St. Bridget, our patron saint, is also the patron saint of Ireland, together with St. Patrick and St. Columba. It is believed that she was born in a small Irish village named Faughhart in Ireland about the year 450 A.D. According to legend, Bridget’s father was an Irish chieftain of Leinster, named dubhthach and her mother, Brocca, was a slave at his court.
As a child, Bridget demonstrated her strong will and charitable nature. She loved the poor and would often bring food and clothing for them. A story relates that one day she gave away a whole pail of milk and then began to worry about what her mother would say. When she got home the pail was full.
Even as a young girl, Bridget showed an inclination to the religious life and as a youth took her first vows from St. Macaille at Croghan. She was probably officially professed as a nun by St. Mel of Armagh. It is also believed that he conferred on her the authority to establish a religious order and be its abbess. She settled with seven other nuns at the foot of the Croghan Hill, and then about the year 468 A.D., followed St.Mel to the city of Meath.
About the year 470 A.D., Bridget founded both a monastery and a convent at Cill-Dara (translated Kildare) and was abbess of the convent, the first of its kind in Ireland. She built her room, called a cell, under a large oak tree, and thus derives the name of her convent; Cill-Dara (cell of the oak). The convent developed into a centre of learning and spirituality, while around the convent developed the cathedral city of Kildare. Bridget founded a school of art at Kildare and its illuminated manuscripts became famous, notably the ‘Book of Kildare’. This book was acclaimed as one of the finest of all illuminated Irish manuscripts before its disappearance three centuries ago.
Bridget was one of the most remarkable women of her time, and despite the numerous legendry, often extravagant, and even fantastic miracles attributed to her, there is no doubt of her extraordinary spirituality, her boundless charity and compassion for those in distress.
She died at Kildare on February 1, 525 A.D. This is also the traditional date of her feast day. Called ‘Mary of Gael’, she is buried at Downpatrick, Ireland with two other great Irish saints; St. Patrick and St. Columba. She shares the title ‘Patron of Ireland’ with St. Patrick.
It is easy to understand why St. Bridget was, and is a well loved saint in Ireland. By all accounts, she was a strong, intelligent, and compassionate woman who was dedicated to her calling and dedicated to helping people.