Today is the feast day of my personal saint, the one I chose for my confirmation, St. Elen of Caernarfon. She and her homeland has touched me in many ways, and I was privileged a few years ago to pilgrimage to one of her holy wells in the small town of Dolwyddelan in North Wales. She is the patron of traveling and travelers and ironically, when I visited the town of Dolwyddelan and the Castle there, I was walking distance (even for me) from my future saint’s holy well. There are so many connections that I shouldn’t be surprised anymore.
St. Brigid may be remembered as turning water into beer or the legend that she midwifed Mary in the birth of Jesus, but for those of us hoping for women’s advancement in the church, she preached to her flock, and founded a monastery for men and women, and became abbess there. Several of her images are shown with her holding a Bishop’s crosier. While there is some dispute if she was an actual bishop, she was the leader of both monasteries and the Abbess of Kildare is considered as the superior general of the monasteries in Ireland. Regardless of her official capacity as a pastor, Brigid’s oratory at Kildare became a centre of religion and learning, and developed into a cathedral city. 
Personally, I’m disappointed that when I visited Ireland a few years ago that I was so close to Downpatrick and didn’t visit. Her relics aren’t there any longer (not since 1538) but I still would have liked to have visited especially since the relics of Patrick, Brigid, and Columba (Columcille) had been there and all are said to have been buried there.
Imbolc dates back to ancient times and Celtic tradition has it beginning the night of February 1st and continuing through February 2nd. This speaks volumes, to me at least that this tradition was adopted/co-opted by the early Christians in the Celtic world. February 2nd is Candlemas, which commemorates the presentation of Jesus in the church. Imbolc is about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox and foretells the coming of spring. Groundhog’s Day is February 2nd and he also foretells the coming of spring, whether after six more weeks of winter or right around the corner.
Beginning next year, St. Brigid’s Day will also be a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland.
So many things in our myths, traditions, and religions are interconnected; not all of them by chance or coincidence. Some were intentionally brought forward by the church to include the “pagans” in their conversion to Christianity. This feels almost like a “gentle Crusade” rather than at the point of a sword when they encouraged Jews and Muslims.
I’ve just completed reading a Celtic spirituality book that has nine chapters describing different Celtic ways along with the intertwining of Christianity. The second chapter was focused on St. Brigid and what she brought to Celtic spirituality in this author’s opinion: the Sacred Feminine. Celts had a tremendous respect for the feminine and how it balanced the world they lived, and we live in.
The book is an easy read. I chose to read one chapter a day. That let the information gradually process. There is also prayer and an appendix that would lend itself to daily prayer and meditation in the Celtic tradition.
 Herbermann, Charles. St. Brigid of Ireland, Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913. Public Domain.
[In my interpretations of St. Brigid’s religious life, I would appreciate any corrections from those expert in such things.]
I fully intended to write a reflection today on Mary Magdalene. In the past she’s gotten a bad rap, mostly from historical inaccuracies, misogyny, and bad faith takes, and in more recent years is re-emerging as an inspirational saint for girls and women alike.
As I searched for previous links to share at the end today, I discovered something I wrote in 2019 that really contained all that I wanted to say and I decided to share that link instead.
Enjoy this feast day of the Apostle to the Apostles, and follow the links at the end of that original reflection to read more on Mary as well as women’s roles in the church.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha was the first Native American woman to be canonized. This was in 2012, the same year I joined the church with my ongoing attendance. It would be another two years before I came into full communion and participation.
There were many reasons that I was attracted to St. Kateri as I considered her among others while I discerned a confirmation name (ultimately choosing St. Elen of Caernarfon as many of you know).
I have always felt a connection to the Native American people and interested in their culture and spiritual practices. As kids our parents took us to the pow-wow out on Long Island with the Shinnecock Indians. It’s hard to live anywhere in New York State and not find nearby towns with Native names.
A gift from my friend in South Dakota. It is a dream catcher and it has helped me at times when I’ve had trouble sleeping. It is Native made near the sacred Black Hills.
Kateri was from nearby; just west of the Capital District. She was born in the village of Ossernenon, now known as Auriesville. The village is mapped out at the Martyrs Shrine. After a small pox epidemic killed her family and left her scarred, the remaining Mohawk burned the village and moved (as was done when a disease ran rampant through their homes).
They moved further west and to the other side of the river to what is now Fonda, above where the current Kateri Shrine is located in the village called Caughnawaga. The footprint of the village can be seen and can be reached either by car or by walking the trails to the village and the spring.
Today is the feast day of St. Francis de Sales. He was born in Chateau de Sales to a noble family in 1567. He enjoyed a privileged education, eventually becoming a Bishop and a Doctor of the Church before his death in 1622.
He was canonized in 1665.
His motto in Latin is Non-excidet which translates to He will not fail or He will not give up, either appropriate for his patronage of writers and journalists.
Some of his words of wisdom may be found here, but I include some of my favorites below:
Be who you are and be that well.
Have patience with all things, But, first of all with yourself.
Such simple advice, common sense thoughts, and yet…so much more, so much to contemplate.
Admittedly, I wasn’t familiar with him until meeting my friend, Brother Mickey McGrath who is a Salesian Oblate. He is also an artist. This is his most recent offering. Clicking it will direct you to his website where you can see his other works including his books on variety of spiritual/religious topics, saints, and Popes. It is well worth your time.
I was born to do this.
As I set out my writing schedule for the rest of this month and next month, I was surprised at how much randomly drew my mind back to my childhood, my “girl”-hood and the heroes I had as a young person. They’ve returned to me over the years in one way or another. I wrote briefly yesterday about my recent encounters with Harriet Tubman. Next month is the birthday of Anne Frank who I loved and revered as a child, and who I will write about then. The CW network has a new series coming out in the fall of Nancy Drew! I loved the books, still do, and the series with the Hardy Boys from the 70s/80s. Laura Ingalls also comes to mind and of course her television counterpart, Melissa Gilbert.
Today, however, is the feast day of St. Joan of Arc. As a child learning about and reading about her, I don’t think I knew she was a saint. We weren’t Catholic, so my only exposure to Joan would have been through school books and history books as well as book reports and those types of school assignments that I was expected to do.
I have always believed in voices from beyond or experiences that don’t always fit neatly into our boxes to be tied with a ribbon. What’s funny and ironic in that belief is my usual cynicism that grabs onto any and every thought, but meeting ghosts, hearing voices, seeing visions, I almost accept universally, although myself more while less so from others along with a healthy grain of salt.
Like me, Joan of Arc was a girl. She sat under a tree and contemplated and when she heard the words from G-d, she was not immediately accepting, but she acquiesced to her duty. She changed her clothes, her ways, taking on the mantle of a soldier, cutting her hair short, donning a helm, armor and gauntlets and boots. She was determined to do G-d’s will, and she wouldn’t back down despite the lack of seriousness the men offered to her words. She boosted the French army’s morale.
They would eventually follow her to victory.
Was she fearless?
Probably not, but she had faith. Not faith in her survival, but in following G-d’s guidance and trusting in his will.
She was taken prisoner by an English faction and was put on trial for heresy by a pro-English bishop. The determination was already set; it was nothing more than a show trial. I was taken by some of the questions they asked her and the answers she gave.
In one exchange, they asked about when she saw the vision of the Archangel Michael and wanted to know if he was naked. I think that this was a real moment of misogyny (amidst all of the other examples of medieval misogyny) to try and embarrass her or suggest that this wasn’t G-d’s work, but some child’s fantasy.
Question at Trial: “Was he naked?”
“Do you think God has not wherewithal to clothe him?”
In the end, Joan of Arc was found guilty and was burned at the stake. She knew she was being punished by man; not G-d.
And it wasn’t long after, twenty-five years that the church reversed itself. Pope Callixtus III pronounced her innocent and declared her a martyr. She actually wasn’t officially canonized in 1920.
She is the patron of soldiers, prisoners, and people ridiculed for their piety among others.
As with Harriet Tubman, there was a alot more here than I ever learned, and I’ve only scratched the surface.
My favorite quote of hers with context:
Question at Trial: “Do you know if you are in the grace of God?”
“If I am not, may God place me there; if I am, may God so keep me. I should be the saddest in all the world if I knew that I were not in the grace of God. But if I were in a state of sin, do you think the Voice would come to me? I would that every one could hear the Voice as I hear it. I think I was about thirteen when it came to me for the first time.” – Joan of Arc
(Source: from https://www.biographyonline.net/quotes/joan-arc.html)
Please take the time and read The Song of Joan of Arc by Christine de Pizan. This link that I’ve shared also includes the transcripts of the trials and other documents. I think you’ll find them fascinating.
Today is the feast day of my own saint, Saint Elen. There is little known about her, but I still find what is available about her fasinating. It’s taken me more than a few years to complete this project, and hopefully next week, I will have actual cards made for anyone who wishes one, but for now, I’d like to share with you the prayer card I made for my patron: St. Elen.
May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell
Bless every fireside every wall and door
Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof
Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy
Bless every foot that walks its portals through
May Brigid bless the house that shelters you.
Make a fresh start each day.
Today is the Feast of St. Francis de Sales. His motto is: “He who preaches with love, preaches effectively.” And I would say that St. Francis did just that, both with love and effectively.
I wasn’t able to finish the prayer card for today’s feast day but I still wanted to share the picture I made for the front of the card.