Rose of Lima vs. Brigid of Kildare

Congratulations on surviving another weekend without Lent Madness! If it's easier to make it through these dark days, just think of it as a Lenten devotion within a Lenten devotion. At least this past weekend you were able to get your Lent Madness fix by reading about it in the Washington Post, Toledo Blade, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. And if you're among the large contingent of those who prefer to read about Lent Madness in Portuguese, it was featured in Gospel Prime (we think they said flattering things but we really have no idea).

The Supreme Executive Committee of Lent Madness also replied to a letter from a young girl who couldn't believe that St. Nicholas lost to Evelyn Underhill last week. Read the letter and response in "Yes, Virginia, there is a St. Nicholas."

After today's match-up featuring two female monastics, we only have two more battles left before the start of the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. Check out the updated bracket and the calendar of upcoming battles and then go vote!

Rosa de Lima (1586 – 1617) was born in Lima, Peru, the daughter of Gaspar Flores, of Puerto Rico, and Maria de Oliva, of Lima. Her Christian name was Isabel (Elizabeth) and she took her nickname "Rose" at the time of her confirmation.

As a young girl she copied Catherine of Siena in fasting and penances (though unlike Catherine, she didn't lose to Emma of Hawaii in Lent Madness last week). As she aged and some in her family's social circle started to comment on her growing beauty, Rose cut off her hair to the great consternation of her father. While her family did not approve of her strong devotion and determination not to marry, her father eventually gave her a room to herself in the family home.

While a young adult, Rose spent her days helping the sick and hungry, selling her fine needlework for others, and growing flowers to support her family. She spent her nights in prayer and, though her father forbade her from becoming a nun, Rose joined the third order of Saint Dominic when she was twenty years of age.

She suffered excruciating agony of mind and desolation of spirit but maintained a strong hope and faith in the midst of this. Rose died at the age of 31 and, in an extraordinary gesture, was eulogized by the archbishop at her funeral in the Cathedral. Rose of Lima was the first person born in the Americas to be named a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

Collect for Rose of Lima: Merciful God, 
for love of you
 Rose of Lima took up the cross and embraced suffering;
 may we learn from her 
to regard material possessions lightly 
and to show the radiance of your love to all we meet;
 for the sake of Jesus Christ our Saviour who is alive with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

-- Bosco Peters

The life of Brigid of Kildare straddled the end of the fifth and beginning of the sixth centuries as well as Ireland’s historical moment when Druidism gave way to Christianity. Born of a slave mother to Dubhthach, the poet laureate of the king, Brigid grew up in a Druidic household, but was herself always drawn to the God revealed in Jesus Christ.

Brigid became a nun and, in 470, founded the nunnery at Kildare. In another straddling of the line between Druidism and Christianity, the site was the location of a cult to a pagan goddess whose sacred fire was constantly maintained. Brigid’s nuns took over the maintenance of this fire and Brigid slowly claimed the flame for God’s use alone. In a remarkable and unprecedented move, Brigid invited the monk Conlaed, along with his brothers, to join her at Kildare, making it the only double monastery of men and women in Ireland. Kildare became a place of learning, and it produced some of the most beautiful illuminations of the Bible ever created; sadly, these have all been lost. In her role as abbess, Brigid had as much power as many men in Ireland, and she wielded it with wisdom and compassion.

Many of the miracles attributed to Brigid happened in her response to the poor and sick. Following the Lord’s example, she cleansed lepers and restored sight to the blind. As her fame spread, she took on the mystique of a folk hero, making the fanciful and factual stories about her difficult to separate. But one thing is sure: Brigid’s contagious Christianity led many to move away from Druidism and toward Jesus Christ. While this process was slow, her influence brought a legitimacy to Christianity superseded only by Saint Patrick’s. In a final straddling of Druidism with Christianity, her feast day is February 1, which coincided with (and then supplanted) the Celtic festival of Spring, called Imbolg.

To this day, she is beloved through Ireland, and is numbered with Patrick and Columba as Ireland's primary saints. Her remains are buried with these two at Downpatrick. Brigid is affectionately known as “Mary of the Gael.”

Collect for Brigid of Kildare: Everliving God, we rejoice today in the fellowship of your blessed servant Brigid, and we give you thanks for her life of devoted service. Inspire us with life and light, and give us perseverance to serve you all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, world without end. Amen.

-- Adam Thomas


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83 comments on “Rose of Lima vs. Brigid of Kildare”

  1. My Mom's Mother was Brigid of Athy in County Kildare- need I say more....
    When you are in Kildare, the locals (at the Local) will tell you that Brigid is slightly more important than Patrick....

  2. So much of Brigid's life is mythic, or blended with the mythic -- but I think this is something that simply increases her influence in Celtic Christianity. She gets my vote, as much as I revere St. Rosa.

  3. Again, for my Irish grandmother. And ditto whatever Eric said ... Seriously, because Brigid lived in a time of great change and by her presence and faith helped facilitate that change. That resonates with me from my time in Sudan. Rosa doesn't deserve to have to go against Brigid.

  4. Having spent last evening at a Chieftains concert in Virginia Beach, I must cast my vote for Brigid of Kildare. While her legend may in fact contain a blend of fact and fancy, I as you what saint's does not? And for that matter, what Irish legend does not. Slainte! to Brigid!

  5. I voted for Rosa, though I agree with Lauren, she probably doesn't stand much chance. But she reminds me somewhat of my daughter, who at this moment is on retreat with an indigenous healer, "Mama Terra", in the Sacred Valley of Peru just north of Cusco. I guess my vote's a gesture of solidarity for an adopted "home team".

  6. I read about St. Rose after visiting Santa Rosa in California. The city inspired a song by the same name, which you can find here--

    I read that Rose not only cut off her hair, but rubbed pepper on her face to mar her beauty and moved into a stable or shed on her family's land, in order to identify with the poor and avoid distractions. Does anyone know if this is true?

  7. A vote for Rose of Lima, in solidarity with my sister, Anne, who remained faithful despite suffering "excruciating agony of mind and desolation of spirit."

  8. Mischiefing in the brackets, Saint Rose vs Holy Force of Nature Brigid.
    Ah, well.

    air do dheagh shlàinte, Brigid !

  9. I understand but do not accept the church's encouragment of anorexia, hysteria and an abnormal emphasis on virginity in young women. Contrast this with Brigid, abbess of a combined house, keeper of ancient traditions, probably conflated with fertility goddesses. This was a no brainier for me.

    1. Thanks for the clarity Barbara! Your comment was the tipping point for me today! Brigid it is!

    2. Barbara, you nailed it! I taught girls for over 20 years and have 2 daughters of my own - sorry Rose, you meant well but you're a little behind the times when we're in need of vibrant spiritual role models for our young women.

  10. Has to be Brigid for me. Love the weaving of fantasy and fact and love that it is said when she was received into monastic life, the bishop used the ordination prayer for a bishop, having recognised the anointing of the Holy Spirit on Brigid.

  11. And how could I not vote for the name saint of my friend Sister Brigid Courtney--who is also a woman of joyous, generous and contagious faith!

  12. So vote for Rose, even if only out of revenge for Catherine's sake. Must I hold this grudge? How unchristian!

    I love both saints and especialy Brigid for the fact that her legends and reverence stretches back into Paganism. That our faith reveres both the mythic Brgid and the sophisticated, modern and documented Evelyn...well it's all so wonderful, isn't it?

    Delaying my vote until after lunch. Must examine my conscience.

  13. Gotta be Brigid! Brigid's Well is truly a place of healing, even with some rather odd accessories built over the years. I've prayed for healing and found it there, and been privileged to read a lesson at Eucharist in her Cathedral. And I want to know what Eric and Don said!!!

  14. Have to go with Brigid, the first woman to be ordained a Bishop. Her life's work would be a source of inspiration in modern times; particularly amazing considering the time in which she was living.

  15. Brigid of Kildare--there should be music for this one--Irish music of course!! Our Lord Jesus excercises his influence on an island far from Galilee and include a coed monastery for good measure. Blessed Brigid!!

  16. Maybe I picked a winner at last! I've always been a fan of Bridgid and the Celtic view of Christianity so I was glad to see Columba win. Maybe its a comeback for Celtic Spirituality?

  17. Yes, Rose did take those further ascetic steps as well--very common in her day for men as well as women (Catherine's self-flagellation was explicitly modelled on Dominic's). She hardly deserves to be attacked as hysterical, and her choice for virginity should be respected as her personal vocation and a very empowering one in a culture in which married women were the property of their husbands and huge numbers of them died in childbirth. Also, she did not take Rose as a confirmation name; rather, a family member (grandmother, if I recall correctly) bestowed the nickname on her as a very young child. This write-up also seriously downplays (or is ignorant of) the connections between Brigid the saint and Brigid the Goddess--one of the appealing features of the saint for those who aren't pagan-phobic. The eternal flame mentioned was dedicated to the Goddess Brigid, Brigid and/or her nuns may have begun life as her priestesses, Imbolc is strongly connected with the Goddess as well, and many of the legends and customs (Bride's bed, Brigid crosses) associated with Brigid are direct parallels/descendants of those regarding the Goddess. It's a refreshing change from the emphasis on conflict with Druid holy men and the Druid faith in Patrick's life.

    1. Regarding the pagan connections with Brigid, this has been pretty thoroughly laid to rest recently by early medieval scholar Lisa Bitel (whose specialty is early medieval women). She shows that non-Christian Irish people associated the saint Brigid with their holy sites retroactively. It might not be a convenient fact, but as a medievalist I can say the scholarship is impeccable.

      You can preview some of this here:

  18. AACK! This is a toughie...but I think I have to go with Brighid...I detect a "unseen hand" at work in the initial match-ups...Santa Rosa de Lima offers a witness of faithful dedication...whi knows what she might have become had she lived into middle age?

    On the other hand, we have some idea of what that could look like in Brighid...God bless my Belfast grandparents who would have had nothing to do with either of these women...their loss!

  19. Well.....almost a toss-up, if you will...BUT....Brigid has to be admired for weaning the pipple away from or for blending the Druidism and Christianity, a feat of no small measure. I tend to have the "willies" over the extremes of morbid stuff as sometimes exhibited by Rosa but then, who am I to question anybody else's off-beat, quirky behavior ? Well...not too much of the quirks.

  20. I have to go with Brigid, with all the Irish in my background. Even more, Brigid is a major presence in the mysteries with one of my favorite 'detectives', Fidelma of Kildare.

    1. Great novels! They were instrumental in forming what it means to me to be a strong, independent Christian woman. Brigid for me too!