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A Reflection on Saint Brigid’s Day

February 1, 2020

Today is Saint Brigid’s Day. It is also the Celtic Festival of Imbolc. The ancients celebrated this day as the beginning of Spring. It was also the time when the ewes were beginning to give birth to their new lambs.

There are a tremendous number of legends surrounding Imbolc/Brigid’s Day. One legend from Ireland tells the tale of a young girl who was charged with watching the sheep and especially the ewes who were very pregnant. In the night a ram knocked her over and seemed to emphasize that something was wrong and she was to follow him. As she made her way, often tripping and falling, the ram always waited for her and kept her going forward. They came to the ewe and it was obvious that the ewe and her baby were in distress. She had been praying to Brigid the entire time she was following the ram. The Saint appeared and helped the ewe give birth to a healthy lamb. My child, Brigid said to the girl, you had been calling out to me so of course I came to help you and this precious family.

This prayer attributed to Brigid is appropriate on this or any day. It is a call to hospitality. Brigid’s hospitality is shown not just to the King of Kings, but to all of God’s Children!

Brigid’s Feast

I should like a great lake of finest ale

for the King of kings.

I should like a table of the choicest food

for the family of heaven.

Let the ale be made from the fruits of faith

and the food be forgiving love.

I should welcome the poor to my feast,

for they are God’s children.

I should welcome the sick to my feast,

for they are God’s joy.

Let the poor sit with Jesus at the highest place,

and the sick dance with the angels.

God bless the poor,

God bless the sick,

and bless our human race.

God bless our food,

God bless our drink;

all homes, O God, embrace.

As we prayed Morning Prayer this morning before I headed out to officiate at a funeral, I thought of Brigid’s hospitality. While driving home afterwards, I chuckled to imagine that Thomas Merton, who’s birthday was yesterday, would have loved to enjoy Brigid’s feast!

Both of these saints have been teaching me a lot over the past few years. It is no coincidence in my thinking that their days of remembrance are one day apart!

Even though Merton was seeking to escape from the world in becoming a contemplative; later in life he would write many times in his journals about spending time with friends who were like family to him.

His visitors to the hermitage often came to share stories and to seek his guidance. When he was off the monastery grounds with friends, he would share stories and laughter over dinner and drinks. Evidently he had a great wit and a belly laugh you couldn’t miss.

Someone once commented on the fact that Merton’s Hermitage had several chairs on the front porch. Why would a Hermit have a need for so many chairs? This actually fits into the Rule of St. Benedict which the Trappists followed. In a wonderful part early in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Merton wrote about the misunderstanding of Benedict’s rule.

St. Benedict never said the monk must never go out, never receive a letter, never have a visitor, never talk to anyone, never hear any news. He meant that the monk should distinguish what is useless and harmful from what is useful and salutary, and in all things glorify God. Rejection of the world? The monk must see Christ in the pilgrim and stranger who come from the world, especially if they are poor. Such is the spirit and letter of the Rule.

So on this day when we celebrate St. Brigid and her love for all of God’s creatures, I could would love to join Brigid and Thomas Merton at her Feast!

*The picture at the top of the blog is of a Ranger Cabin on Old Fall River Road in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

**The icons (which can be purchased from Rabbit Room Arts) of Brigid and Thomas Merton were commissioned by Christine Valters Paintner, the Abbess of our on-line community, Abbey of the Arts (Abbey of the Arts)

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