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It’s time to set the record straight on St. Brigid

Next Monday, many of us will have the day off, and we have Saint Brigid to thank for it. It comes after Ireland declared a national bank holiday in honour of our mother saint, St. Brigid of Kildare, one of Ireland’s three patron saints along with Saints Patrick and Columba. But while many of us, religious and non-religious alike, will happily enjoy a day free of work, who is the Catholic Saint being honoured?

From a browse of the festivities online, it seems we’ve come a long way from the humble making of the simple but intricate St. Brigid’s cross. Many of us will remember turning up at school as children, armed with more carefully prepared rushes than we could count, to begin turning and weaving them to create a St. Brigid’s cross to proudly bring home and hang on the wall to welcome the first day of Spring.

Saint Brigid is said to have woven a cross from the rushes of a floor mat, as she taught a dying man about Christianity, and that is where the famous tradition comes from.

Traditionally, Irish families would say prayers, bless the rushes with holy water, and then each make the crosses which they would hang in the home to welcome St. Brigid on her feast day. Flash forward to Ireland 2023 though, and the feast of this great Saint has become a muddled affair featuring goddesses, while Brigid’s story is being appropriated by liberal activists, opponents of the church, abortion rights campaigners, and others.

A letter from a Ciarán McGuill in the Irish Times this week urged that Naomh Bríd be spared the “grotesque commercialisation and paddywhackery that plagues Saint Patrick’s Day”. He added that the new holiday might see “a new level of whackery all of its own, a grotesque self-indulgent whackery of wokism, paganism, pseudo-history and political opportunism.”

“Until now Saint Brigid’s feast day is an authentic community celebration of the historical Brigid, a fifth-century abbess who founded monasteries and contributed enormously to the growth of the early Irish church. It is paradoxical that brave new secular and politically correct Ireland should indulge in the highjacking and cultural appropriation of a religious feast day.,” he wrote.

There are very many who agree.

A press release from the government Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media released on Monday describes a feminist celebration – “the first Irish public holiday named after a woman”. It also deliberately conflates the ancient goddess Brigid – with Saint Brigid – two entirely different people, one who has a Christian feast day, the other who does not.

Ultimately, many of us will understand that from the outset, for St. Brigid – or in fact any woman – to be worthy of celebration in modern Irish society, she must be a certain type of woman – not just any woman, and definitely not a conservative, religious woman. Because we’ve all come to know that only certain types of women will be celebrated in establishment Ireland. At the end of the day, it’s not really about being a woman per se, but about being the right type of woman. 

So is Brigid really the right type of woman? A Catholic nun, a fierce proponent of chastity, a devout Christian? I’m not sure she fits the bill. What would progressive, secular Ireland want with that kind of a woman? Modern women with the kinds of values St Brigid had are more often than not ridiculed and thought of as backwards, strange, undesirable.

People of faith in this country are told by our media and our politicians that they are irrelevant; that it’s time to sit down and shut up because the ship has sailed.

But what better way to get back at Ireland’s annoying, lingering ‘holy joes’ than to take an important and loved Saint, celebrated for generations, a universal proponent of Church teaching, and make her into something completely opposite to Saintly? And that is exactly what our Government, and everyone behind the absurd rebranding of St. Brigid of Kildare has done. And more fool us if we fall for such nonsense.

From reading the press release, and so many of the other news articles and gushing promotional material about the St Brigid’s bank holiday, it’s clear to see a deliberate kind of confusion sewn through the morphing of the two figures, associating Brigid the mythical pagan goddess with the Saint so closely that the lines blur, and eventually start to disappear.

The PR continues:

“In Celtic mythology, Brigid was a triple goddess – of healing, fire, and of poetry – and the Christian saint who took her name, born in 450 AD, carried some of those same associations as the patron saint of poets and midwives. As such, this bank holiday carries a dual opportunity to recognise the role of women through our arts and cultural heritage”.

In festivals organised by various councils across the country, ‘Brigid’ is introduced as ‘Goddess and Christian Saint’ – note that the goddess always comes first, and it’s more or less implied that they are the same person. This is even though the goddess named Brigid was not attested to until the 10th century, roughly 383 years after the historical St. Brigid died.

It’s clear Ireland is not honouring Saint Brigid – but rather, hijacking her feast day to rewrite the story of the saint, and in her place celebrate the pagan Celtic goddess instead.

Because unlike Saint Brigid the nun, establishment Ireland has decided that Brigid the ethereal, pagan goddess is the right type of woman with religion being the common denominator.

This is clear in the choice of events promoted to celebrate the rebrand – and through the people pushing it, who include actress Siobhán McSweeney, a prominent abortion rights campaigner, and no other than Mary McAleese, who needs no introduction. Both took part in the confusing documentary, ‘Finding Brigid’ which will air on RTÉ One tonight.

In the words of Ray D’Arcy who interviewed Derry Girls actress McSweeney last week to talk about the programme, it had to be clarified that “it’s not the typical documentary about a Saint”.

“God, no,” McSweeney replied. God forbid such a thing.

 “When I was asked to do this, the least interesting aspect of the subject matter was the actual Saint aspect of it”, she told D’Arcy, adding:

“The contemporary worship of her that is completely separate from a Catholic or Christian church idea of the Saint”, firmly detaching herself from any hint of being a Catholic apologist. While McSweeney concedes that she did become interested in the Saint during the making of the documentary, the main priority for her and others who are now embracing a ‘Brigid’s Day’ of their own creation is finding a way to ensure the Saint and her values have “evolved” to fit a modern Ireland. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Events plugged to mark the new holiday abound, and serve to show that the transformation of the Catholic feast-day is coordinated and meticulously planned. In St. Brigid’s native Kildare, along with Galway and Roscommon, light shows will take place. These illuminations, according to an Irish Times write-up, will embody her “qualities and passions as environmentalist, feminist, Pride icon, healer, pioneer, human rights activist, goddess of the arts, alchemist and wisdom weaver”.

Kildare County Council also seems to want to do its damndest to remould St. Brigid as a progressive and uber-woke icon. According to the Council, values the early Saint “championed” included the all-important values of “biodiversity and sustainability”.

Meanwhile, activities organised by Dublin City Council to mark the feast day include body painting, meditation and the new age practice of tarot card reading, which is – surprise surprise – strongly advised against by the Catholic Church.

Other obscure, funded initiatives for the day include craft workshops and meetups including ‘Create Your Own Boob Pots’ (clay-making) or the Dublin Sewcial Club “stitch and bitch”. Lovin’ Dublin also recommends a bizarre ‘Create Your Own Vulva’ two-hour workshop which the website says ‘Brigid would love loved’.

One ‘LGBTQIA+ space’ named SPINSTER at the grand central in Dublin advertises what must be a new craze in the world of nightlife, ‘Brigid’s Bash’ – a night which promises an “almighty bash” and “guaranteed tunes”. Thankfully, amongst the organised feminist-charged chaos, the tradition of cross weaving still endures, with workshops held across various Arts Centres.

It all seems a bit much, but the elevation of Saint Brigid is far less confusing when you look at the motivations driving the Saint’s new cheerleaders, including those often most opposed to the Catholic faith and its teachings.

The attempts to redefine St. Brigid, and in the process, to put it bluntly, make a laughing stock of Catholics, are long-running. Take, for example, this confusing description of the Saint in an article hosted our national broadcaster, RTE, two years ago, which describes the saint as a lesbian and an abortionist:

“So who was Brigid? She was a Celtic goddess, a Christian saint and a symbol of feminine power, strength and ancient wisdom that transcends religion, making her inclusive and appealing to all faiths and none…..

…..However, it’s important to highlight the fact that St. Brigid came from the early Irish Christian tradition which was far more progressive than today’s Catholic Church, and pre-dates the Reformation, before any division between Catholics and Protestants.

Brigid is the embodiment of true Christianity, renowned for her compassion, healing gifts and care for the poor and sick. The Saint is an anomaly for modern Catholicism in that she was Ireland’s first recorded abortionist and a lesbian – both facts are recorded by mediaeval monks in the Annals”.

It is predictable then that advocates of the new holiday include Ireland’s Abortion Rights Campaign, and Alliance for Choice, both of whom have repeated the same mistruth that the Saint was a radical feminist abortionist who carried out “Ireland’s first recorded abortion”.

Last year, abortion campaigners Alliance for Choice Derry wrote:

“Ireland’s first recorded abortion was in 650AD – carried out by none other than St Brigid – upon meeting a woman in need, “Brigid, exercising with the most strength of her ineffable faith, blessed her, caused the foetus to disappear without coming to birth, and without pain.”

These claims have also been repeated by the taxpayer-funded activist group ‘Her Story’ who have spearheaded the three-year-long campaign for a St. Brigid’s bank holiday, while the same controversial contentions have been keenly amplified at every given opportunity by our own media in the run up to the 1st February.

It’s funny, really, that so many of the same people who will dismiss the concept of God as a fluffy, make-believe man in the clouds, and laugh at the idea that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, are the same people who are now so keen to believe that St. Brigid used her divine powers to make babies disappear.

It’s clear that the claim is being made for political purposes. As historian Dr Seosamh O’Ceallaigh, who has studied the life of the Kildare saint, has pointed out, no serious historian would describe as a saint someone who provided abortions.

In fact, the reference to a child vanishing were made in an account of the saint’s life written long after her death by someone who had never met her. In such cases, it is always well to take claims of “vanishing” with a pinch of salt, while similar depictions of “restoring honour” or other feats are often clearly more about symbolism and exaggeration than reality.

She is someone who teaches us about charity, and above all, how to love Christ. If abortion campaigners, LGBT activists, our tourism board and our Government are in such desperate need of a new icon, they should have the originality, at least, to create their own hero, rather than the hijacking of the story of one of Ireland’s most important Catholic Saints.

But I suppose that says more about them than St. Brigid, doesn’t it?

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