Pray for us, Holy Brigid

Illustration from "The Life of Saint Brigid"

Illustration from “The Life of Saint Brigid”

In years past I have spent the week before the feast of Saint Brigid preparing for a big party that we have with family and friends here at our home. We typically invite different people every year, and do lots of Irish-like things: eating beef stew, drinking ale, mixing up batches of soda bread, weaving crosses and the like. It is such fun.

This year, we are simply asking for prayer. Our house has been overtaken by the flu–with children coughing and waylaid by fevers, with mamas making chicken soup, and grandmas calling every few minutes to see if we need anything from the store.

By the eve of the feast, Thursday, we may just be well enough to weave a cross. I’m hopeful! And if we are feeling especially energetic, I’m wanting to make homemade butter, just for the fun of it. Saint Brigid was a dairymaid and I think bread and butter sounds pretty good right about now.

And on Friday, February first, we have our house blessing scheduled, but the party will be a small one, I’m afraid. Just us and the priest and his wife, singing our hearts out, asking Saint John the Baptist and Saint Brigid to team up on that day, follow us about our home as the holy water finds its way north-south-east-west, and humbly intercede for us.

This is a good reminder for me–to release the hold of past expectations and simply follow the needs of the moment. I have decided not to be disappointed by the turn of events, but to allow space for the prayer, and the healing, and maybe, just maybe, a little butter will be made.

Enjoy the feast, everyone!

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2012–Preparing for the Feast of Saint Brigid

My husband and I are planning a menu for our favorite Irish feast of the year. Thankfully, the eve of Saint Brigid’s feast day, when we do all our cross weaving, falls on a Tuesday! Corned beef and cabbage, (and Irish soda bread) here we come…

Here’s the order of events:

Today! Order the wheat for weaving. For the last several years I’ve been so pleased with the wheat from Dale Scott. I order the starter kits (just $22 including shipping) and that’s all I need to make several crosses. You can also order one of her handmade Saint Brigid crosses. They are lovely…

Soon. Clean the house–especially take down the Christmas cards that line the back wall. (And, put away all the ornaments that are all over the coffee table in the living room. And… finish writing the last of the Christmas cards!) Oh, my.

January 31st. Have a party! Wheat weaving, Irish soda bread, corned beef and cabbage and a wee bit of Irish ale. There are great instructions on how to weave a Saint Brigid cross on this old post of mine.

February 1st. Bake bread and take it out into the community, Saint Brigid style. I’m looking forward to that day…

Note: If you’d like a signed copy of The Life of Saint Brigid to read to your munchkins or to send to some other child, just leave a comment or email me at jane@janegmeyer.com and I can sign and send you one. They are $15 including shipping if you contact me by the 20th of January. Otherwise, you can buy one from:

Amazon

Conciliar Press

Or order it from your local bookstore…

Or… you can simply listen to the book on my website–here’s the link to my page. There’s an audio file in the little swirly thing, read by my super favorite British accent friend, and fellow author, Chrissi Hart.

Happy upcoming feast!

Saint Brigid and Her Feast

Mixed and baked two loaves of my Never-Been-to-Maine Pumpkin Bread (recipe coming later this week–you’re gonna love it!)

Gave one loaf to an old schoolmate just diagnosed with cancer 😦

Researching and writing The Life of Saint Brigid: Abbess of Kildare was one of the most rewarding writing experiences I’ve had yet. Not only did I enjoy getting to know fifth century Ireland, learning about the foods and habits of people of that time and about the budding days of Christianity where the people were so receptive to Christ’s love–but I absolutely came to admire this young girl named Brigid–this open-hearted daughter of a slave, who loved man and beast, rich and poor, and who always held Christ foremost in her heart.

Celebrating her feast day each year has enriched our lives and brought about some good and healthy family fun, plus a lot of introspection….So much of celebrating Saint Brigid happens on the eve of her feast day–January 31st… and yesterday being that day, I’d like to share with you some of what went on.

First, I read the story of Saint Brigid to our little one early in the day. We cuddled and he asked questions, and that set the tone for all that happened afterward. In the late afternoon, we baked, making pumpkin bread to share, and Saint Brigid oatcakes for our meal, placing a portion for her on the windowsill.

For our evening meal we ate roasted chicken (fifth century folk did a lot of roasting on feast days) and made colcannon, a traditional potato, leek, cabbage mixture. There were the Saint Brigid oatcakes, too, along with honey butter and jams. I had a few sips of ale too, which made me feel especially Irish.

And after dinner we washed up, then prepared the table for making crosses. John Ronan and I broke the seed heads off the stalks, we soaked the stalks in warm water for about an hour, then brought everyone to the table and started weaving. Morgan, our favorite neighbor friend joined us. She wanted me to make sure I mentioned how she was part of the cross weaving gang!

I was the weaving manager, giving lessons round the table. My husband and daughter are especially proficient, making better crosses than I can, but the two boys struggled. Andrew threw several wheat shafts up into the air after an attempt or two, and John Ronan, using pipe cleaners, still fumbled and didn’t quite get the gist of it. Morgan, a perfectionist at times, also spent a bit of time moaning about her non-cooperative fingers. But we didn’t give up! Aid arrived, and everyone ended up making something that resembled a cross. John Ronan was so proud of his creation that we immediately hung it over his bed. Love the way little people think with their hearts…

So on this beautiful day of the feast of Saint Brigid, I leave you with this prayer of hers that I love…

O God, bless my pantry!

Pantry which the Lord has blessed.

Mary’s Son, my friend,

come and bless my pantry!

Fifth Century–Weaving a Saint Brigid’s Cross

No baking today

At the end of my picture book, The Life of Saint Brigid I tell the story of how a certain chieftain was dying…

On one of her journeys she comforted an old pagan chieftain as he lay dying. She found the chieftain in a desperate state, raving so that even the servants feared him. As Brigid sat by his bed, silently braiding the rushes that covered the floor, he became calm and asked, “What are you making?”

“This is a cross,” the abbess said, “which I make in honor of the Virgin’s Son, who died for us upon a cross of wood.”

The sick man listened to Brigid’s words of faith, of how Christ gave His life to save mankind, to save both the rich and the poor, the old and the new. And on that day the chief was baptized and died, one more saint added to heaven because of the work and faith of Saint Brigid, the Abbess of Kildare.

I love this story. This way of telling a story of the heart, through your hands.

I’ve made several St. Brigid’s Crosses this year and last–it’s traditional to do this on the eve of her feast day, the eve being January 31st, her feast day being the 1st of February… I’ve discovered that pipe cleaners are the easiest medium to teach children with–just be careful of the cut, wire ends. Here are some that I’ve made out of sea grass and pine needles, and such…

I’m excited, though, to have finally tried my hand at weaving with wheat. I ordered the wheat specifically for this purpose from Dale Scott a professional wheat weaver in Idaho, who both sells the crosses, and the kits so that you can make your own. It’s a very affordable thing to do, and a great tradition for your home each January 31st.

As you might be able to see in the video, I didn’t realize that the wheat needed to be soaked before weaving. I was all ready, sitting comfortably in the sun, my back to our lovely new stand of raspberries, and as I started folding the wheat in half, each stock snapped in half in my hand. We stopped filming and the only remedy I could think of was to soak the wheat in warm water for a bit. Thankfully it worked! Phew. Though my cross didn’t look nearly as neat and symmetrical as the finished one I purchased from Dale, I liked the homemade outcome of my effort and look forward to putting it up above our door in just a few days.

Here are some online instructions–of a woman in County Sligo, who does it much better than I do: Weaving a St Brigid\’s Cross on YouTube

And here are some written directions online that you might find helpful…

Oh, and one last note. The music accompanying my video is Prayer, sung by Haley Westenra. A favorite artist of ours here at home–a young New Zealand girl, of Irish descent, with a heavenly voice. I know you can’t hear my narration very well in the video; I think Miss Westenra’s song is much more appealing than anything I might ever have to say!!!

Hope you’re enjoying these last few days of January.

Blessings, and cheers…