St. Brigid's Easter Beer-acle

She certainly knew how to spread the joy of Christ’s Resurrection!

(photo: Shaun McAfee)

"Beer-acle"? Oh, it's the proper term for a miracle involving beer. Best miracles are the ones with beer, right? There's several, but a cool one is the one involving Easter and St. Brigid of Kildare.

St. Brigid of Kildare (d. 523) is one of those saints who enjoys universal veneration in both Western and Eastern Rites of the Church. Known as “Mary of the Gaels” in her native Ireland, the list of miracles attributed to her during her earthly life alone could fill a book. Many of them have to do with multiplying or miraculously providing some form of physical nourishment—butter, milk, and her specialty: beer. A famous prayer attributed to her expresses her desire for “a great lake of beer for the King of Kings” which all the hosts of heaven could enjoy for eternity.

She was a woman of great generosity and hospitality, and she showed the love of God to those around her by miraculously supplying them with all the good things of Creation. Of all her miracles, two stand out for being particularly noteworthy in the beer department (or aisle?). In one instance, she is said to have supplied 18 churches in her district with beer from a single barrel to last from Maundy Thursday through the end of Eastertide, mirroring her Lord’s miracle of multiplying bread and fish to feed his hungry followers. She certainly knew how to spread the joy of Christ’s Resurrection!

Another time, she was serving a community of lepers that found itself woefully deprived of beer, which was a precious commodity in those days when water was easily contaminated but not easily procured. The people there begged her for more and she obliged. Again mirroring a miracle of her Lord, she transformed the water used for baths into beer—not just any beer, but as most sources specify, “excellent beer.” Best miracle ever!

When Brigid did something, she did it right. She also performed this particular miracle gegularly for visiting clerics. Hospitality was an extremely important virtue among the ancient Celts, and beer was its physical manifestation. Taking “waste not, want not” to miraculous extremes, Brigid would transform her dirty bathwater into the finest beer to serve to her guests, and it’s never stated that anyone was the wiser, which is probably for the best. Maybe she should be the patron saint of recycling, too.

St. Brigid of Kildare, pray for us.