Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ask a Catholic: St. Brigid's Cross

"My grandmother has a cross made out of dried leaves hanging on her wall. She calls it her St. Brigid cross. What is that?"

St. Brigid's Cross

Today is St. Brigid's Day. St. Brigid is one of the patron saints of Ireland (the other two are St. Patrick and St. Columba) but she is, perhaps, best known to many American Catholics through the particular style of cross that you're describing. Many Catholics of Irish ancestry have a St. Brigid's cross hanging somewhere in their house. This is the story of where it comes from.

St. Brigid died in AD 524.
St. Brigid was born at Faughart in Ireland around AD 453, a time in which the island was being evangelized by St. Patrick and his associates. Her father was a pagan chieftain and her mother was a Christian. As an adult, she became an important leader of the Church in Ireland and founded monasteries for both men and women. Her association with the cross which bears her name goes back to a legendary story about a visit she made to a pagan chieftain who was on his deathbed. During her visit, she picked up some of the rushes which lined the floor of his hut and began to weave them together into a cross.He asked her about what she was doing and she responded by telling him about Christ and his cross. The man accepted the Christian faith on his deathbed and was baptized just before passing away.

It is customary to make a St. Brigid cross from reeds or rushes on her feast day, and then to have the cross blessed by a priest. The blessed cross is then hung on or near the front door of a home and remains there all year, until it is replaced on the next St. Brigid's Day with a new cross. If you'd like to make your very own St. Brigid's Cross, you can find instructions here.

Like any sacramental, the purpose of this cross is to remind us of our Catholic faith and, in turn, to increase our faith and devotion to Christ and his Church. Happy St. Brigid's Day!