Thursday 1 February 2024

St Brigid shows us why women are key to the future of the Church

Bishop Michael Router's homily for the celebration of Mass for the Feast of Saint  Brigid | Archdiocese of Armagh

The vibrancy of the faith in Ireland in the future depends on the continued involvement of women, Bishop Michael Router has said.

In his homily for the Feast of St Brigid on Thursday, the auxiliary bishop of Armagh said the gifts and graces that women bring to the life of the Church must be “fully” acknowledged.

Speaking at the Shrine of St Brigid, in her birthplace of Faughart, Co Louth, about the life and ministry of Ireland’s national patron, he said the saint’s example of selfless giving and love for others, especially the poor, the sick and the vulnerable did much to firmly establish the Christian faith in Ireland.

Bishop Router said the example of St Brigid highlights “the need for the resurgence today of a spirituality and faith based on love and compassion in a world that is so self-centred and materialistic”.

Recalling the context in which St Brigid lived her life, he said she grew to maturity in Faughart at a time when the island of Ireland was going through a period of rapid religious and cultural transition.

“The pagan beliefs that had existed in Ireland before St Patrick consisted of a mix of superstition and magic which included the sacrifice of children, human trafficking, the neglect of the poor and vulnerable and the widespread ill-treatment of women.

“St Patrick was faced with real and tangible evil that he had to overcome. The snakes he drove from Ireland are simply a symbolic representation of the demonic forces that he did much to repel.”

St Brigid, he said, was motivated at a young age by the radical message of Jesus and the life-giving and progressive power of the Christian faith.

“From her very earliest days here in Faughart, Brigid displayed the Christian qualities that were very much at odds with the greed and self-centredness in the society around her. That inner desire to be compassionate and charitable was something Brigid carried with her all her life.”

In a tribute to the part played by women in the faith, Bishop Router said the qualities that made St Brigid great have been found in so many women down the centuries. 

“Some of these women entered religious life and were extremely dedicated to their vocation and mission. The vast majority, however, have been women who in their homes, workplaces and communities helped to nurture and to spread the faith.”

He added, “Without them the Church would have found it hard to survive and flourish. Their contribution is incalculable and the gratitude we owe them is immense.”

He also noted that time and again in the Gospel Jesus needed the cooperation of women to carry out his mission and they supported him at every moment of his public ministry. 

“They stood by him as he died on the cross, they received his lifeless body into their arms, and they were the first to witness and herald his resurrection from the dead.

“Today at this celebration of the Eucharist many of the liturgical tasks such as serving, music ministry, reading, presenting symbols and gifts, are carried out by women.

“I know from my own experience of thirty-five years in ministry that little could be achieved in a parish or diocese without the support and help of women. Women have the essential ability to see a need and to respond, as St Brigid did, with concern, compassion, and care.”

The Archdiocese of Armagh has announced a year-long celebration to mark the 1500th anniversary of the life and ministry of St Brigid beginning on 1st February. 

A relic of St Brigid was installed last weekend in St Brigid's Parish Church in Kildare town, formally launching the Irish Church’s 1500th anniversary celebrations of the death of the country’s co-patron.