Thursday, February 01, 2024

An Excellent Article on St Brigid

After St Ignatius of Antioch, the Saint most commonly celebrated on February 1st is Brigid of Kildare, and not only in her native Ireland; the Usuarium catalog of medieval liturgical books documents the celebration of her in every major nation that uses the Roman Rite.

St Brigid praying before Christ, depicted in a Book of Hours made at Paris in the 16th century. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
The written accounts of her life that have come down to us all date from at least a century after her death, some, a good deal more than that. Scholars have long recognized that many of the stories given by them are at best difficult to accept as historically reliable, and in some ways, impossible to reconcile with each other, but that is a story for another time. Today, I simply wish to bring to our readers’ attention a superb article on the blog Unam Sanctum Catholicam, by Mr Phillip Campbell, which responds to the foolish, but all too common notion that St Brigid is somehow a Christianized version of a pagan goddess once worshipped by the Celts.

This notion is, like almost every similar claim (Saturnalia as the origin of Christmas, the word Easter coming from the name of a pagan goddess called Eostre, etc.), based on the shabby pseudo-scholarship of the Victorian era, an era when “this seems like a good idea to me” was often treated as the equivalent of “this is true, I don’t need any actual proof.” Mr Campbell does a fine job of explaining point by point where the idea comes from, and why it is wrong. I make bold only to add that the article is useful not only for the specific case of St Brigid, but also as a general explanation of the bad procedures by which scholars of previous eras foisted these ideas on the world, ideas which have, alas, been all too influential in forming people’s understanding of Christian history. Bene scripsisti de ea, optime! 

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