Wednesday 8 February 2017

The Vision of Saint Brigid

A curious episode today from the Life of Saint Brigid, her childhood vision of the trouble ahead for the Irish church. By the 10th century hagiographers were keen to put our national patroness in the company of our national apostle and thus the two meet at various gatherings, with Saint Brigid and her nuns eventually preparing a burial shroud for the dying Saint Patrick. In this case she sees the pristine purity of the Patrician church under threat from outsiders, most commentators suggest that this is a reference to the Vikings but of course they are only the first of a number of invaders to threaten Ireland:

Saint Brigid was brought by some friends to hear Saint Patrick speak of heavenly things. While the Apostle was discoursing, Saint Brigid fell into a state of ecstasy. Saint Patrick commanded Saint Brigid to tell the assemblage what she had seen in her vision. "I saw" said the child, "a herd of white oxen among white crops; then I beheld spotted animals of different colours; and after these appeared black and darkly coloured cattle.  Afterwards, I saw sheep and swine and lastly dogs and wolves worrying each other."

The Apostle interpreted this vision for his hearers: "The Church he had founded would enjoy peace for a time. Her brow would be adorned with snow-white flowers typical of the purity of her children and her peaceful progress through the first three centuries of her existence. The flowers would be then changed to a crown of thorns which she would have to wear for many long and weary centuries to come."

Saint Patrick and the Saints of Ireland from authoritative sources (London, John Ouseley Ltd, 1908-1909), 46.

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