Monday, 30 January 2012

St Brigid and Beer!

There are many stories about Saint Brigid whose feast day we celebrate today, 1st February, stories about her love of God, her wisdom, and her compassion. There are also a few about her and beer! 

In one she worked in a leper colony, which found itself without beer. Centuries ago beer was the daily drink of the people, both because water near villages and towns was often polluted and because it was cheap nourishment. So “when the lepers she nursed implored her for beer, and there was none to be had, she changed the water, which was used for the bath, into an excellent beer, by the sheer strength of her blessing and dealt it out to the thirsty in plenty.”

In another she is said to have changed her dirty bathwater into beer so that visiting clerics would have something to drink. She is also reputed to have supplied beer out of one barrel to eighteen churches, which lasted from Holy Thursday to the end of Easter.

There is a 10th century poem, attributed to Brigid herself, that speaks of giving "a lake of beer to God." This wonderful poem has a Franciscan feel to it - with both its earthy, human quality and delight in God.

I'd like to give a lake of beer to God.
I'd love the heavenly
Host to be tippling there
For all eternity.

I'd love the men of Heaven to live with me,
To dance and sing.
If they wanted, I'd put at their disposal
Vats of suffering.

White cups of love I'd give them
With a heart and a half;
Sweet pitchers of mercy I'd offer
To every man.

I'd make Heaven a cheerful spot
Because the happy heart is true.
I'd make the men contented for their own sake.
I'd like Jesus to love me too.

I'd like the people of heaven to gather
From all the parishes around.
I'd give a special welcome to the women,
The three Marys of great renown.

I'd sit with the men, the women and God
There by the lake of beer.
We'd be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.