Reflection for St Brigid’s Day by Fr Hugh O’Donnell

SnowdropsFr Hugh O'Donnell is a poet and ministers with the Salesian community in the parish of Sean McDermott Street in Dublin. He completed the MA course in Religion and Ecology in 2004 at the Columban Ecological Centre at Dalgan. Out of that experience came his written reflection on the intimate relationship between worship and the earth, namely, 'Eucharist and the Living Earth' (Columba), which was revised in 2012.

His book of reflections, 'Songs for the Slow Lane', also appeared from Columba in 2014; it, too, focuses on our deep desire to be in tune with the earth. He regularly contributes to 'A Living Word', the RTE radio early morning reflective slot.

Fr Hugh shares the following reflection with us:

Slow Lane Spring

‘It’s instinctive’, Teresa says, ‘you feel it in your blood. Earth stirs, shoots appear’.  She’s talking about Brigid and the sense of her embodiment in the full-bellied life-fest of spring.

Goddess and national saint, girl and mother in a monastery garden, not meek and mild but shrewd and savvy; seer and overseer, she gives protection to entrances and stepping stones, to poets and blacksmiths, animals and land.

Neither to be contained in a monastery nor corralled by the state, she is mystic of the natural world whom we celebrate in the ancient practice of weaving a sun-cross of rushes. By doing so, we are weaving together all strands of wisdom from death-resurrection to the rhythm of seasons on our sun-shocked earth.

I call up Elizabeth who has the real Brigidine spirit. She describes how she celebrates the ritual for St Brigid’s eve. At dusk, she leaves a length of ribbon outside so that as Brigid passes in the dewfall she will bless it.  Afterwards it will be cut into pieces and shared with neighbours who can apply the healing fabric to a body’s pain.

Imbolg, February 1st, is the day we invite her wise and wholesome presence into our lives. We have not been good to the earth but it is still not too late to find our way back to her arms again in the company of Brigid as we take her hand and go play like children beneath the weeping birch where clumps of snowdrops shed their light.