It is a frigid -2 degrees morning with glittering sun-gold snow mounds and I am in need of prayer. I’ve been weakened by the flu and the vicissitudes of life. And yet I am hopeful and grateful this day, even if another foot of snow looms ahead. It is St. Brigid’s Day, February 1st. And because freedom to believe and pray flows through me in various forms and shapes, there are times when, as a woman, I need a woman to pray to.
In my work-in-progress novel, The Irish Milliner, there’s a scene when Norah enters St. Brigid’s Church in New York City in 1863. It is just after the Draft Riots whereby she and the city experienced the ferocity of hate. And Norah needed a woman to pray to. This is an excerpt:
Norah relaxed in Father Mooney’s warm acceptance and perhaps in God Himself, but it was St. Brigid’s presence that gave her strength. This saint she had grown to love, Mary of the Gaels, had always been with her throughout her childhood. She had nearly forgotten her in America, but not in this church, Brigid’s namesake. Norah adored this saint who had been a daughter of a pagan and a Christian who had let her eyeballs swell so she would not be attractive to young men who pursued her. She lived only for Christ, for the poor, and gave away everything she owned. She performed miracles and started a monastery, but mostly Brigid was her own woman and that is what Norah loved best about her. One day when Norah and Katie walked to St. Brigid’s as the setting sun and the dark of evening mingled in an alluring dance over New York, Norah felt courage circulating through the chambers of her heart, rinsing her sorrows with a certain peace. After they entered St. Brigid’s and sat down in a pew to pray, Norah pulled out a prayer card from the rack. No-one was in the church, except Father Mooney, who watched from behind the curtains of the sacristy. Norah and Katie read the prayer in a whisper together:
Brigid, You were a woman of peace.
You brought harmony where there was conflict.
You brought light to the darkness.
You brought hope to the downcast.
May the mantle of your peace cover those
who are troubled and anxious.
And may peace be firmly rooted in our hearts and in our world.
Inspire us to act justly and to reverence all God has made.
Brigid, you were a voice for the wounded and the weary.
Strengthen what is weak within us.
Calm us into a quietness that heals and listens.
May we grow each day into greater wholeness
in mind, body, and spirit. Amen.