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Public holiday marking St Brigid’s feast established in Ireland

February 1, 2022 Catholic News Agency 2
St. Brigid of Kildare building the Church of the Oak, detail from a window of St Etheldreda’s church in London. / Lawrence OP via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Dublin, Ireland, Feb 1, 2022 / 03:00 am (CNA).

The feast of St. Brigid of Kildare, Ireland’s female patron saint, will be a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland beginning in 2023, it was recently announced.

Her feast is Feb. 1, and the bank holiday will be observed on the first Monday in February, or on Feb. 1 when that day falls on a Friday.

The public holiday was welcomed by the Catholic and Anglican bishops of Kildare.

“It is very appropriate that a new public holiday will honour Saint Brigid. As the secondary saint in Ireland to Patrick, for too long she has been lost in his shadow. We warmly welcome the news that Brigid is being rightly, and long after time, acknowledged,” Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin, and Pat Storey, the Church of Ireland’s Bishop of Meath & Kildare, said Jan. 27.

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Tánaiste, said Jan. 20 that “From next year, Ireland will have an extra public holiday at the start of February to mark Imbolc/St Brigid’s day … This will be the first Irish public holiday named after a woman. It marks the half-way point between the winter solstice and the equinox, the beginning of spring and the Celtic New Year. The creation of a tenth public holiday will bring Ireland more into line with the European average and it is one of five new workers’ rights that I am establishing this year.”

The fifth century abbess St. Brigid is one of Ireland’s three patron saints, along with St. Patrick and St. Columba. Most historians place her birth around the year 450, near the end of St. Patrick’s evangelistic mission.

Brigid was born out of wedlock to a pagan cheiftain named Dubthach and a Christian slave woman named Broicsech. The chieftain sold the child’s pregnant mother to a new master, but contracted for Brigid to be returned to him eventually. According to one of the more credible biographies of Brigid, Hugh de Blacam’s essay in “The Saints of Ireland,” the child was probably baptized as an infant and raised as a Catholic by her mother. Thus, she was well formed in the faith before leaving Broicsech’s slave quarters, at around age 10, to live with Dubthach and his wife.

After this, Brigid’s faith grew immensely. She gave generously to the poor and tended to the sick. One story says Brigid once gave away her mother’s entire store of butter, which was later replenished after Brigid prayed.

Once she was released from servitude, she was expected to marry. However, Brigid had no interest in marrying. She went so far as to disfigure her own face and prayed that her beauty be taken from her so no one would want to marry her. Because she refused to change her mind about marriage, she received permission to enter religious life.

Brigid, along with seven friends, is credited with organizing communal consecrated religious life for women in Ireland.

In 480, Brigid founded her monastery in Kildare, called “Church of the Oak”. The monastery sat on top of a shrine to the Celtic goddess Brigid. Throughout the rest of her life, she established several monasteries across Ireland.

Brigid rooted her life as a nun in prayer, but she also performed substantial manual labor: cloth making, dairy farming, and raising sheep. She also spent time traveling across Ireland founding new houses and building up a uniquely Irish form of monasticism. When she was not traveling, pilgrims made their way to Kildare, seeking the advice of the abbess.

Brigid died around 525.

Bishop Nulty and Pat Storey noted in their statement that “Every school child knows the song of Brigid and how her cloak covered the area we know today as the Curragh, Saint Brigid’s Field. Brigid is linked with the earth, with agriculture, particularly ploughing, sowing, milking, butter-making and, of course, vibrant Christian faith. Brigid was extravagant in her hospitality.”


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Irish diocese delays First Communions until autumn over Covid concerns

March 25, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Derry, Northern Ireland, Mar 25, 2021 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Derry has announced that First Communions, customarily held in spring, will be postponed so as to discourage associated parties and other social gatherings.

The Derry diocese, whose see is in Northern Ireland but which extends into the Republic Ireland, has announced that the sacrament will be delayed until September.

Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry said that while parties have no strict correlation to the sacrament, First Communion is often followed by celebratory gatherings.

“I am concerned about the parties and other socialising which, although completely disconnected from the celebration of the sacraments and the environs of the church, can and often do occur,” he wrote in a letter to his presbyterate.

“It must also be recognised that such parties and socialising are a matter for the civil authorities and, indeed, are currently banned under civil COVID regulations; it is for the civil authorities to enforce civil laws,” he said.

He said the decision has come after much deliberation, and he emphasized the Church’s role in providing protection for people.

The Church should “go the extra step to assist in protecting public health by avoiding those situations which might with some regularity lead people to organise parties,” he said.

“I do not take this decision lightly, but I am conscious that we must do everything we can to ensure that life is protected in the midst of this pandemic, noting that there has been some upturn in case numbers locally in recent days,” he said.

The bishop said it will be acceptable for parishes to make provisional arrangements for Confirmations in June. He said he would review and confirm this decision in May.

Bishop McKeown said return to normalcy “will be slow and, in order to hold the progress that we have made towards normal practice of faith, patience will be needed in relation to the pace of such change.”

In Northern Irish portion of the Derry diocese, public worship is due to resume March 26. The Republic of Ireland has yet to permit public worship.


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On St Patrick’s Day, Ireland’s religious leaders stress progress and continued engagement

March 17, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

CNA Staff, Mar 17, 2021 / 05:36 pm (CNA).- Christianity can shed light on the path forward for the peace process in Ireland, religious and political coexistence, and understanding the shared the history of Ireland’s peoples, religious leaders of major religious groups said in a joint St. Patrick’s Day message as major centenaries approach in 2021.
“Christ’s teaching, ministry and sacrifice were offered in the context of a society that was politically divided, wounded by conflict and injustice. His call to ‘render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things of God’ conveyed the reassurance that beneath these societal fractures lay a deeper source of connection because all things belong to God,” said the March 17 statement “In Christ We Journey Together.”
“Jesus lived out this message of hope by repeatedly and intentionally crossing social boundaries to affirm the dignity of those who had been marginalized or excluded by his own people and by society,” the message continued. They cited gospel stories like Christ’s encounter with the woman of Samaria, saying, “Christ does not seek to minimize differences, but rather to establish connection through gracious listening, replacing exclusion and shame with the hope of new beginnings.”
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh was a signer of the statement, as was his Church of Ireland counterpart, John McDowell. Other signers were Dr. David Bruce, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland; Dr. Thomas McKnight, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, and Dr. Ivan Patterson, President of the Irish Council of Churches.
The signers also filmed readings of the statement in a video message at St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh, the historic center of Irish Christianity.
“In our approach to the past we have a moral responsibility to acknowledge the corrosive impact of violence and words that can lead to violence, and a duty of care to those still living with the trauma of its aftermath,” the statement said.
The year 2021 will mark the centenary of the close of the Irish War of Independence and the Truce of July 11 which halted the war. This is followed by the Dec. 6 anniversary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which led to the partition of Ireland into the predominantly nationalist and Catholic Irish Free State, and the predominantly pro-United Kingdom and Protestant Northern Ireland.
Disputes over the treaty among nationalists led to the Irish Civil War, while Catholics in Northern Ireland would suffer discrimination and political and economic exclusion that helped to fuel further discord. A period of civil strife, reprisals, and terrorism known as The Troubles began in the late 1960s and largely closed with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
However, the departure of the U.K. from the European Union called “Brexit” has caused continued uncertainty and fears that the political border will again be a source of difficulty. There have been occasional violent paramilitary actions driven in part by renewed sectarian or political tensions.
In such a situation, the Christian leaders called for wisdom.
“Every generation of leaders, civil and political, is called to make choices about the structures that govern our life in community, now and in the future, in circumstances that will always be less than ideal,” they said. Significant anniversaries are a chance to reflect and re-examine “the contrasting and intertwined narratives of conflict and compromise that surround these pivotal points in our history.”
“We find inspiration and encouragement in the progress that has been made through our peace process in building relationships of mutual respect and trust across these islands,” they continued. “These relationships are often tested, and will at times be found wanting, but our communities have also demonstrated great resilience, solidarity and compassion, evident most recently in the response to Covid–19.”
“Some may struggle with the concept of a shared history when it comes to the centenary of the partition of Ireland, the establishment of Northern Ireland and the resulting reconfiguration of British–Irish relationships,” they added. “What is undeniable, however, is the reality that we have to live in a shared space on these islands, and to make them a place of belonging and welcome for all.”
The ecclesial leaders praised “considerable progress” in “addressing unjust structures that excluded people and unfairly limited their life chances.”
“The power of institutions has diminished, leading to greater accountability for those in leadership. This helps create an environment where we can value our different identities in a pluralist public square, conscious of both our rights and responsibilities. Yet there is much work still to do,” they said.
They warned against the temptation to retreat into online spaces or other areas where “our definition of community is limited to those who agree with us.” Doing so, they said, “leads to an increasingly fragmented society in which too many people fall through the cracks.”
They said there is a need “to be intentional in creating the spaces for encounter with those who are different from us, and those who may feel marginalized in the narratives that have shaped our community identity.”
“This will require us to face difficult truths about failings in our own leadership in the work of peace and reconciliation,” the leaders said. “As Christian churches we acknowledge and lament the times that we failed to bring to a fearful and divided society that message of the deeper connection that binds us, despite our different identities, as children of God, made in His image and likeness. We have often been captive churches; not captive to the Word of God, but to the idols of state and nation.”
That said, they added that Christian communities can contribute to society.
“Churches, alongside other civic leaders, have a role to play in providing spaces outside political structures that give expression to our inter–connectedness and shared concern for the common good,” they added. “It is our hope that shared reflection on our past will support and strengthen this engagement, inspiring us to renew our commitment to the work of building peace for the future.”