St Brigid

Abbess of Kildare, virgin (entered heaven around 525)

Dear Bridget,

Over the course of the first months of your college career, I have noticed a disturbing trend in your correspondence.  At first, you wrote mostly about the wonderful opportunities for intellectual, spiritual, and personal growth that such a distinguished university affords.  You were excited about those possibilities. Little by little, however, you began commenting on less worthy things, like the “entertaining company” you find at the fraternity parties, and the “lovely weekends” when you and your dorm mates go to Heidi’s parents’ beach house.  I don’t mean to say that social and entertainment activities are in themselves disedifying, but if they have made you unconsciously lose sight of your original and noble goals, well, in that case, I would say that you are being distracted, if not seduced, by the empty glitz of the “world.”  I feel it is my duty to warn you that you are in danger of such seduction. Perhaps an anecdote about today’s saint will serve to put you back on course.

You remember, of course, that St Brigid has been second only to St Patrick in inspiring the robust spirituality of Irish Catholicism.  So many marvelous tales surround her that it is hard to distinguish the bare facts of her biography. We do know, however, that she consecrated herself to the Lord at an early age, even though her parents were determined to make her marry, and she eventually founded the large and influential monastery (probably one of the double monasteries, where men and women lived nearby but pursued their vocation separately) of Kildare.  She governed this center of spirituality with wisdom, faith, and great charity, and it became a fountain of holy missionaries and monks who refreshed all of early medieval Christendom. I won’t go into more detail, but I would like to quote to you one story that, I think, you should reflect on deeply. It goes as follows:

‘One evening, as the sun went down, Brigid sat with Sister Dara, a holy nun who was blind, and they talked of the love of Jesus Christ and the joys of Paradise.  Now their hearts were so full that the night fled away whilst they spoke together, and neither knew that so many hours had passed. Then the sun came up from behind the Wicklow mountains, and the pure white light made the face of earth bright and gay. Then Brigid sighed, when she saw how lovely were earth and sky, and knew that Dara’s eyes were closed to all this beauty.  So she bowed her head and prayed, and extended her hand and signed the dark orbs of the gentle sister. Then the darkness passed away from them, and Dara saw the golden ball in the east and all the trees and flowers glittering with dew in the morning light. She looked a little while, and then, turning to the abbess, said, “Close my eyes again, dear Mother, for when the world is so visible to the eyes, God is seen less clearly to the soul.”  So Brigid prayed once more, and Dara’s eyes grew dark again.’

Of course, I don’t want you to go and pluck your eyes out or anything, but I do think you should be careful of throwing yourself heedlessly into the many pleasures that are so readily available on campus.  Remember, my dear niece, all the beauties of this world will pass away; they are only meant to turn our hearts more and more fully to God, who is Beauty itself and the source of every good thing. Count on my prayers.

Your affectionate uncle, Eddy

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