Cult of Saint Brigid resonates in post-Catholic Ireland

There is a revitalized interest in the cult of Saint Brigid in Ireland and beyond, even as the Catholic Church is in retreat in the country, writes Ed O’Loughlin in the New York Times (March 14). The legend surrounding the spiritual power of Saint Brigid and its relation to nature, ecology, and healing, and the way feminists interpret this as defying patriarchy, have drawn a mixture of “interfaith groups, no faith groups, goddess groups, Buddhist monks, all sorts of people,” according to a nun who opened the prayer center and hermitage Solas Bhride (the Light of Brigid) in 2015 to minister to these seekers. As the cult of Brigid has gained a wider following, its patterns of devotion and prayer have shifted. In place of rosaries, worshipers, mostly women, light candles from a central flame by the well at the settlement in Kildare that Saint Brigid founded. One nun recited a new kind of prayer: “The earth is waking from its winter sleep. Just listen—Brigid brings the spring.” The nuns, especially the Brigidines associated with the cult of the saint, are engaged with feminists around the world, reflecting what whey see as Vatican II’s call for a less cloistered role for nuns. The remains of the original shrine to the saint are being restored by the Anglican Church of Ireland, with a major celebration of the saint planned for 2024, the 1,500th anniversary of her reputed death. The Irish government announced that starting next year there will be a new annual holiday, on or near February 1, to mark both Imbolc and Saint Brigid’s Day—the first public holiday to honor a woman.

Source: Brooklyn Museum