Friday, 2 February 2018

A New Life of Saint Brigid

I begin a series of posts on Saint Brigid to run throughout the octave of her feast with a contemporary review of the 1907 life of the saint by the Irish Augustinian J.A. Knowles. Father Knowles' book was probably the most substantial work on our national patroness since Canon O'Hanlon's Life of Saint Brigid, published some thirty years earlier. I will be exploring aspects of Saint Brigid, Patroness of Ireland over the coming days, the entire work can be found at the Internet Archive here.


"One Blessed Irish Maiden of the Scottish Race."

A new 'Life of St. 'Brigid,' Patroness of Ireland, written by the Rev. J. A. Knowles, O.S.A., St, Augustine's, Cork, has just come to hand. The new work is dedicated to the Most Rev. Dr. Foley, Bishop of Kildare, and Leighin. It is a well-bound and finely-illustrated octavo volume, comprising a double preface and 11 chapters.

One preface is by the author, the other by the Bishop of Kildare. The author tells us that in the new volume he has endeavoured to place before his readers a popular narration of the life and labours of Ireland's patroness. In the Bishop's preface his Lordship earnestly thanks and congratulates Father Knowles on the excellent character of his work, and assures him at the same time that he has placed Irishmen and Irishwomen the world over under a debt of gratitude by placing so interesting a life within their reach. In his famous book, known as the 'Confessions,' Ireland's Apostle writes: 'The sons of the Scotti — the noble race — and the daughters of chieftains are soon to be monks and virgins of Christ. And there is one blessed Irish maiden of the Scottish race, of noble birth, most fair, of adult age. whom I baptised; and soon thereafter she came to us in some business, and informed, us that God's will had been revealed to her, admonishing her to become a virgin of Christ and draw near to God. Thanks be to God on the sixth day after that, she worthily and most eagerly embraced that state of life. And, indeed, all the virgins of God act in like manner, not at the bidding of their parents— nay, they endure reproaches and persecutions from their parents— and nevertheless, their number goes on increasing, so that I know not the number of the natives who thus have become of our kindred besides the widows and those who observe continency.' At the head of this noble band of consecrated virgins, St. Brigid Patroness of Ireland and 'the Mary of the Gael,' takes her rightful place. After the national apostle, she was proclaimed by all as the greatest and best beloved of the saints, whose names enrich the calendar of the Irish Church. "No one was more retiring, more modest, more meek, more humble, or more chaste than Brigid. She was abstemious, prayerful and patient. She was benevolent, forgiving, charitable; she was a temple of God, a consecrated shrine for the Body and Blood of Christ; her heart and her mind were a vestry throne for the Holy Ghost. She was afflicted with those that were in sorrow, she was bright in virtues and miracles. Her type in created things is the dove among the birds, the vine among the trees, the sun among the stars. She subdues pestilence, she restrains the fury of the tempest; she is the child of prophecy, the Queen of the South, the Mary of Erin."

His Eminence Cardinal Moran, in his life of the Saint, gives the following remarkable extract from the work of a Protestant dignitary, entitled, 'St. Brigid and the See of Kildare.' "Extraordinary veneration for the name of Brigid was displayed by the Irish in the Middle Ages. It is said that her feast was celebrated in every Cathedral Church from the Grison to the German Sea for nearly a thousand years."

'Brigid, noble woman,
A flame, golden, beautiful!
A sun, dazzling, splendid!
May she bear us to the eternal kingdom.'

To every reader of the new volume it must be quickly manifest that Ireland's renowned patroness has found in Father Knowles, not only an eloquent, interesting and able biographer, but also a loving and devoted client. His book, which runs into 292 pages, deserves a very wide circulation, and is sure to obtain it. It is brought out by Browne and Nolan, of Nassau-street, Dublin, and the price is the moderate one of 2s 6d.

A NEW LIFE OF ST. BRIGID, (1907, August 1). The Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW: 1895 - 1942), p. 6. Retrieved December 19, 2017, from
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