Friday 31 January 2014

Offices for the Feast of Brigit

(From the Breviary)

The holy virgin, Brigit, born in the province of Leinster, in Ireland, of parents of noble blood and of the Christian faith, became the mother in Christ of many consecrated virgins. While she was yet a little child, her father saw in a vision men clothed in white garments, pouring oil upon her head. As she reached the early years of girlhood she chose Christ the Saviour as her Spouse, and clung to Him so ardently, from her inmost heart, as, for His love, to give away all she had to the poor. Her matchless beauty drew around her a multitude of suitors; and fearing that their importunity might render impossible her purpose of devoting her life to God in holy virginity, she prayed that her beauty might be changed into ugliness. Her prayer was at once heard. One of her eyes became quite swollen, and her whole face so altered, that all her suitors retired in disgust, leaving her free to consecrate her virginity to Christ by a solemn vow.

Taking with her three young maidens, she repaired without delay to Bishop Macheas, a disciple of St, Patrick. The good Bishop, seeing a pillar of fire over her head, clothed her in a fair garment and a white mantle; and reciting the Ritual prayers, received her to holy profession, according to the Canonical form introduced into Ireland by blessed Patrick. In the course of the ceremony, as she bent her head to receive the sacred veil, she leant her hand on the wooden altar-step. At the moment, the dry, seasoned wood became green and fresh; on the instant her eye was cured, and her whole face recovered its former beauty. In process of time, her example drew young maidens to embrace the religious life in such numbers as to cover all Ireland with communities of nuns, of that order over which Brigit herself presided, and upon which all the rest were dependent.

The virgin's sanctity is attested by the miracles she wrought in her life time, as well as after death. She frequently cleansed lepers, and by her prayers obtained cure for people sick of divers diseases; she gave sight to one blind from his birth. An abandoned woman sought to father her base-born child upon Bishop Brooney. The Saint, making the sign of the cross upon the poor baby's lips, made it declare the name of its true father, thus vindicating the Bishop's character. Filled with the spirit of prophecy, she foretold things to come as if they were passing before her eyes.

She enjoyed the most intimate friendship of St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, and foretold the time of his departure from this world, and the place of his burial. She was present at his death, and supplied the winding sheet, which she had long and carefully kept for the purpose, in which his blessed remains were wrapped; and when she came to give back her beautiful soul to Christ, her Spouse, she was laid in the same grave with him.

M. F. Cusack, The Lives of Saint Columba and Saint Brigit (Dublin and London, 1877), 254-6.

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