Sunday 24 December 2017

St. Bridhe of the Mantle - A Legend of Saint Brigid at Christmas

St. Bridhe of the Mantle.


The following legend is told of St. Brigid, whose feast is celebrated on February 1:

In Ireland this saint is sometimes called 'St. Bridhe of the Mantle' because of the way she came to be at Bethlehem when Our Lord was born.

When she was a tiny child she came to the Island of Iona with her father, Donell Donn, a prince of Ireland, who was banished from the country. He took the child and left at night in a small boat. They were washed up by the storm on the coast of Iona, where they settled and made their home.

When Brigid was 21 years old, one day, as she climbed the hillside, a white bird called her from the thicket and she followed him over the crest of the hill to find herself in a strange country. Here no green fields and pastures met the eye; it was a country of sand and hot sun close to Bethlehem. Her father was with her, and as they came to the village he said: 'Bridhe, the drought has been upon the country for many months. The wells are empty, the wine is failing, and our cattle are dying. I shall leave you in charge of the inn to-night and go to a place near the Mount of Olives where they say the
well is never dry.'

"And what shall I do while you are away?" asked Brigid.

"Stay in the inn," he said, "and don't open the door to a soul."

"But what if they ask for food?" she said.

"There is only enough for yourself," he told her. 'And be sure to keep the promise and not shelter anyone until I return."

He then drove off with his camels, and for two days nobody called at the inn. But on the third night, as Brigid was getting ready for bed, there came a knock at the door.

"Who is it, and what do you want?" she asked without opening the door.

A man's voice replied: "I am Joseph, a carpenter of Nazareth, and I have Mary with me, who needs shelter."

"That I cannot give as I have promised not to. Were it not for that I would gladly give you welcome."

Then the woman's voice called from the darkness and Brigid could not resist the sweet pleading of her voice.

She opened the door wide and bade them enter, laying before them all the food she had left. But she could not break the whole of the promise she had made to her father, and so led them to the stable in the courtyard, where they sought shelter for the night.

As she hurried back to the inn she found that her father had arrived, and sorrowfully she told him what she had done. But when they looked at the dishes that were empty, behold they were as if they had not been touched, and at once they realised that a miracle had happened.

Outside came the sound of falling rain.

''The drought is broken!" said Donell Donn. Then they remembered the prophecy:

'The King of  Love, Ruler of the World and All Time, shall be born on the first night of rain following the great drought, and He shall be born in a byre outside an inn.'

They hurried out to see, and there on the hay lay the newly-born Child. Brigid took Him lovingly and wrapped Him in her white mantle, and all, through the night she cradled Him in her arms. At daybreak, the white bird called again, and when she looked about her she found herself on the crest of the holy hill once more, with the green fields and pastures full of sheep and the blue bay of Iona at her feet.

"'Tis all a dream," she said. But she looked at her mantle and saw that it was woven with gold threads into marvellous pictures of birds and beasts and angels. Slowly she went down the hill, and when she came to her father's hut she found that she had been gone for a year and six months.

St. Bridhe of the Mantle. (1935, December 26). The Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW : 1895 - 1942), p. 6. Retrieved December 19, 2017, from

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