“I should like a great lake of ale, for the King of the Kings. I should like the family of Heaven to be drinking it through time eternal.”
–Saint Brigid of Kildare
After Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid (457-525) is probably the best known saints in Ireland and today, Feb. 1, is her feast day.
Often referred to as “the Mary of the Gael,” she founded the monastery of Kildare and numerous stories abound about her spirituality, hospitality, compassion, charity and ability to inspire a robust community life.
As someone fond of good humor and good cheer, drinking and brewing beer, Theology on Tap and the lighter side of Catholic faith and lore, I personally enjoy the stories of Saint Brigid as a beer-loving woman that are interwoven with miracles of her great generosity.
In one she worked in a leper colony, which found itself without beer. Centuries ago beer was the daily drink of the people, both because water near villages and towns was often polluted and because it was cheap nourishment.
So “when the lepers she nursed implored her for beer, and there was none to be had, she changed the water, which was used for the bath, into an excellent beer, by the sheer strength of her blessing and dealt it out to the thirsty in plenty.”
Ala the Wedding Feast at Cana, Brigid is also said to have changed her dirty bathwater into beer so that visiting clerics would have something to drink. She is reputed to have supplied beer out of one barrel to eighteen churches, which sufficed from Holy Thursday to the end of Easter.
A poem attributed to Brigid contains the lines “I should like a great lake of ale, for the King of the Kings. I should like the family of Heaven to be drinking it through time eternal.”
In the spirit of Brigid, the question of many a single person comes to mind, “Is it possible to meet good people in bars?” According to dear friends from graduate school and folks I met when I coordinated adult faith formation and young adult ministry at Saint Clement parish in Chicago, not only is it possible, but they may even be people you choose to marry!
Though many of us have had bad bar experiences, the next time we might try praying for Saint Brigid’s intercession while sipping a pint and who knows what miracles might happen!
St. Brigid’s cross
Brigid was sent for to counsel this raving man, but his delirium made a conversation about conversion difficult.
Sitting calmly next to his bed, she leaned over to pick up some rushes, which were strewn about the floor of the room for warmth and cleanliness, and wove them together in the form of a cross.
This aroused the man’s curiosity. Her explanation of what the cross meant prompted his request to be baptized just prior to his death.
Hanging Saint Brigid’s cross on the door of one’s home is said to bring blessings on the household.