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St. Bridget of Ireland Church in Berryville blesses new statue of storied saint

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St. Bridget of Ireland Church in Berryville has a beautiful stained-glass window of St. Bridget, and a St. Bridget’s cross in the overhang of the choir loft. There’s also an icon of the saint in the sacristy.

“But there were no statues anywhere,” said Father Paul M. Grankauskas, pastor.

This is not simply meant to be a nice decoration. It’s meant to remind us of the life of St. Bridget.” Fr. Paul M. Grankauskas, pastor.

That changed April 11, when he gathered outside with parishioners to bless a new life-size marble statue of the saint on a sunny morning between two Sunday Masses, with white pear blossoms wafting on the breeze. 

The 1,700-pound statue, installed on a pedestal near the main entrance to the church, shows Bridget holding up her signature woven cross, traditionally made of rushes or straw. The statue was created by Artisan Granite and made possible by the financial donation of a parishioner who asked to remain anonymous, Father Grankauskas said.

About 100 parishioners stood in a wide semicircle around the statue to hear Father Grankauskas talk about St. Bridget and the purpose of religious art. 

“This is not simply meant to be a nice decoration. It’s meant to remind us of the life of St. Bridget,” he said. “Maybe she inspires us and challenges us, helps us to be a more faithful disciple, like our saint.”

The blessing originally was planned for the eve of St. Bridget’s feast day, Feb. 1, the first day of the Celtic spring — but was delayed more than once by snow and ice. Then, when the statue was being installed, it slipped and Bridget’s hand was broken, requiring a significant repair.

The statue now stands in front of the church, which was officially designated the diocese’s 70th parish in 2017. It was established in 1999 as a mission of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester and was dedicated in 2002, the first Catholic church in Clarke County, near the West Virginia border.

St. Bridget (or Brigid) of Ireland, also known as St. Bridget of Kildare, is one of the three major patron saints of Ireland, along with St. Patrick and St. Columba of Iona.

Not much is known about her, Father Grankauskas said, “but we know she devoted her life to Christ, and was known for her great charity.”

There are many stories and legends about her, and he shared some with parishioners. According to tradition, Bridget was born in the year 451 A.D.; her mother was a Christian slave who had been baptized by St. Patrick. Her father was believed to be a pagan tribal chieftain.

She became a nun, abbess and founder of several monasteries of nuns, including one in Kildare in Ireland, whose church she is shown holding in her other hand. The story behind St. Bridget’s cross involves the saint picking up rushes from the floor to make the woven cross while sitting at the deathbed of a pagan lord, which some accounts say was possibly her father, who asked to be baptized after hearing what the cross meant. 

Many other legends and stories attest to her charity and generosity to the poor. When we see the statue, “we can think of the love she had for God and neighbor, and even think ‘Maybe one day I’m going to be in heaven with her,’ ” he said.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021