Brigid of Kildare vs. Elizabeth

A choice between two women today, one from 5th century Ireland and the other from Biblical times. Brigid of Kildare, whose theme song, based on her penchant for giving material possessions to the needy, may well be the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give it Away Now" faces Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, whose theme song would presumably be that early hit known as the Hail Mary.

In yesterday's Madness, Francis of Assisi stormed to victory over John Wycliffe 66% to 34% and will face the winner of Balthazar vs. Cecilia in the next round.

In case you missed yesterday's edition of Monday Madness you can catch it here. Then readjust your Lenten priorities to insure you never again miss Tim and Scott's hard-hitting commentary.

brigid-of-kildare-icon-from-blog-eternal-fire-in-uk-could-be-an-aidan-hart-iconBrigid of Kildare

Brigid was born into slavery in 453 CE in what is now known as Ireland. She was born out of wedlock to a Druid high priest named Dubhtacht and an enslaved woman named Brocca. Dubhtacht promptly sold Brigid off, since he was hoping for a boy.

This plan didn’t work; Brigid arrived back at her father’s house when she came of age — and had freshly converted to Christianity as well. (Saint Patrick was already active in Ireland by this point, so her conversion was not surprising, but it really annoyed her father).

What further irked her father was Brigid’s practice of giving away every single thing in his house to any impoverished person who asked. Food, clothing, silver — Brigid gave it away without a second thought in order to aid the poor who flocked to her generous spirit. When Brigid gave away his jewel-encrusted sword, her father reached the end of his rope and was determined to sell her to the king.

The king didn’t share Dubhtacht’s frustration — and as he was convinced that she was a holy person, the king promptly gave Brigid her freedom.

Brigid had one goal in mind. She marched across Ireland, from Leinster to Connaught, to find and buy her mother’s freedom. After this, Brigid became a nun, and established a monastery at Kildare, where she lived for the rest of her life.

The Kildare monastery was a double monastery —meaning men and women monastics lived together — and Brigid was the abbess over both houses. It was the first such establishment, but others soon followed throughout the Celtic countryside. As abbess,Brigid was sought out for her advice and counsel, and Kildare became a great cathedral city in Ireland and a center for the arts, learning, and spirituality.

Ever the consummate hostess, many of the miracles associated with Brigid had to do with food — especially dairy foods. Her cows were rumored to give milk three times a day. In one of the most mystical stories of Brigid’s life, we find her miraculously whisked through time and space to be the midwife to Mary and wet nurse to baby Jesus. It’s easy to see why Brigid is celebrated as the patron to both dairy farmers and lactating women.

Brigid was known for being wise and generous and good at explaining the gospel in the people’s language and culture. Legend has it that she went to visit a dying man who was out of his mind with fever. She sat beside him to console him, and as she sat, she started weaving together rushes from the floor into a cross shape. The man saw what she was doing and asked what the cross meant. She explained it, and the man was moved to ask for baptism. To this day, Saint Brigid’s cross is omnipresent in Ireland.

Brigid died at Kildare in 525 CE, but her life and her presence echo still across Ireland and throughout the world today.

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, for ever and ever. Amen.

-Megan Castellan


We are introduced to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, in Luke’s Gospel. Elizabeth was said to be a descendant of Aaron, Israel’s first priest. She, like so many of the great mothers of the Jewish faith (for example, Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah), was old and barren. Luke is clear that her sterility was not on account of impiety; she was described as “righteous before God” and said to live “blamelessly according to all commandments and regulations of the Lord.”

Her husband Zechariah was serving as priest, offering incense in the temple, when he was informed that Elizabeth would bear a son in her old age. Zechariah expressed disbelief and was rendered mute until the day John the Baptist was presented in the temple. Elizabeth, on the other hand, modeled trust in God’s promises and was rewarded with a pregnancy entirely free of snarky comments about the amount of pita and hummus she consumed.

Elizabeth lived in seclusion for five months until she was visited by her relative, Mary. At Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in Elizabeth’s womb, leading her to praise Mary proclaiming, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” In this moment she acted as prophet, a role her son would take up when he prepared the way of the Lord in the desert. After the boy was born and when he was presented at the temple, since Zechariah was mute, Elizabeth was obedient to God’s command and named her son John. He would later be described by Jesus as “more than a prophet” and that “among those born of women no one is greater than John.”

The Protoevangelium of James narrated how during Herod’s murderous rage, Zechariah was killed for concealing Elizabeth and John. God led Elizabeth to a mountain and miraculously protected her and her young son so that John could grow and fulfill the mission God had prepared for him. Elizabeth, now an elderly widow with a young child, faithfully raised John, who was later recognized not only as a great prophet and the forerunner to the savior but also as a holy figure to be emulated in his own right.

Collect for Elizabeth

Lord God, we remember before you today Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. May we be so convicted of the presence of Jesus that, like her, we would proclaim as blessed those who bear him into the world. Grant that we would have the deep faith and abiding peace to rest in your promises for this life, no matter how incredible those promises seem to us, and to have the grace and will to proclaim those promises to the world, for the sake of Jesus. Amen.

-David Creech


Brigid of Kildare vs. Elizabeth

  • Brigid of Kildare (68%, 4,649 Votes)
  • Elizabeth (32%, 2,204 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,853

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196 comments on “Brigid of Kildare vs. Elizabeth”

      1. Yes, me, too. Those Irish roots run deep. I don't mean to be irreverent, but this whole Lent Madness thing seems rife with humor; I think St. Francis and Brigid would have made a lovely, fun couple had they not lived in different centuries. As for Elizabeth, God Bless her. The last thing I want is to be bearing children in my old age!

        1. I'm a quarter Irish so Brigid got my vote. And I agree completely that bearing in old age would be, um, not wonderful. But then, that is why Elizabeth is a saint and I'm not. 🙂

    1. And if we think raising a teenage Jesus would have been hard, can you imagine pubescent John the Baptist? Holy Righteous Eye Rolling, Batman!

    1. This is the toughest decision yet for me…my inquiring mind won out over my heart. Brigid it is.

  1. Aunt Lizzie sensed his great worth
    But had not attended his birth
    While Brigid crossed time
    Knelt in manger's grime
    Of those bent in prayer, very first.

    I'd rather believe time travel then ravenous seals. And I want the elate 8 to teach me to make one of those crosses.

  2. I have always wondered about Elizabeth's age. Was she considered 'old' while in her 30s? 40s? 50s?

    1. Whatever, it is much more likely that SHE needed Brigid's birthing and nursing help than Mary did.

  3. Anyone who recognized Christ before he was even born gets my vote any day, any time!! Plus, you have to feel for a Jewish mother whose grown son lived in the wilderness and ate bugs, instead of settling down, marrying and producing grandchildren.

      1. LOL, Kris Austin! And as the guys on "The Best of Car Talk" said the other day, All mothers are Jewish!

    1. the patron saint of our church is St John the Baptist, so of course, i voted for Elizabeth. It is said that John ate locusts, but it was not necessarily bugs. The carob pods that grew around that region were also known as locusts. I think carob pods and wild honey would be yummy.

      1. I so appreciate bits of info like this that open up further possibilities and insight into our Biblical understanding. SO MUCH still to discover and learn. Thank you!

        1. Locust ( the insect ) are very high in protein. Dates were another item stashed in the travelers bag.

          1. And as food resources get hit by global warming and skyrocketing pooulations, we'll all be turning to locusts and other insects, which are actually rather tasty. John the Baptist was a forerunner in more ways than one!

  4. I have always enjoyed and admired Brigid. She must have been pretty feisty and strong minded. We have visited her town and had to bring home a small "Brigid" cross.

  5. I hope one of our esteemed bloggers will, in the next round(s), tell the story of Brigid converting, through prayer, of course, an entire bathtub of water into an entire bathtub of beer. The beer was for the bishop, who was to be visiting soon.
    Here's looking at you, Brigid!

  6. As one of the Three Patron Saints of Ireland, Brigid has my vote. Her connection with the cow, which has totemic status in Ireland, makes her a symbol of Irish identity. But she is also an icon of self-forgetting charity, and we can never have too much of that in God's household.

    1. Favorite Brigid story: Bishops were often dropping in unannounced to the abbey with entourage.
      Perhaps being a little short of vittles for her guests she served them her bathwater as beer.
      Gets my vote!

    2. This was difficult, but your comment moved me to tears. I chose Brigid! The image of self-forgetting charity in God's household is so lovely. It's what the world needs to be reminded of.

      1. Thanks, Tammy! I often think that tales of the saints, especially the most extravagant ones, remind us of what the practical meaning of following Jesus involves. Only when we die to self, as Bridget did, can we look Jesus in the face (Matthew 25). As one writer put it, "The Son of Man must suffer death upon the cross before we can know the Son of God."

  7. I came today ready to vote for Elizabeth (similarity in names, after all), but Brigid's spirit made me think of my mom so much, and laugh over how she had some of the same forcefulness of spirit, that the radio button click went right to Brigid 🙂

  8. Brigid it is! I wonder if I served my Bishop beer from a bathtub if he would care? Don't think I will attempt that! A nice glass of milk might suffice! Go Brigid!

  9. I voted for Elizabeth because she doesn't get nearly enough respect - she isn't even in our Kalendar, and she should be.

    1. Well stated. And she had to put up with her community tysk tysking her for being barren.
      She should be the patron saint of women who cannot conceive, or go through all sorts of
      pain and indignity because of infertility.

        1. As someone who is pregnant right now and has been taking a great deal of comfort from the joyful positivity of both Elizabeth and Mary, Elizabeth has been my patron saint of the moment! I'm sorry to see her behind - she's been very special to me lately.

      1. John announced the coming Savior. he had the spirit of Elijah. he danced and praised Jesus before he was born. His Mom gets my vote!!!

    2. I voted for Elizabeth too, because without her, there would be no John or even more, no Brigid of Dr. Kildare!

  10. I'd love to see what the statistics are on the winners, as to the placement on the website. Are the people who are listed first (at the top) winning more often than those below?
    Just asking.

    1. Well, the 2nd row was consistently the winner - I mean 100% of the time! - all the way from day 1 to day 8! This week has begun with Francis, who was in the top row...

      1. One exception in the first eight: Molly Brant (first row) defeated Swithun (second row). What's consistent for me is that I've "lost" on all ten so far! As Charlie Brown says, "Sigh."

        1. Having only one win, I feel for you. And my guess is that I'll lose again today. But really: recognizing Christ in the womb? And living with infertility? And remaining gracious? That's HARD.

  11. I love Brigid's generosity! No one should go hungry ever! What a world this would be if we all shared!

  12. Bridget lead an e employ life in the spirit of Jesus and gets my vote for her wonderful labors on this earth. But I am very fond of her Lake of Beer view of heaven. she wrote of the afterlife--

    I should like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
    I should like the angels of Heaven to be drinking it through time eternal.
    I should like excellent meats of belief and pure piety.
    I should like the men of Heaven at my house.
    I should like barrels of peace at their disposal.
    I should like for them cellars of mercy.
    I should like cheerfulness to be their drinking.
    I should like Jesus to be there among them.
    I should like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us.
    I should like the people of Heaven, the poor, to be gathered around from all parts.

    1. This is very convincing. Cheers to her! I found other (slight) variations of the poem with the ending:
      I’d sit with the men, the women of God,
      There by the great lake of beer
      We’d be drinking good health forever,
      And every drop would be a prayer.

  13. I think Elizabeth's support of Mary was extremely important! Let's remember that under the strictest Jewish laws, Mary could have been executed for being an unwed mother. When her fiance Joseph found out she was pregnant, he "unwilling to expose her to public disgrace , planned to dismiss her quietly." (Matthew 1:19) The three months she had spent with Elizabeth must have been a great help to Mary in facing the reactions of everyone once her pregnancy became evident. So I am proud to have a daughter nnamed Elizabeth, and proud to vote for Saint Elizabeth for the golden halo!

  14. Brigid was sold off by her father in infancy, and later returned to his house and cleaned the place out, giving the stuff to anybody who asked. Daddy issues maybe? LOL! I'm still voting for her.

    1. She was no prodigal daughter that's for sure. Instead of looking for favor, she went in to the house, took all the treats and gave it away! Quantum leap of thinking! I vote for Brigid.

  15. My grandmother was Brigid, family from Kildare- when you visit the County, you'll hear locals consider her namesake Saint Patrick's equal.

  16. This is a tough one! Usually the fantastic aspect of some saints puts me off but the way time travel was presented in this one didn't knock Brigid out of the running for me. And when pitted against the single mother who first said "Hail, Mary." Choices, choices!

  17. A tough one. My heart went to Brigid, but how could I not honor the difficulties Elizabeth overcame? Brigid is gutsy enough to wrestle her way through without the Golden Halo.

  18. Elizabeth ought to get it, because her actions form a pivotal foundation for the Life of Jesus and the story of Salvation. And, she had to act with much faith because she didn't have the benefit of how the story would turn out. She had no real idea, except a hunch, about the importance of John or Jesus. However, interest of freshness and a less familiar story, I voted for Bridget.

  19. If Brigid midwife to Mary at the birth of Jesus, she was transported there by Dr. Who in the Tardis.

  20. Well, there is also the thought that Brigid was actually a Celtic goddess whose identity was changed to make her a Christian saint. We do know that Elizabeth existed.

  21. I love --but I spent 2 years at St. Patrick's Pontifical University in the county Kildare, and I have to go with Brigid. One of my favorite corners of Ireland is a little place in Co. Clare where there are 2 holy wells feet away from each other--one for the goddess and one for the saint Brigid. Hmmmm.