As a romance writer, I’m fascinated by heroines. The women in my books don’t have to be famous or rich or powerful. They don’t even have to be beautiful. Even if they live ordinary lives in ordinary worlds, all they have to be is determined. Determined to fight for those they love. Determined to achieve their goals. Determined to make the world a better place. And one of my favorite role-models is a woman most people haven’t heard of—St. Brigid of Kildare.
St. Brigid, the first native-born Irish saint, is remembered as a strong, independent, and feisty woman who was born a slave and died as one of the most beloved people in all of Ireland.
Her story is one of struggle and determination. Despite being born during some of the darkest times of history, St. Brigid was a woman who fought against the rules of the day to spread a fierce love wherever she went.
St. Brigid of Kildare, one of Ireland’s patron saints, was born in 451 to a Christian female slave named Brocca and a Leinster chieftan named Dubhthach. Dubhthach was not only a pagan but he had a wife who didn’t appreciate her husband’s infidelity. When Dubhthach’s wife discovered the pregnancy, she sold Brocca off to a druid landowner. Once there, St. Brigid was born into slavery.
There are so many myths and legends around St. Brigid, and so few written records, it’s hard to tell what’s true. But there are some recurring stories that most historians agree upon.
Her childhood is dotted with stories about her generous charity and many miracles. Legends state that St. Brigid, from a young age, would feed the poor and give everything away, much to the consternation of the frustrated druid landowner. One day Brigid gave butter from her mother’s storeroom and when she prayed, butter reappeared so she wouldn’t get in trouble.
The druid landowner, upon seeing her great charity and hearing her talk about the Trinity while weaving crosses out of reeds, eventually converted to Christianity.
When St. Brigid was ten, the law stated that she must return to her legal owner: her father Dubhthach. Once there she began giving her father’s things away as well.
It didn’t take long for Dubhthach to get annoyed at his stubborn daughter who offered his money to beggars away and welcomed lepers into his home. One day he dragged her to the King of Leinster, intending to marry her off to the King of Ulster. While Dubhthach was talking to the King of Leinster, St. Brigid (who had taken a vow of chastity and had no intention of getting married) gave away her father’s jeweled sword to a starving family. Dubhthach was furious and the King of Ulster, who wasn’t thrilled with his leper-loving fiancée who gave away everything, asked her, “Will you give away my riches too?”
To which she replied, “I would give all the wealth of Ireland away to serve the King of Heaven.”
At this point, her father and the two kings decided St. Brigid shouldn’t get married and they let her become a nun.
Some stories say that before the arranged marriage St. Brigid prayed for her beauty to be taken away so the King of Ulster wouldn’t want to marry her. Some stories say she poked out an eye and once she was released from the betrothal, her eye healed. Regardless of which story is true, after St. Patrick presided over her final vows her beauty was restored. When another priest told St. Patrick that he accidentally used the form for ordaining priests on Brigid, St. Patrick responded, “So be it, my son, she is destined for great things.”
St. Patrick knew the stubborn, fiery St. Brigid was a natural leader.
After her final vows, Brigid continued performing miracles including turning water into beer and healing lepers.
Other stories include the woman accused of stealing a brooch and about to be sold as a slave. When Brigid found out about this poor woman’s fate, St. Brigid asked a local fisherman to cut open his catch and the brooch was found in the fish’s belly. This act saved the poor woman.
When St. Brigid was traveling with a man and his two mute daughters, Brigid fell off her horse and hit her head. She used the blood from her wound to heal the daughter’s muteness.
When St. Brigid asked the King of Leinster for land to build a convent, he said no. Then she asked for as much land as her cloak would cover, and he laughed. So she and three of her friends flung the cloak over the countryside. It miraculously expanded until it covered many acres. The king was so startled, yet not surprised since it was St. Brigid after all, he granted her all the land she wanted.
With that enormous piece of land, she founded two monasteries in Kildare, one for men and one for women. She named it the Church of the Oak because it was built beneath an oak tree and covered a pagan shrine devoted to the Celtic goddess Brigid.
Brigid also established an art school that taught metalwork and manuscript illumination. This school produced the famous Book of Kildare. Gerald of Wales praised this book as “the work of angelic and not human skill.” Unfortunately, it was lost three centuries ago.
St. Brigid not only served many people in her lifetime, she became friends with St. Patrick. With his help, she performed so many great works that the entire island loved her for her charity and generosity and kindness.
St. Brigid died on February 1 (her feast day) in the year 525 AD. Her body was entombed in the jewel-encrusted high altar of Kildare Cathedral. She lay there until 878 when, during the Viking raids, priests moved her relics to the isle of Columba. Once there, the priests laid her to rest in the same tomb as St. Patrick.
St. Brigid is often depicted holding a reed cross, a crozier, or a lamp. She is also the patron saint of Ireland, dairymaids, cattle, midwives, Irish nuns, and newborn babies.
St. Brigid was a remarkable woman in a time not known for being kind to women. Despite the fact she was poor and had no earthly power, her natural leadership abilities, stubbornness in defending the poor and unwanted, and her fierce love for those who were alone and hungry make her one of history’s most compelling women. And these traits make her a perfect role-model for any romance novel heroine . . . and romance reader. :-)
Every Deep Desire
March 6, 2018
He's taking back his honor, his freedom, and the woman he loves.
Rafe Montfort was a decorated Green Beret, the best of the best, until a disastrous mission and an unforgivable betrayal destroyed his life. Now, this deadly soldier has returned to the sultry Georgia swamps to reunite with his brothers, and take back all he lost. But Juliet must never know the truth behind what he's done...or the dangerous secret that threatens to take him from her forever.
It took Juliet Capel eight long years to put her life back together after her husband was taken from her. Now Rafe is back, determined to protect her at any cost, and it's not just her heart that's in danger. The swamps hold a secret long buried and far deadlier than either of them could have imagined...
Sharon is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes of novels of suspense, adventure, and love. A wife, mother of twins, and caretaker of Donut the one-eyed dog, she’s addicted to snapping photos and eating Oreos. She writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets and their smart, sexy heroines retell Shakespeare’s greatest love stories.
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