Exploring the lives of ancient saints has been one my delights as an adult spiritual seeker, and
St. Brigid of Kildare is one of my favourites. She seems to have had her hand in many things, from livestock to poetry, from midwifery to blacksmithing. In Irish lore, it appears that if there was a problem connected to women or people being oppressed by others in some way, she was part of the solution. Another way I’ve heard her described is that her life illustrates the power of endurance, the power of practical love and the power of bridging differences.
My favourite aspect of this saint is as “keeper of the flame”. She was associated with many of the womanly arts connected with maintaining a home, and in ancient Ireland, none was more important than keeping the hearth-fire burning. I love my fireplace, my fire pit in my back yard, and my candles. Particularly in the deep winter months, a small flame feels like a sweet companion.
I love that this saint is celebrated on the night bridging February 1 and 2, which is also the celebration of the pagan feast of Imbolc, the halfway point between winter and spring. This is the day our attention begins to shift from the inward journey of winter to the slow emergence of spring. In the Catholic Church this is the day the ritual candles for the year are blessed.
This is a day of renewal and hope. It is a day to celebrate that, just as St. Brigid is said to have appeared whenever a woman was in dire need, so, too, am I helped when life feels just too much. I remind myself that even though my yard is buried hip-deep in snow and a blizzard is swirling outside, far beneath the snow there is a subtle energy beginning to stir that will bring green sprouts to the surface of my gardens in a few months’ time.
I am reminded that this awakening from winter to spring is a slow process, and there will be days when it will feel like warmth and greenery will never come.
That’s when I return to my candle flame, and let my tender heart be warmed by its presence. I remember that no matter how cold it is outside, or how overwhelming conditions in our world feel right now, gentle attention to moments of joy will keep my heart-flame lit.
I remember St. Brigid, the dancing saint who delighted in the churning of butter and the care of small beings. May all our hearts be lifted today by small delights and little joys.