Today is the Feast of St. Brigid, a special day for all Irish Catholics. Although this feast day is not on the liturgical calendar in the United States, it is of particular local importance.
Brigid of Kildare was born around 450 into a Druid family, being the daughter of Dubhthach, court poet to King Loeghaire. At an early age, Brigid decided to become a Christian, and she eventually took vows as a nun. Surnamed "the Mary of the Gael," together with a group of other women, she established a nunnery at Kildare, the first to be erected on Irish soil, thus becoming the spiritual mother of all Irish nuns. She was later joined by a community of monks led by Conlaed.
Kildare had formerly been a pagan shrine where a sacred fire was kept perpetually burning. Rather than stamping out this pagan flame, Brigid and her nuns kept it burning as a Christian symbol. (This was in keeping with the general process whereby Druidism in Ireland gave way to Christianity with very little opposition, the Druids for the most part saying that their own beliefs were a partial and tentative insight into the nature of God, and that they recognized in Christianity what they had been looking for.) As an abbess, Brigid participated in several Irish councils, and her influence on the policies of the Church in Ireland was considerable. Many stories of her younger days deal with her generosity toward the needy.
Merciful God, origin and reward of all charity, you called Saint Brigid to teach the new commandment of love through her life of hospitality and her care of the needy; give to your people, by her intercession, a generous spirit, so that, with hearts made pure, we may show your love to all.