Goodbye Tullow Hello Kildare
We said good bye to the Oaks of Tullow to return to our spiritual home, the home of Brigid – Kildare – the church of the Oak.
We passed through the Curragh which is a flat open plain of almost 2,000 hectares of common land in County Kildare. When St Brigid became intent on founding a monastery in Kildare town, she asked the High King of Leinster for the land on which to build it. When he granted her as much land as her cloak would cover, she then placed her cloak on the ground to cover the entire Curragh plain. Today it is the heart of Irish race horse training. There are lots of interesting facts about it that you can read here The Curragh
Some of us may have see the roundabout with a wonderful Sculpture of Fionn Mac Cumhail and his Hounds. Fionn MacCumhaill and the Fianna are historical figures whose deeds and life stories, just like Brigid’s, have been embellished through time, myth and legend. There are many tales of their acts of bravery and magic. Accounts claim that they were the bravest, swiftest and strongest hunters and warriors who made the wild places of Ireland their demesne. Fionn, their last leader, was larger than life and always accompanied by his two hounds Bran and Sceolan who were said to be his nephews transformed into hunting dogs by evil sorcery.
The artists name is Lynn Kirkham and she does great ironwork and wicker sculptures. The next roundabout had these 4 horses!
Solas Bhríde – The light of Brigid
Sister Phil told us about the amazing building we were in. The design emanates from a St.Brigid’s cross shape, oriented to link views from St.Brigid’s cathedral in Kildare town to the nearby Brigid’s well.
The arms of the cross cradle two circular rooms which are themselves both symbolic and functional. Nature and landscape are brought deep into the building plan in recognition of the benefits of close contact with ecology and nature (biophilia). The project includes energy efficient design approaches and places a high priority on the creation of a healthful and restful environment for its users and visitors. The landscape, comprised of artistic features and contemplative gardens, using native species wildflower meadows and Irish woodland planting, will add an additional layer of delight to the user experience.
Solas Bhride has achieved an A rating for energy, quite a success given the dispersed nature of the design, which is laid out ot maximise connections to views, sun and the various garderns and outdoor spaces. It is made of natural materials and employs natural ventilation and daylighting in its servicing. The windows open and close automatically depending on the temperature and amount of people in the room.
Phil knew that we were pretty well versed in Brigid history so just made a few further observations for us.
- Brigid Straddles the Pre-christian Christian Celtic era
- She Stands on the boundary of Celtic and Christian spirituality.
- Long before Catholic and Protestant she was an intersection
- She inherited much of the folklore and attributes of the goddess Brigit.
- Generally accepted she established her double monastery in 480AD
- She was a Powerful influence on the church and society in her time
- Geographical spread of her cult – Ireland to Britain and Europe. Place names, churches, Wells, stained glass, banners on soldiers and armies, and migrants and missionaries to Southern Hemisphere
- Her life sings the gospel song around the globe
- Brigid is a bridge between pre Christianity and Christianity
- Justice, charity and good living
She explained some of the symbols in the Centre piece.
Flame – light of Christ
Burned until Medieval times and now burns again.
On 31 January tha Man would go unnoticed by any one to gather the rushes, wrap them in white linen and leave them outside door of house.
The Woman would be preparing a feast (as much as you could feast in winter).
At Sundown the man would take off his cap and take the rushes around the house 3 times and say:” (need help remembering this!)
Those in the house would reply:”(need help remembering this!)
Then the Woman would open the door and Welcome Brigid and the man would bring the rushes in and lay them on the floor where the feast would be placed upon them.
The family would then eat the feast and make the crosses out of the rushes.
They were made for protection over the house and placed in stables as well. Sometimes a seed was placed in the centre and then they would use that seed when they planted (fertility) so Brigid would bless the crops.
When the Aolas Bhríde Centre was built a cross was woven for the turning of the soil and Placed in the foundations. It was woven with intention and with stories.
Next we were led in a slow and prayerful dance before heading to morning tea and some pretty amazing scones.
Session 2: The Wonder of Legend
Why myth and legend is important. Listen to the many voices – truth is truth. Other ways of knowing. Not empirical truth but hold truth.
“The basic theme of all mythology is that there is an invisible plane supporting the visible one.”
Myth is about the experience of life:
“I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.”
- sight, sound, smells of the legend
As a demonstration we were taught the method by having the method done to us!
The Legend of Brigid and the whales
Music from whale rider and Tune of the fairies and the sound of humpback whales was used to create the mood along side an image of the shore of one of Blasket Islands in Clew Bay.
One day, Brendan was standing on a cliff looking out to sea and suddenly two whales jumped out of the water and began to fight. A great battle took place and gradually the smaller whale was getting weaker and St Brendan saw that it was only a matter of time before the bigger whale killed him. But just as he was about to be killed the smaller whale shouted out with a human voice calling on St. Brigid to save him. And with that the big whale stopped fighting and went away leaving the small whale unharmed. Now, St Brendan was watching all this and he became very upset. He said to himself ‘Why did the whale call on Brigid to save him and not on me? These whales are used to seeing me on the sea; they all know that I am a holy man and that I can get anything I want from God. Why then, did the whale ignore me and call on Brigid?’
St. Brendan could find no answer to this question, so he decided that the only thing to do was to ask Brigid herself for an explanation. So he called his followers and they got into their boat and rowed back to Ireland and proceeded to Kildare to consult Brigid. When St. Brendan met Brigid he told her what had happened and asked her to explain why the whale had considered her to be a greater saint then himself and had ignored him even though he was actually on the spot when the incident occurred.
‘Tell me,” says Brigid, ‘is your mind constantly on God? Are you constantly aware of God?
‘Well’, says St. Brendan, ‘I am generally aware of God, but I live a very busy and a dangerous life. Often the sea is very rough and storms arise and on these occasions I forget all about God as I am so preoccupied trying to keep afloat.’
‘That is the explanation’, says Brigid, ‘for since the first day I set my mind on God I have never taken it away from God and I never will.’
What is the deeper truth of the story?
What does the legend say to you today about the ministry of presence, the ministry of awareness?
It is Important to make space for our students to reflect in this way.
Brigid was aware, listening . Clear your mind. Be attuned Brigid opened Brendan up to a bigger space of awareness. Just like Jesus did in the Martha and Mary story.
The higher level of being present and aware.
Introduce stories and poems to get into the space and then reflect. Draw it together with a blessing.
St Brigid’s Cathedral
5th century monastic site and 13th century cathedral.
Brigid’s fire pit. Can I see and hear the voices around ?
“There is wisdom in a raven’s head.” – Gaelic Proverb
“To have a raven’s knowledge” is an Irish proverb meaning to have a seer’s supernatural powers. The raven is considered to be one of the oldest and wisest of all animals.
The monastery tower
Am I a beacon?
The split sculpture is set on a north-south axis marking midday with the sun every day. “People can walk though the sculpture, thus interacting with it, and perhaps, becoming one with the heart of it,” (artist Noel Scullion). The split acorn is carved from Galway granite. The base is Wicklow granite.
St Brigid’s Catholic Church
Artist Imogen Stewart created these Bronze doors that say “Welcome Enter”
“When a great moment knocks on the door of your life, it is often no louder than the beating of your heart and it is very easy to miss.”
Next door are the Presentation Sisters! So we had a quick visit. On their grounds are two trees that were planted when the Sisters left to start a school in Wagga Wagga
Prayer for healing of ourself, the person beside us and the earth.
At this scared place reflected on the attributes of Brigid.
Exchange cross thank god it’s Brigid’s day . Iona deep peace poem.
Every guest is Christ. Reminder of Hebrew 13:2
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
5. Woman of contemplation. Spiritual being immersed in a human story.
We the had time with Brigid
Presenting the cross to Andrea
Wonderful overnight stay at St Anne’s (Presentation Sisters)
I can’t believe we are nearly over. Tomorrow is our last full day 😞
I have loved this time and as much as I am looking forward to the next adventure, I will miss the pilgrim road and these wonderful travelers.