St. Brigid of Ireland (523)
Commemorated on February 1
Her name is also spelled Brigit or Bridget; she is considered,
equally with St Patrick (March 17), patroness of Ireland. She was born in Ulster
of a noble Irish family which had been converted by St Patrick. She was
uncommonly beautiful, and her father planned to marry her to the King of Ulster.
But at the age of sixteen she asked her Lord Jesus Christ to make her
unattractive, so that no one would marry her and she could devote herself to Him
alone. Soon she lost an eye and was allowed to enter a monastery. On the day
that she took monastic vows, she was miraculously healed and her original beauty
Near Dublin she built herself a cell under an oak tree, which was called Kill-dara, or Cell of the Oak. Soon seven other young women joined her and established the monastery of Kill-dara, which in time became the cathedral city of Kildare. The monastery grew rapidly and became a double monastery with both men's and women's settlements, with the Abbess ranking above the Abbot; from it several other monasteries were planted throughout Ireland. (Combined men's and women's monastic communities are virtually unknown in the east, but were common in the golden age of the Irish Church).
The Saint predicted the day of her death and fell asleep in peace in 524, leaving a monastic Rule to govern all the monasteries under her care. During the Middle Ages her veneration spread throughout Europe.