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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

But the Tripartite makes another reference to this preaching of Patrick for three days in Altadaven, which it is more difficult to explain. It says that Brigid fell asleep during his preaching; and Patrick would not let her be rudely awakened. Afterwards he asked the girl what she had seen, and Brigid replied: “I saw white assemblies, and light-coloured oxen, and white cornfields; speckled oxen were behind them, and black oxen after these. Then I next saw sheep, and swine, and dogs, and wolves quarrelling with each other. Thereafter I saw two stones, one a small stone, the other a large one. A shower fell upon them. The little stone increased at the shower, and silvery sparks would break forth from it. The large stone, however, wasted away.” “These,” said Patrick, “are the two sons of Echu, son of Crimthann, the King of Clogher.” One of them, Cairbre Damargait, believed, and Patrick blessed him and his seed. Bressal, however, refused to believe, and Patrick cursed him. Patrick, moreover, explained the whole vision of Brigid in a striking manner, that is, as Colgan understands it, he explained the vision as symbolizing the present and the future state of the Irish Church. And surely it is not difficult for us, at least, looking back in the light of history, to see its application—the first fair centuries of its primitive holiness, the darker days of the Dane and Norman adventurers, and then the dogs and wolves of a still later period ravening like wild beasts, and devastating the flock over which Patrick’s successors ruled in later and more unhappy times.

It is not stated that this maiden was Brigid of Kildare; but it seems to be implied. Yet it is difficult to suppose that she could have been present at Altadaven at this early period, still it is by no means impossible. It is commonly said that Brigid was born about 452—the Annals of Ulster says in 457—but the Chronicon Scotorum gives 439 as the true date, and says that she died in 523 at the age of eighty-seven, or seventy-seven, ‘as some assert.’

The Irish Life says she died in the eighty-eighth year of her age, and if we take O’Flaherty’s opinion that this was the year 523, then she was born in A.D. 435 or 436. Such also is our opinion. She was in her mother’s womb when Bishops Mel and Melchu passed through Offaly about 434 or 435, and rested in her father’s house. In that case she might now be ten or twelve years of age, and, therefore, old enough to hear the preaching of the Saint. We are also told in the Book of Armagh that St. ‘Mac Cairthinn of Clogher was an uncle of Brigtæ’—for so the names are given. This is merely another form of ‘Brigit’ of the Tripartite, and if the fact is so, it gives a natural explanation of the maiden’s presence on this occasion. Her mother’s father was Dalbronach, who belonged to the ‘Dal Conchobair of the South of Bregia.’ This would go to show that St. Mac Cartan of Clogher belonged to the same tribe, as did also St. Ultan of Ardbraccan in Meath at a later period, who was certainly a relative of St. Brigid—but he can hardly have been an uncle, as some authorities assert.

We find in the Lives of St. Brigid that she was at least on four different occasions in the society of St. Patrick. The occasion recorded here was, no doubt, the earliest. Then she met the Saint at the great Synod of Telltown, to which she went under the guidance of her spiritual father, St. Mel of Longford. It was on that occasion she vindicated the character of the Holy Bishop Bron from the false charge made against him by a wicked woman, who accused him of the paternity of her illegitimate child. Brigid made the Sign of the Cross on the child’s mouth, and commanded the infant to reveal the name of its real parent, which it did in presence of the multitude. Once again we find her meeting St. Patrick at Armagh after he had founded his primatial church in that royal city; and it would appear that Brigid dwelt then for a considerable time at Armagh, and also paid a visit to the Saint at Saul, near to which (at Down) she foretold that his blessed body would one day rest. Then Patrick asked Brigid to make with her own hands the winding sheet in which his body would be laid. Brigid promised to do so, and kept her promise; for which cause also God ordained that her own holy relics should sleep beside those of Patrick in Down.

The facts that Brigid was present at Patrick’s preaching near Clogher, and also at the Synod of Telltown, that she was an intimate friend of St. Mel and Bishop Bron, as well as of St. Erc and St. Ibar, would all go to prove that she flourished at an earlier date than that commonly assigned. We may, therefore, accept the statement of the Irish Life that she was in the eighty-eighth year of her age when she died, that she was, therefore, born about the year 436, as the Bollandists assert, and that she was an intimate and beloved disciple of St. Patrick, who called her his dear daughter in Christ.






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