I remember last February 1st very well. I woke up, groggily made my way to the microwave in McGlinn to make a cup of tea. Sitting on top of the microwave was a woven Brigid Cross. I remember being so shocked and amused at this little discovery, this little accidental symbol, that crossed my path. It shouldn’t be so surprising, after all it was the feast of St. Brigid and St. Brigid was the patron saint of my dorm and a huge portrait of her hung in our lobby. But, it was also the day that my House of Brigid application was due so this cross seemed to resonate with me in a deep way.
It’s funny, a year later, living my life in Ireland now, to look back at that Brigid Cross on the microwave and think about the way that St. Brigid would come to situate herself into my life. For the past few weeks, it seems that here in Wexford we’ve lived and breathed Brigid.
Three weeks back, we traveled out to a farm where we were joined by a local family to cut rushes (a reed like plant). After cutting them, we spent a week trimming them and making them look a little less wild. Then began a blur of cross making. We made them at work while listening to musicals, at home in the evenings while watching Ryan Gosling movies, and finally all day at Father Dennis’s house with 30 others. All together we made 500 crosses. It sounds repetitive and tiresome, but there was something so meditative about weaving. The care and time it took to make each cross was productive in slowing down the body and mind. There was something so wholesome and fulfilling about cutting the reeds ourselves and seeing them become crosses. I began to feel as if in the process of making the Brigid crosses, I inherited a bit of Brigid’s tenderness and earthiness.
Beyond just making crosses, my affinity for Brigid grew through our preparations for the Brigid service. Bernadette and I went to the blessed well for St. Brigid at Terrerath. The small pilgrimage helped us explore the Irish tradition of blessed wells, as well as see the way that Brigid is such a prominent saint in the lives of the Irish. And well, there is something about drawing water from well that puts one in touch with the simplicity and life giving qualities of water.
During the week leading up the ceremony, we learned songs about Brigid and about creation. We decorated the alter with symbols of nature, the elements, and Ireland. We bottled blessed water and prepared “brat-bhríde” (Brigid’s cloth). We rehearsed a children’s play about St. Brigid and how she cured lepers. I spent time in reflection and prayer, reading various insights about Brigid. In addition, I worked to choreograph a dance to perform at the Brigid ceremony.
It was as I was standing on the stage, dressed as Brigid for the children’s play, that I was struck with a thought- Brigid is basically the coolest. She has these moments of profound peacefulness and this extensive connection to the earth. But she has moments where she is well… a total badass (I mean really, this girl plucks her own eye out to prove a point). Brigid is both a princess and a slave, an abbess and the kind of person who turns a water into beer. I look to Brigid with awe for her bravery, her confidence, but also her compassion and peace. I felt a swell of pride that I could stand in her shoes, just for the short two minutes of the children’s play, to embody a woman who is both so otherworldy, but so connected to creation.
I think often of the cross on the microwave just before this whole journey began. I think of how often I’d pass her portrait in the lobby of McGlinn. This same painting hangs in our house now. During daily mass, rehearsals, and any other time I find myself in the day chapel in Clonard, I find myself staring the Brigid tapestry on the wall- the lively colors and fabrics that tell her story. I think about how many times my life has crossed with St. Brigid so that she has now wound herself into my life. I like to think that she was guiding me here to Teach Bhríde. I like to think she’s been a companion on this journey with me.