St. Brigid of Ireland (451–525 A.D.), also known as St. Brigit of Kildare, was born to a pagan Irish chieftain father and a Christian slave mother, making her a slave girl. She worked as a dairy maid, and became known for her virtuous life and charity to the poor. Recognizing her great piety and special graces, a Christian king convinced her father to grant Brigid her freedom.
Once free to follow her own course in life, St. Brigid refused marriage, consecrated herself to Christ, and became Ireland's first nun. She formed Ireland's first convent at Kildare and became its abbess. She went on to found many other religious communities, as well as a School of Art famous for its metal working and illuminated manuscripts. St. Brigid was also a contemporary and friend of St. Patrick.
St. Brigid was known for her extraordinary spirituality, even converting a tribal chieftain to the Catholic faith (in some accounts, this man is her father). While St. Brigid attended at his deathbed, she picked up strands of rushes off the floor and fashioned them into the shape of a cross. Her father, upon seeing the cross, was moved to accept Christ. Ever since, St. Brigid's cross has been a symbol of Christian faith and a hallmark of Irish Catholic heritage.
In memory of this grace of conversion through St. Brigid's intercession and the sign of the cross, it is a popular Irish custom on her feast day (February 1st) to make St. Brigid's cross out of tall grasses, rushes, or reeds, sprinkle it with holy water, and recite the following prayer:
May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost be on this Cross and on the place where it hangs and on everyone who looks on it.
The cross is then displayed in a prominent place in honor of her feast. Watch the video below for how to make a St. Brigid's Cross.
St. Brigid is also the patroness of Ireland and many other causes, most notably of dairy and milk maids, chicken farmers, travelers, and sailors.
A Prayer to Saint Brigid
Our Father - Hail Mary
O Jesus Christ! Eternal Sweetness to those who love Thee, joy surpassing all joy and all desire, Salvation and Hope of all sinners, Who hast proved that Thou hast no greater desire than to be among men, even assuming human nature at the fullness of time for the love of men, recall all the sufferings Thou hast endured from the instant of Thy conception, and especially during Thy Passion, as it was decreed and ordained from all eternity in the Divine plan.
Remember, O Lord, that during the Last Supper with Thy disciples, having washed their feet, Thou gavest them Thy Most Precious Body and Blood, and while at the same time Thou didst sweetly console them, Thou didst foretell them Thy coming Passion.
Remember the sadness and bitterness which Thou didst experience in Thy Soul as Thou Thyself bore witness saying: "My Soul is sorrowful even unto death."
Remember all the fear, anguish and pain that Thou didst suffer in Thy delicate Body before the torment of the crucifixion, when, after having prayed three times, bathed in a sweat of blood, Thou wast betrayed by Judas, Thy disciple, arrested by the people of a nation Thou hadst chosen and elevated, accused by false witnesses, unjustly judged by three judges during the flower of Thy youth and during the solemn Paschal season.
Remember that Thou wast despoiled of Thy garments and clothed in those of derision; that Thy Face and Eyes were veiled, that Thou wast buffeted, crowned with thorns, a reed placed in Thy Hands, that Thou was crushed with blows and overwhelmed with affronts and outrages.
In memory of all these pains and sufferings which Thou didst endure before Thy Passion on the Cross, grant me before my death true contrition, a sincere and entire confession, worthy satisfaction and the remission of all my sins. Amen.