Monasteries of the Heart

Monks in Our Midst: Brigid of Kildare on being a bridge between worlds


February 1 is the Feast Day of Saint 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 enslaved woman around 450 in Ireland at a time when Christianity was slowly taking root in the Celtic culture and religion. 

Brigid founded a monastery for women and for men which 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. 


Reflection from Monasteries of the Heart staff member, Katie Gordon:

The story of Saint Brigid of Kildare is intertwined with the myths of the pagan-Celtic goddess of Brigid/Brig, for whom Brigid of Kildare was named. The stories woven together are delightful and inspiring ones, and show the spiritual power of women throughout the ages, especially in Brigid of Kildare’s own time in the 5th century. 

During a retreat one year ago on February 1, 2020 with Sr. Anne McCarthy OSB and Edwina Gately, they referred to Brigid as a “threshold woman in a transitional time.” She held onto the traditions of her peoples–the Druid and Celtic spiritualties–while she also embraced the new tradition that found its way to Ireland– Christianity. Brigid integrated the old and the new, the ancient and emergent, the Celtic and the Christian. For her, it seems that these traditions were not either/or, but rather both/and. She bridged these two different cultures for her people, and ever since she has been revered as this unifying figure for the Irish. 

We, too, are at a threshold in our own times. We are transitioning away from what we knew to be “normal,” before the pandemic, into a new normal as we begin to see the end of this pandemic. What traditions will we hold onto? What will we let go of? What new practices will be created?


Reflection questions:

  • How do you experience this transitional moment in your own life, communally, nationally, or globally?
  • What will you let go of, what will you newly embrace? What do you hope we let go of, and we newly embrace?

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