Hi Saint Brigid. I need to introduce you...
A milkmaid. A shepherdess. A philanthropist. An evangelist. Saint Brigid is one of the most beloved figures of Western Christianity, and for good reason. She holds special reign in the hearts of the Irish and once I discovered her story I became completely enamored with her spirit of kindness and giving and adventure. Christ has used her... to change me...
First of all, you need to know that she was born many, many years ago, in the fifth century, when Christianity was just being brought to England and Ireland. During that time in history-a time of feuding tribes, of small kingdoms, of thatched roofs and people worshiping the natural world-a time when it was against the law not to be hospitable to travelers and strangers, lived this young, and I like to think, feisty girl who through her life experiences learned to embody Christ himself. She put Him on, completely, and changed her whole land by her example...
Can you imagine, one young girl, today, an American, sweet and giving, a girl scout, maybe? Working at a food pantry with her mom on Saturdays, changing the entire land? I like to think it's still possible. That God is that big...
Brigid was many things. She milked cows; she managed her father's kitchens. She tended flocks of sheep and spoke of her love for Christ. She cared for her mother. An entire community grew up around her-she as the abbess. She must have been a charismatic yet humble leader for so many to follow-for so many monks and nuns and lay people alike to live under her care. But more than anything, she was a giving soul. This spirit of kindness and generosity comes out in every account of Saint Brigid's life and this is the legacy I'm hoping to highlight as children of our own century learn her story...
We live in times of abundance and greed. Of potato chips and lounging in front of the television watching re-runs of Drake and Josh or Hannah Montana. Our children have few examples of folks fighting for the underprivileged, the poor or the homeless. People do not walk to our front doors asking for food or shelter. No Trespassing! Call the Police! So in conjunction with the release of this book, I'm hoping to also speak regularly about all the work that is being done in the spirit of Saint Brigid to help others. I'm hoping to do something myself... hoping to give more of what I have-to help others, and to help save myself!
Since my life is a busy one, I've been racking my brain trying to figure out what more I can do to help-along with the now and then checks and donations to shelters and ministries. I've come up with two things. One, is not to judge.
I've been struggling with this for some time. In Santa Monica, where I grew up, there was (still is) a sign at the intersection of Chautauqua and Pacific Coast Highway that says not to give money to the homeless-(paraphrasing) that it would facilitate alcohol and drug abuse and hurt the community. I read that sign almost every day as we traveled through that intersection and I learned to look away when I saw those unfortunate beggars standing there in the median. I learned that being compassionate meant giving them bus tokens and McDonald's vouchers. I learned to avoid their faces and pleas, and take my donations to thrift shops, all those bags cradled in the back of the blue Volvo. I never had to look at one unfortunate face along the way.
I can tell I'm about to launch off topic, so I'll save the stories welling up in my heart for another time... Looking away hurts, so now I try to see these people as icons of Christ. Try my hardest to look them in the eye. They are God's creation, though broken and hurt. I am not the judge. I look at them, teeth missing and all, and ask their names. I give them money-say a prayer for their safety-and leave it at that.
The second thing I've started doing is baking bread. Baking is something I enjoy that satisfies me on many levels-not just the food one! I find the many phases of baking prayerful and soul-building... I bake often and have made it a practice to always make more than I need. The rest is bagged up and given away. Most of the time it simply goes to those closest: my next-door neighbors or someone walking by when I happen to open the front door. But we're making more and more of an effort to take the bread out into the streets. It's one, very small, thing that I can do.
I'll finish my introduction of Saint Brigid with this traditional poem-listing those things Brigid most wished for.
I would like the angels of Heaven to be among us.
I would like an abundance of peace.
I would like full vessels of charity.
I would like rich treasures of mercy.
I would like cheerfulness to preside over all.
I would like Jesus to be present.
I would like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us.
I would like the friends of Heaven to be gathered around us from all parts.
I would like myself to be a rent payer to the Lord; that I should suffer distress, that he would bestow a good blessing upon me.
I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
I would like to be watching Heaven's family drinking it through all eternity.
What's on your wish list? :) In the spirit of Saint Brigid, I'd love to know your name, read your words, and have you write your wishes, too...