St Bride, after whom our church is named, is more commonly and frequently known as St Brigid of Kildare. There are variations in the spelling of her name including Bride, Brigid and Bridget.
In Ireland there are no fewer than 43 townlands named Kilbride including of course one near Doagh. The place-name ‘Kilbride’ means quite simply ‘St. Bride’s Church’ and in the Parish of Kilbride, which covers many townlands including Kilbride, the focus of worship is in St. Bride’s Parish Church. Although this church is not actually located in the townland of Kilbride (it sits just a very few metres inside the boundary of the neighbouring townland of Ballyhamage) it was dedicated to St. Bride on its completion in 1868. Prior to that date there had been several earlier churches in the area which had fallen into disrepair, and some of these had been in the townland of Kilbride so there is an obvious connection between the Parish and St. Bride.
St. Bride - or St. Brigid – is one of Ireland's patron saints, along with St. Patrick and St. Columba. In Kilbride Parish Church the three windows in the West (rear) wall portray St. Bride, flanked on either side by St. Patrick and St. Columba. Born in Dundalk around 453 AD, shortly after St. Patrick, she was an early pioneer of Christianity in Ireland and amongst many achievements founded the first Irish monastery in Kildare. She is also credited with creating the unique cross that bears her name. The distinctive St. Bride’s Cross is traditionally made from woven rushes gathered on the eve before St Bride’s Day, but occasionally may be made from straw. Although there are many versions of when and how it was first created, one well known tale is as follows.
An old pagan Chieftain (in some versions said to be the father of St. Bride) lay delirious on his deathbed in Kildare. His servants summoned Bride to his bedside in the hope that the saintly woman might calm his restless spirit. Bride is said to have sat by his bed, consoling and calming him. As was customary, the dirt floor was strewn with rushes both for warmth and cleanliness and she picked up some of these rushes from the floor and began weaving them into the distinctive cross pattern. As she was weaving she explained the meaning of the cross and Christianity to the sick Chieftain and it seemed her calming words brought peace to his soul. He was so comforted by her words that he requested to be baptized as a Christian just before he died.
St. Bride died on 1st February, probably around 525 AD, and was buried at Kildare, but during the Viking invasions her remains were transferred to Downpatrick for safekeeping.
Down the following centuries, on the eve of her Feast Day on the 1st February, it has been customary in Ireland to fashion a St. Bride’s Cross from rushes and place it inside the family house, over the door. This is thought to keep evil, fire and hunger from the homes in which it is displayed.
glimpsed the sun through pagan night,
set aside the ancient wisdom,
for Christian lore and Christ, the light.
Bridget of the sacred mysteries
no ancient seer can match your sight.
servant of the Lord most high,
on this feast day of your honour
show us how to live, and die,
and fulfil our sacred calling
whether our end is far or near
may your cross be yet our banner
in this season of the year.
loved another maiden’s son
proclaimed him as our hope and saviour,
proclaimed him, King and kingdom come.