Venerable Bridget of Kildare

(February 1st)

Icon St. Bridget of KildareAs we know, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church are separated from each other, and have been so for almost a thousand years. But this means that they were one for close to a thousand years with some temporary schisms during that time.

This one-time unity has many dimensions. One dimension is that many of the saints of the first thousand years are venerated by both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. For example, there are many popes who are commemorated on the Orthodox calendar, as well as Archbishops of Canterbury. St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, a twentieth century wonder-worker, when he was bishop in Europe and later in America, strongly encouraged the Orthodox to remember and celebrate the memory of these western saints of the first millennium to remind us that Orthodoxy is not a religion only for certain nationalities or countries, but for all people.

Today the Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of the Venerable Bridget (also spelled Brigid or Bride) of Kildare, an Irish nun who lived c. 453 to c 524. Her mother had been baptized by Saint Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland. She herself was a friend of St. Patrick. At some point she became a nun and in 480 she founded two monasteries in Kildare, one for men and one for women. She also founded a school of art, teaching metal work and book illumination. St. Bridget, as Abbess, had a great deal of influence on monasticism in Ireland. She fell asleep in the Lord on February 1, 524.

St. Bridget’s relics had been housed in a church in Lumiar, a suburb of Lisbon, Portugal. Inreliquary of St. Bridget of Kildare 1929 a small portion of her skull was brought back to Ireland and placed in a reliquary in the cathedral in Killester, near Dublin.  At the time it came as a great surprise to the majority of Irish people that this relic existed, and even more so that it had been preserved in Portugal, where for hundreds of years the Portuguese had venerated her.

The life of St. Bridget and countless other saints of the first millennium remind us of a lost Christian unity, which we should pray and try to overcome, so that the unity among Christians which Christ willed is restored.

Fr. John