Once upon a time Brenainn came from the west of Ireland to Brigit, to the plain of Liffey. For he wondered at the fame that Brigit had in miracles and marvels. Brigit came from her sheep to welcome Brenainn. As Brigit entered the house she put her wet cloak on the rays of the sun, and they supported it like pot-hooks. Brenainn told his gillie to put his cloak on the same rays, and the gillie put it on them, but it fell from them twice. Brenainn himself put it, the third time, with anger and wrath, and the cloak staid upon them.

Each of them confessed to the other. Said Brenainn: ‘Not usual is it for me to go over seven ridges without (giving) my mind to God.’ Said Brigit: ‘Since I first gave my mind to God, I never took it from Him at all.’

~ The Leabhar Breac Life of Brigit 91

There are many versions of this story. The context varies widely but the confessions stay the same. Stories like this one of St. Brigid (Brigit) and St. Brendan (Brenainn) hanging their cloaks upon sunbeams are the sort that drove early modern historians to throw up their hands about the historicity of all hagiography. While their frustration is understandable, it sort of misses the point of hagiography in the first place. We have here a story of two historical people, yet the details of their lives can be so full of spiritual stories like this one that it is difficult to decide what to believe and what not to. There is good reason for this, however. It would be wholly inaccurate in an important way to simply record all of the historical data of their lives. In doing so, we would miss so much of the reality of who they truly are, that these people were and are filled with the grace of God and that by looking to them we behold a reflection of the divine glory. Continue reading