Monday, 31 January 2011

St Brigid, patroness of Australia?

Some, though not all, of the traditionalist communities in Australia seem to be celebrating February 1 as a Class II feast on the basis that St Brigid (who doesn't actually make it into the general calendar) is a patron saint of Australia.  Can anyone tell me when that happened and why?

St Brigid (c451-525)

Now despite my blind prejudice against all things Irish (and yes I do have Irish ancestry!) on the grounds of the cultural devastation  it has caused in this country, St Brigid has some attractions: a monastic foundress, she is certainly one of those activist women saints who make clericalists squirm, with claims that she was made a bishop (well, really just made similar promises) and exercized jurisdiction.  The Catholic Encyclopedia explains it thus:

She founded two monastic institutions, one for men, and the other for women, and appointed St. Conleth as spiritual pastor of them. It has been frequently stated that she gave canonical jurisdiction to St. Conleth, Bishop of Kildare, but, as Archbishop Healy points out, she simply "selected the person to whom the Church gave this jurisdiction", and her biographer tells us distinctly that she chose St. Conleth "to govern the church along with herself". Thus, for centuries, Kildare was ruled by a double line of abbot-bishops and of abbesses, the Abbess of Kildare being regarded as superioress general of the convents in Ireland.

But a patroness of Australia?

All the same, if she was made a patroness of Australia, there is a remarkable lack of public documentation about it around.
First, the Brisbane Liturgical Commission's calendar doesn't seem to include her feast in the Novus Ordo calendar at all.
Secondly, the official Catholic Inquirers website has this to say:
"Currently Australia has only one patron (which is normally the case for most countries) and that is Our Lady Help of Christians. The Feast day is celebrated on 24 May.

Australians have invoked the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary since 1844 under the title of our Lady Help of Christians. The title first came about in the sixteenth century when Pope Pius V included it in the litany of Loreto. Later in 1815 Pope Pius VII established Mary Help of Christians as a feast day after he returned to Rome from his years of captivity imposed by Napoleon Bonaparte.

For some time, though, Australia also had the patronage of both St. Francis Xavier (3 December) and St. Therese of Lisieux (1 October) who were co-patrons of universal missions.

This declaration was made in 1927 by Pope Pius XI. When Australia ceased to be a mission country under Propaganda in 1976 both St Francis Xavier and St Therese of Lisieux ceased to be patrons of Australia."

The bishops are however in the process of asking the Vatican to make St Mary McKillop a patroness of Australia, so perhaps all this will be clarified soon one way or another...
But if anyone knows how St Brigid crept into the 1962 calendar here, please do enlighten me...


Anonymous said...

I cannot answer your question, but I can ask another: What cultural devastation have the Irish wrought on Australia?

Kate said...

I'm talking about pretty much te same stuff as documented in the US in Thomas Day's "Why Catholics Can't Sing" - because Ireland was cut off from the mainstream of catholic thught and practice for a few centuries a certain cultural poverty developed and was passed on by missionairies. Involving more than a touch of Jansenism, it included a low mass mentality, dislike of beautiful cathedrals/orchestral and more elaborate masses, and a degree of anti-intellectualism.

In Ireland itself things have largely (though witness the abuse scandals not entirely) moved on, and in Australia broader migration has gone a long way to counterbalancing its worst effects, but the lingering remnants are there!

Bek said...

I'm gonna keep a low profile on the Irish-cultural-devastation issue, having rather a soft spot for celtic folk music... although if the lack of beautiful cathedrals, basilicas and other things that raise the mind to God is the fault of the Irish, I'm almost tempted to boycott the music forever...

Regarding Australia's official patron, the Catholic Inquirers position corresponds with what I thought was the case. OLHC is our patroness!

I don't know where this St Brigid thing is coming from - I've never heard of that in my life!

Kate said...

Yes well perhaps I was being a bit unnecessarily provocative on the Irish issue!

But I am genuinely curious about where St Brigid suddenly appeared from - is it something we've done every year that just passed me by somehow (possible but I do keep a fairly close eye on the Ordo and as the keeper of a Benedicitne Ordo site do actually need to know!!), a mistake from use of an overseas Ordo, or what??

Joshua said...

I think some Traddies hold that, since St Brigid and St Therese were dropt as secondary patrons in 1976, ergo, those following liturgical books pre-1976 are not bound by such a decision!

This is false logic, obviously.

(By the same logic, for Traddies, the Prime Minister of Australia is not Julia Gillard, but "nice Mr Menzies"!)

Kate said...

Joshua - That sounds plausible, but was St Brigid a patroness of Australia pre-1976? I thought it was St Francis Xavier and St Teresa?

Rigo said...

The Australian hierarchy chose Our Lady Help of Christians as the Principal Patroness of Australia, and elected to honour Sts Patrick, Brigid, Columba and Oliver Plunket of Ireland, and St Peter Chanel, Protomartyr of Oceania, with special liturgical observance. These decisions are not recent, and even if they are largely ignored today, I do not believe that they have actually been rescinded. Australia was placed under the patronage of Sts Francis Xavier and Teresa of the Child Jesus as Principal Patrons of all Missions. As I understand, it is not certain that when Australia ceased to be a "mission country" in 1976 the latter were "dropt" ipso facto.

Kate said...

That is interesting Rigo - do you have any dates or specific references to these decisions to back this up (particularly givne the bishps' websites contrary position!)?