Saint Brigid’s Great Lake of Beer

I should like a great lake of beer to give to God.
I should like the angels of Heaven to be tippling there for all eternity.
I should like the men of Heaven to live with me, to dance and sing.
If they wanted I’d put at their disposal vats of suffering
White cups of love I’d give them with a heart and a half.
Sweet pitchers of mercy I’d offer to every man.
I’d make heaven a cheerful spot,
Because the happy heart is true.
I’d make men happy for their own sakes.
I should like Jesus to be there too.
I’d like the people of heaven to gather from all the parishes around.
I’d give a special welcome to the women,
the three Marys of great renown.
I’d sit with the men, the women of God,
There by the great lake of beer
We’d be drinking good health forever,
And every drop would be a prayer.

Since St. Patrick’s Day has me in an Irish frame of mind, I wanted to share one of my favorite poems that perfectly melds love of God and love of beer. In it, St. Brigid envisions heaven as being a place of infinite hospitality and pleasure in which people join with saints and even God drinking good health throughout eternity.

Now to be fair, this is not a hedonistic vision. Heaven is not simply a celestial kegger. Indeed, to fully understand it you cannot overlook the “vats of suffering” and “white cups of love” which refer to the enormous acts of asceticism undertaken by Irish monks and nuns and White Martyrdom (voluntary exile) that was embraced by tens of thousands spiritual women and men over the centuries. It was all undertaken as a means to purify themselves and draw closer to God. Moreover, while the poem certainly reflects Brigid’s theology, it is almost certainly written long after Brigid lived.

Yet none of this has diminished its appeal or staying power. You may have heard references to the “Lake of Beer” before. It has also inspired art. Here it is as envisioned by Br. Mickey McGrath, OSFS.

MMBEE150In it you can see not only the Lake of Beer, Jesus, the Three Marys and Brigid herself (shown holding her cross), but also many icons of Celtic Christianity, including a high cross, round tower, and famous saints like Kevin, Brendan, Colmcille (Columba) and Patrick. You can buy it from TrinityStores.

So as you recover from your St Patrick’s celebrations, you can find a little inspiration from Brigid and her heavenly Lake of Beer.


3 thoughts on “Saint Brigid’s Great Lake of Beer

  1. Kirk–I am at this conference with these kick ass Irish singers Mobly and Owen and Barbara Brown Taylor who both at different times read to us Brigid’s lake of beer poem. When I googled to to send a friend the text YOUR FACE POPPED UP FIRST! I miss you man! (this is Alison Harrity formerly of St. David;s and your happy supply priest one week).
    I have always loved you and hope you are well!!!

  2. Reblogged this on So This Priest Walks Into a Bar… and commented:

    Today is St. Brigid’s day. It continues to surprise me that this post continues to be my most popular of all time. Ten again,when you consider Brigid in all her holy, strong-willed magnificence, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised at all.
    Hope you enjoy and now,
    May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell
    Bless every fireside every wall and door
    Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof
    Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy
    Bless every foot that walks its portals through
    May Brigid bless the house that shelters you.

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