And because our attention is so often focused on all of the things that happen… what happens with our parents, and our friends, and our family, and even with our stuffed animals… we forget that God is right here. All the time.
We are all saints because we are close to God and God is close to us. We are all the light of the world, capable of shining brightly and boldly when we remember God lives within our very cells.
And this is why we also talk about particular people who are saints. We see how some people act in the world and they remind us of God and how he loves us and how she wants us to show that love to others. We’ve talked about St. Francis of Assisi in Italy before and how he gave so much to others and took care of animals. We’ve also talked about St. Teresa of Calcutta in India and how she took care of the sick.
Today we’re going to talk about St. Brigid of Kildare in Ireland. Now, there are many stories about St. Brigid, just like there are many stories about all the saints. But we only have time for one story today. And just like the stories of all the other saints, this story about Brigid is a story about how God’s love shines through Brigid’s life and her ministry.
This story about Brigid begins before she was born, as all of our stories really do because God knows all of us before we are born. We start in the year 450… long before electricity and cars and many of the things we take for granted. Back then, fire was very important. People used it for everything – for cooking and heating and for light.
Brigid’s father was called Dubhthach and he was a chieftain of his tribe in Ireland, which means he was a wealthy man. He wanted desperately to be important and to be known and to be powerful. He owned land and animals… and he owned people. As a matter of fact, he considered all of the people in his life to be people that he owned. Brigid’s mother was one of these people. Her name was Broicsech.And when Brigid was born, she spent her early life cooking and cleaning and taking care of the animals alongside her mother as they both worked for her father.
Brigid would often go with her mother Broicsech, who was a Christian, to listen to the sermons of St. Patrick and they inspired her. He would preach about the prophets, like Isaiah who remined us that if we offer our food to the hungry and help the afflicted, we would be like a spring of water that never fails. And this kind of love, where Christ’s light shines though, becomes a foundation for generations to come because we are repairers of a breach created by those who seek worldly power.
And he would preach about how each one of us is the light of the world, just like Jesus said. And when we give of ourselves, we become Christ in and for the world, the light that is the foundation of God’s entire creation. The light that is Love. Brigid took this into her heart and decided that she would live her life as a disciple of Christ.
The first thing she decided to do was to stop working for her father, for she saw that he was not living a life in Love. He desired wealth and worldly power too much in his desire to be known and seen as important. And Brigid only wanted to serve Christ – looking after poor people and sick people. She told her father she wanted to be in a convent where everyone looked after people who needed help, but Dubhthach wanted Brigid to find a husband because then the groom’s family would pay him a bride price, bringing him more wealth and making him better known.
Brigid would often raid her faither’s treasury and then go out and distribute money to those who were in need. Needless to say, he did not approve. Instead, he continued pressing her to be married. And Brigid continued to find ways to give away his wealth.
One day Brigid met a woman who was desperately ill and had no family. Her sickness was so contagious and her condition so shamed, that no one would come near her. No one would help her. She had no community, no friends and no way of earning a living. She was desperate.
Brigid remembered Jesus’ sermon on the mount and the stories of Jesus in which he always sought to heal those who were outcasts. And she knew exactly what to do. She needed to repair the breach.
She went to her father’s war room, where he and his advisor’s talked about conquering and owning and hoarding, and retrieved Dubhthach’s most treasured possession – his jewel-encrusted sword. It was a symbol of his power and his wealth. Brigid knew how much relief an item like this would bring, especially to someone who was suffering. And she knew what a symbol it would be – to give this item that represented such worldly power and wealth to someone who had nothing.
When Dubhthach found out, he was not happy at all. He decided that if he didn’t let Brigid enter a convent and become a nun, like she wanted, she would continue to deplete him of his wealth instead of adding to it.
Of course, Brigid happily went to the convent. And the work of her community grew and the community’s light shone brightly, becoming known throughout Ireland. So much so that many young women came from miles and miles away to become a part of the work they were doing. Brigid would teach them and empower them to become repairers of the breach too.
Brigid did not stop there. The light of Christ continued to spread through her work as she founded convents throughout Ireland. One of them was a community for both men and women, known as a double monastery, where nuns and monks lived and worked side by side in the name of Christ. It was named the Abbey of Kildare in County Kildare, Ireland.
Brigid chose this site because it was a sacred place where women tended a perpetual fire to honor the abundance of God. And Brigid kept this flame alive, honoring the abundance of God by giving and helping and tending to others, by nurturing the fire and spreading the light of Christ The ministry of the Abbey of Kildare was so bright that it became a beacon, known throughout all of the Christian communities in Europe, as a place of hope where God’s Love was made known.
About 700 years later, a bishop of the church honored Brigid by building a cathedral where the Abbey had once been and named it after her. The ancient ruins becoming a foundation for generations and generations. And Brigid’s Well is not far away, a perpetual spring of water that never fails. Just like the prophet Isaiah says it will be.
We recognize Brigid as a saint on February 2 – a day that we also sometimes call Imbolc or the Feast of the Presentation. The sun’s light is shifting as the earth turns on its yearly path. So we celebrate the increase of light, a recognition of God’s promise coming to fruition, because February 2 is halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.
And today we celebrate Brigid. She is a saint who made known Christ’s light during her life and long afterwards. And she reminds us that we are all saints and we are all near to God all the time. Because when we are a little brave, we can shine forth God’s light just like Brigid did and become repairers of breaches in the world by helping those who need help.