Today we celebrate the feast of St Brigid, the secondary patron of Ireland and with reference to my post on St Joan of Arc, for us Irish Brigid is the original home-grown mighty woman. There are many stories and legends about her with a few interesting curiosities. According to one account her mother was Portuguese - captured by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland as a slave, as was St Patrick. She was bought by a Louth chieftain and took her as his concubine, and from their union St Brigid was born. The links with Portugal are strong - her head is now enshrined in a church in Lisbon and there seems to be a great devotion to her there.
Brigid founded monasteries and my native home, Clara, claims to have her first foundation. Disputed by some but we will fight to the nail to defend that tradition! She was a great influence on the people of her time and much venerated, so much so she is called the Mary of the Gael. In a sense she is, after Our Lady, considered the spiritual mother of the Irish people. In latter years feminists and a new wave paganism embraced by some in the Church in Ireland, has dechristianised her and she is now seen by many as a Christianised Celtic goddess. There was a goddess in the Celtic pantheon called Brigit, but because our abbess saint shares the same name does not mean she is the goddess revamped for Christians.
Pope Benedict mentions her in his Letter to the Irish, and I hope that stirs a renewal in devotion to her. As our spiritual mother she has an important role to play in the renewal of the Church in Ireland: she has a lot of praying to do!