Brigid was born about 451 A.D., and her place of birth is thought to be in Faughart near Dundalk in Ireland. She was born to a pagan father, Dubthach, and a Christian slave named Broicsech. Soon after her birth her father, at the insistence of his wife, sold Broicsech to a Druidic poet in Connacht with the understanding that Brigid was to be returned to his keeping after she had been raised.
Brigid grew up under the holy influence of her Christian mother, and Broicsech did her best to ground her little daughter properly in Faith and God. She succeeded, too, for when Brigid was about ten years old she was sent back to live with her father. There she was given charge over the dairy, and this is where her greatest virtue was discovered: she gave everything away to the poor. Much of the produce she gleaned from the dairy she gave away to beggars and those in need. Her generosity enraged her pagan father, but Brigid was as strong-willed as he and continued stubbornly in her charity.
When she was a bit older she returned to assist her slave mother, who was hard at work in the Druid’s dairy. Brigid helped her mother with the milking and churning, and her generosity came with her. She would give away portions of her produce to the poor, and though she gave much, her pantry was always miraculously full. The miracle of her charity at length changed the heart of the Druid who owned Broicsech, and he converted to the Faith and released Broicsech from servitude.
After Broicsech’s release, she and Brigid made their way back to Dubthach’s land. Angered with her constant charity Dubthach took Brigid to the Dunlang, King of Leinster, in order to give Brigid as a bondwoman to him. However, Dunlang was a Christian, and when he heard Dubthach’s story and went to see Brigid he perceived the Christian greatness in her. He persuaded Dubthach to give Brigid her freedom, and gave Dubthach a sword to replace the one Brigid had given away as her father was complaining to the King in the first place.
As a free woman Brigid desired to consecrate herself wholly to God by becoming a nun. To discourage men from thoughts of marriage to her, she prayed that God would make her ugly so she could follow her vocation in peace. God answered her prayer, and Brigid, freed from the attention of men, became the first nun in Ireland.
Her first convent that she established in Ardagh was so successful that the Bishop requested she travel throughout all of Ireland and set up convents in all parts of Ireland. For years she did so, and at length she became well-known for her wisdom and generosity. She became so beloved that she was referred to as “The Mary of The Gael.”
She died at a very advanced age in the year 525 AD. She is the patroness of dairy maids, infants, midwives, blacksmiths, poets, nuns, and students, and she is also honoured as one of the patron saints of Ireland.