Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Lent with Saint Brigid

Below is an episode from the hagiography of Saint Brigid referring to the Lenten fast, which I first published as part of a 'Lent with the Irish Saints' series at my former blog Under the Oak. There is another version of this story, taken from the work of John, Canon O'Hanlon, along with similar episodes from the lives of other Irish saints at my new blog Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae.

One day in Lent, because of the previous harvest having failed, [Brigid's] community found themselves on the brink of starvation. Being forced to make some provision, Brigid set out with two of the sisters to visit a neighbouring monastery, then in charge of Ibar, and beg from him the loan of a supply of corn. The distance between the two churches was great and the nuns arrived exhausted and famished at the monastery. Famine was prevalent in the district. A meal - all that was available, bread and bacon - was set before the guests, and Brigid thankfully began on it. Presently she noticed that her two nun-companions were pointedly refraining from the bacon. There was a sniff in their attitude, implying, "Well, we're going to keep Lent anyhow, whatever you do".

Not to avail of dispensation accorded under such circumstances of such stress was really more than Brigid could stand. Rebuking the nuns sharply and with vehemence, she even turned them out of the room! In all the mass of legendary stories and traditions concerning Brigid, this is the sole instance recorded where she displayed anger. What provoked it is worth remembering: pharisaical formalism masquerading as piety.

Alice Curtayne, St. Brigid of Ireland (rev.ed., Dublin, 1955), 99-100.

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