Friday, April 1, 2016

On Being a Good Neighbor: St Brigid of Kildare

Hospitality is one of the best known Southern virtues, part of the inheritance that has come down to us from our English and Celtic forebears.  Our Holy Mother Brigid is one of those largely forgotten figures who helped enrich our patrimony with this virtue, who helped to cultivate it in the souls of Southrons past and present.  But as love toward God and man grows cold in the South and elsewhere in the West, and old traditions and virtues are forgotten, we would do well to learn again of this holy woman who, despite our unthankfulness, always intercedes for us before God.  Ms Mary Dugan Doss’s account of St Brigid begins:

The life of Saint Brigid of Ireland offers us new insight into the virtue of hospitality, the cheerful, generous giving of food and shelter. We know that this virtue is praised throughout the Scriptures. The hospitality of Abraham to three young men who visited him was revealed to be offered to none other than the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. In fact, it is in the forms of these three young visitors that the Holy Trinity is most often represented in iconography. Our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to offer hospitality when He said:

For I was hungry and ye gave Me meat:  
I was thirsty and ye gave Me drink:
I was a stranger and ye took Me in....

(Matthew 26:35, 40)

Of course, the law of nature also urges us to generously provide for the traveller who has no place to lay his head, and so hospitality, even without the love of Christ, has become an important facet of civilized culture. In pre-Christian Ireland every freeman was required by secular law to provide hospitality to anyone of or below his own class who asked it of him. The type and quality of food and shelter he was obliged to offer varied depending on the class of his guest, but he was expected to provide well for noble and low-born alike, or be subjected to heavy fines as well as social ostracism. Saint Brigid took this legal and social obligation of her people and, by infusing it with the love of Christ, transformed it into a holy rule and a godly art.

Brigid was born at Faughart in County Down in 452, less than fifty years after the beginning of Saint Patrick’s widespread missionary efforts among the Irish. At the time of her birth, the faith was just starting to grow great in the hearts of the Irish people. But by the end of her life, and partly through her efforts, her land would become holy Ireland, a land of saints and scholars, a land of monasteries from which missionaries would go forth to all of Europe and beyond.

 . . .

Source:  ‘A Gift of Hospitality—Saint Brigid, Abbess of Kildare’,, accessed 19 Feb. 2016

Holy Mother Brigid of Kildare, pray for us wretched sinners at the South!

Source:, accessed 1 April 2016

St Brigid’s Well
Source:, accessed 1 April 2016

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