Saint Brigid

The Patron Saint of Babies

Cathedral ruins against blue sky.
The Ruins of St. Bridget Convent is Tallinn, Estonia. Federica Grassi / Getty Images

Saint Brigid—also known as Saint Bridget, Saint Brigit, and Mary of the Gael—lived in Ireland from 451-525. It's believed that the Christian God performed many miracles through Brigid during her lifetime and most of them have to do with healing.

  • Feast day: February 1st.
  • Patron saint of: Babies, midwives, children whose parents aren't married, scholars, poets, travelers (especially those who travel by water), and farmers (especially dairy farmers).

St. Brigid's Miracles

Bridget was traveling on horseback along with the sisters when the horse Brigid was riding got startled and Brigid fell off, hitting her head on a stone. Brigid's blood from her wound mixed with the water on the ground. Brigid knew of two sisters, nearby, who couldn't hear or talk and asked them to pour the mixture of blood and water onto their necks while praying for healing. One sister did so and was healed, while the other one was healed simply by touching the bloody water when she bent down to the ground to check on Brigid.

In another story, Brigid healed a man afflicted by leprosy by blessing a mug of water and instructing one of the women in her monastery to help the man use the blessed water to wash his skin. The man's skin then completely cleared up.

Brigid was close to animals, and several miracles from her life involve animals. It is believed that she touched a cow that had already been milked dry and blessed it to help hungry and thirsty people. Then, when they milked the cow, they were able to get 10 times the amount of milk from it.

Born a Slave

Brigid was born in 5th century Ireland to a pagan father, Dubhthach, a chieftain of the Leinster clan. Her mother, Brocca, was a slave and a Christian who had come to faith through Saint Patrick's preaching the Gospel. From birth, Brigid was also considered a slave and endured mistreatment from her slave owners growing up. Despite her upbringing, she developed a reputation of being extraordinarily kind and generous to others. She once gave away her mother's entire supply of butter to someone in need and then prayed for God to replenish the supply for her mother. In response to Brigid's prayers, butter miraculously appeared, according to a story about her childhood.

Brigid's Relentless Suitors

Her physical beauty (including deep blue eyes) attracted many suitors, but Brigid decided not to get married so she could devote her life fully to Christian ministry as a nun. An ancient story says that when men didn't stop pursuing her romantically, Brigid prayed for God to take away her beauty, and he did so temporarily by afflicting her with facial blemishes and swollen eyes. By the time Brigid's beauty returned, her potential suitors had gone elsewhere to search for a wife.

Brigid's Monastery

When Brigid was looking for land she could use to build her monastery, she asked the reluctant local king to give her only as much land as her cloak would cover, and then prayed for God to miraculously expand her cloak to convince the king to help her out. The story says that Brigid's cloak then grew bigger as the king watched, covering a large area of land that he then donated for her monastery.

Brigid founded a monastery underneath an oak tree in Kildare, Ireland, and it quickly grew to become a full-scale monastery community for both men and women. Her monastery attracted many people who studied religion, writing, and art there. As the leader of a community that became Ireland's center of learning, Brigid became an important female leader in the ancient world and in the church. She eventually assumed the role of a bishop.

At her monastery, Brigid set up an eternal flame of fire to represent the Holy Spirit's constant presence with people. That flame was extinguished several hundred years later during the Reformation, but light again in 1993 and still burns in Kildare. The well that Bridget used to baptize people is outside Kildare, and pilgrims visit the well to say prayers and tie colorful ribbons on a wishing tree beside it.

Saint Brigid's Cross

A special type of cross known as "Saint Brigid's cross" is popular throughout Ireland. It commemorates a famous story in which Brigid went to the home of a pagan leader when people told her that he was dying and needed to hear the Gospel message quickly. When Brigid arrived, the man was delirious and upset, unwilling to listen to what Brigid had to say. So she sat with him and prayed, and while she did, she took some of the straw from the floor and began weaving it into the shape of a cross. Gradually the man quieted down and asked Brigid what she was doing. She then explained the Gospel to him, using her handmade cross as a visual aid. The man then came to faith in Jesus Christ, and Brigid baptized him just before he died. Today, many Irish people display a Saint Brigid's cross in their homes, since it is said to help ward off evil and welcome good.

Bridget died in 525 AD, and after her death people began to venerate her as a saint, praying to her for help seeking to heal from God, since many of the miracles during her lifetime related to healing.