She, like Columbanus, is also Irish. Now you may think that it is no surprise that the Irish seem to hold the lead in this unusual category of saints, it is not for the reasons you might imagine. Rather it is due to the theology of the Celtic Church which emphasized the essential goodness of creation. More on that in another post though.
Getting back to Brigid, she is second only to Patrick in terms of both reverence and popularity. In the town of Kildare there are a number of pubs (again to on one’s surprise) which certainly try to emphasize an association with Brigid.
Like Columbanus her association with beer comes from both story and quotation. Brigid was famed for her generosity and her caring nature. She offered particular care to lepers as can be seen in the second story.
The first tale holds that she stretched one blessed barrel of beer to supply the thirsty members of 18 churches from Maundy Thursday all the way through the Easter season (53 days in all).
The second and more colorful story tells that in order to meet the needs of the thirsty lepers she was caring for she transformed their dirty bathwater into wonderful beer (ick!). A history states the following, “For when the lepers she nursed implored her for beer, and there was none to be had, she changed the water, which was used for the bath, into an excellent beer, by the sheer strength of her blessing and dealt it out to the thirsty in plenty.”
There is a related story in which she transformed her own bath water into beer for a visiting delegation of clergy (not quite as icky).
Finally, a poem attributed to Brigid begins as follows, “I should like a great lake of ale, for the King of the Kings. I should like the family of Heaven to be drinking it through all eternity.” I will share the whole poem in a future post.
It is clear that this great woman, who was revered by Christian and Pagan alike, also had a great love of beer. Indeed, as can be seen in this picture, there is even a beer named in her honor.
So at your next opportunity take the time to raise a toast to Brigid! Slainte’