February 1, 2016
I wrote the following reflection last year, and I thought it would be appropriate to share today on the feast of St. Bridget:
St. Bridget, patroness of Ireland (also known as St. Brigid), was born the daughter of a Celtic chieftain and a Christian slave woman in the fifth century AD. She was born into slavery, but her life took a very different path from that of a typical slave girl. Bridget’s holiness was apparent from a very young age; according to tradition, she performed many miracles in her childhood. As she grew older, she resisted the worldly path that her father would have chosen for her, preferring to live a penitential life of prayer dedicated to God and serving the poor. Instead of marrying, she went against the wishes of her family and followed the call to become a nun, and she went on to found monasteries and institutions for learning in Ireland. She had a refined sense of learning and of the arts, and her exquisite illustrations of the Gospels in the Book of Kildare were said to have the appearance of being “the work of angelic, and not human skill.” In a country where the Christian faith seemed to be a new, tenuous idea, Bridget’s unwavering passion for Christ gave an unforgettable example for her people and sowed the seeds of God’s message throughout the country, and her demonstration of goodness, truth, and beauty inspired others to strive toward heavenly joys.
Bridget was born half princess, half slave—and what a fitting description this is for our human condition. From her humble origins, she strove toward virtue and goodness and elevated herself to the level of sainthood. She broke free from the slavery that her mother endured, and she turned away from her father’s self-centered lifestyle and from his apathy toward Christianity. She was born into slavery, but she acted with the dignity befitting a princess—and she was a princess indeed, not just because she was the earthly daughter of a king, but because she knew herself to be a daughter of the King.
We, too, are all of royal lineage, for we are children of God; we must never forget that we are called to act with the dignity and grace of royalty, no matter where our present circumstances might find us here amid the muck and grime of the world. We too were born into the slavery of sin, but we know that our true identity is something greater. If we follow the example of St. Bridget and live our lives with a humble confidence, enduring every difficulty with grace, we will find our way to the Kingdom of God. There, we will be freed from our chains and will serve sin and death no longer—rather, we will serve Christ. Indeed, we are princes and princesses, not for our own glory, but for the glory of Christ. He is the One who adorns us with our crowns, and it is His light that reflects upon it and makes them glimmer and shine.
 “St. Brigid of Ireland,” New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, accessed April 15, 2015, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02784b.htm.
To grow in holiness, we must acknowledge both parts of our nature: we are slaves to sin, redeemed only through Christ; and we are royalty, children of the living God. We must be guided by an awareness of our roots in both regards.
Today's readings remind us that our identity lies not in our sinfulness or our circumstances but in our relationship with God our Father. Even the man possessed by demons was a child of the King, and Jesus had full and complete control over the evil spirits that plagued him. Because this man was bold enough to turn to Jesus even in the midst of deep disorder and shame, he was healed. In the first reading, David expresses a hope that despite the undeserved ridicule and exile he is experiencing, God will redeem this moment in time to come. In contrast to his rash and malicious actions from last week's reading, he prudently holds back from reacting in anger, puts aside his ego, and endures his present shame, knowing that through God, and only through God, will he be able to rise above disgrace.
I came across the following quote today, and it rings true in light of the readings: "Satan knows you by name but calls you by your sin. God knows your sin but calls you by name." Our worth does not come from denying our sinfulness; it comes from the fact that God loves us so immensely as to overcome the weight of our sin, that He has chosen us as adopted sons and daughters purely out of love for us. If we humble ourselves to admit our failings and ask for His healing, we can expect mercy. With this knowledge, we can withstand any humiliation, knowing that our truest identity as His children endures despite all else.