The annual festival of Saint Brigid (Féile Bríde) is taking place in Kildare this week. Féile Bríde, incorporates a Peace and Justice conference in collaboration with Afri (Action from Ireland), workshops, and a candle lit ritual on Brigid’s Eve at Saint Brigid’s Well. The secular and the sacred are intertwined. There is something for everybody. Local school children dramatise the legends of Brigid. Saint Brigid crosses are woven by young and old. The celebration of Eucharist and other creative rituals are conducted in the local churches. The pilgrimage and ritual at Saint Brigid’s well on 31 January draws hundreds of people from near and far. The customs associated with Brigid are celebrated. Artists entertain those who come to a feast of poetry, music, song and dance. The exciting growth and success of Féile Bríde has its source in the energy and efforts of the community from which it sprung.
A packed programme of events has been put together for Féile Bríde 2017, celebrating the life of Saint Brigid, including a walking tour of Saint Brigid’s ancient Monastic site in Kildare and a Mass celebrated at Saint Brigid’s well on Sunday 5 February.
The Story of Brigid
Brigid was born at a time of major transition in 5th century Ireland. She embodies in herself the pre-Christian Celtic and Christian Celtic spirit. It is generally accepted that St Brigid built her double monastery for men and women in Kildare around 470AD. Her monastery was acclaimed as a centre of education, pilgrimage, worship and hospitality until the 16th century when all the monasteries were suppressed.
Irish missionaries and migrants carried her name and spirit across the world. Pilgrims and visitors come to Kildare from all over the world seeking to walk in Brigid’s footsteps.
Woman of the Land
Brigid is remembered through the ages as a woman of the land. Her feast day on 1 February marks the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere. It is the season when we celebrate new life on earth. Many today draw inspiration from the respect which Brigid and our ancestors had for all creation.
Friend of the Poor
Brigid had an extraordinary concern and compassion for the poor people of her time. Her legends continue to challenge people to share the goods of the earth with our bothers and sisters especially those who live in desperate poverty in the developing world.
Woman of Hospitality
Brigid’s spirit of hospitality is legendary. For Brigid, every guest is Christ.
Feuds between clans were commonplace in Brigid’s day. She is often referred to as a peacemaker who intervened in disputes between rival factions and brought healing and reconciliation. Brigid is depicted in an icon in the parish church in Kildare with her foot on the sword. She challenges us to be peacemakers and peacekeepers.
Brigid spread the values of Christ. Her life continues to sing the song of the Gospel. She continues to be remembered as an extraordinary woman of faith and to occupy an important place in the hearts of the people of Ireland and far beyond.
Pope Francis was presented with a Saint Brigid’s Cross in November 2016 as part of the RENATE (Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation) assembly in Rome, where 130 participants from 19 European countries met on the issue of human trafficking. Brigidine sister Patricia Mulhall presented Pope Francis with a Saint Brigid’s Cross.
To see the full Féile Bríde festival programme visit the website.
The Afri Justice and Peace conference takes place on Saturday 4 February. For more information see www.afri.ie.