It's the Celtic word for "soul friend" and this is the place to talk about Roman Catholicism, Celtic Spirituality, Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton and other great literature, as well as anything else that enriches the human spirit and brings one closer to God.
In the midst of a terrible winter, along comes the great feast of St. Brigid, one of the four great saints of Ireland. I got the chance to visit her holy well, nestled in the Clare hills of Ireland not far from the Cliffs of Moher. This is one of the most mysterious of her holy places. It encompasses about an acre of land, right next to an Irish bar. Don't feel too outraged--Brigid was said to pray for gallons of beer in heaven to make us all merry! Seriously, just stepping into the shrine's enclosure is to step into a "thin place" where God and man can more easily communicate. The central area is circular where one does the saint's turas or"Pattern" or series of prayers. Just to the left, you can see the covered entrance of the holy well where pilgrims come in and place petitions to the saint, mostly for healing. Up the stairs there is a wooded circular area for more prayers, topped by a cross. A quiet graveyard lies beyond. I spent a lovely afternoon there on July 19.
I spoke with an elderly lady who told me that it is the young now who keep the place up. "They even have a committee just for that purpose." I mention it because too often we think Ireland is going the way of Europe when it comes to faith. To some extent it is true, but here in the West, the young are faithful.
You can look elsewhere on the net for a deeper biography of this saint. Suffice it to say that she lived from 453-524 and stunned the nation with her vibrant Christianity. Counselor to kings, friend to peasants, stories abound of her closeness to Christ, to Mary, to humanity, the land and all creatures. Reading the stories, however factually true, does place in all of us the deep sense that this was a living, breathing human being who joyfully accepted Christ and lived life to the fullest. Light and water are associated with her. In fact, her monastery had an undying flame lit there for over a thousand years. Numerous holy wells throughout Ireland dot the landscape, but the one here in County Clare is surely one of the most beautiful. She was no pious plaster saint; in fact, her spirituality and holiness should be very attractive to the modern age. St. Brigid's Cross, woven of rushes this time of year and blessed, protects homes and dwellings from fire and evil.
Check out the hall of prayers leading into the well. This ancient site once held a white fish that if seen would bring healing ( another of the famous fish legends of Ireland ). The well still holds the healing memory.