From a post by Fr Ambrose in 'Catholic Answers" -
Saint Brigid Bishopess
Happy and Blessed Saint Brigid's Day - 1 February
Due to my great age stretching back into dim forgotten ages, I was blessed to be educated in Catholic parochial schools at a time when they were staffed by good Irish sisters. These sisters were walking compendiums (compendia, if you like) of Irish oral tradition. They functioned for us kids as apocryphal Gospels, and they knew everything, whether within or without the Deposit of Faith. These holy nuns taught us that St. Brigid was a bishop of the Church.
In catechism classes we learnt how Bishop Saint Mael came to Kildare to install Brigid as abbess. Before the ceremony he was treated to the hospitality for which she is so justly renowned and loved. Her liberal provision of strong drink confused the bishop so that he mistakenly consecrated her as bishop instead of abbess. And thereupon a great debate arose though all Ireland. The decision was agreed that the power of an episcopal consecration was irresistible, irremediable, irretractable, even when administered in error and under the influence. Brigid had become a bishop, but she was placed under a forbidding against the using
of her powers. Possibly at that period the Church had not expounded theories of matter and form, of licit and valid and legal, and the opinion of the day could be expressed thus: her consecration was illicit but valid. All they knew in Ireland was that Brigid had been mistakenly turned into a bishop -mistakenly, yes, - but a bishop she had been made.
The story affirms that Brigid was obedient in not exercising her
episcopal faculties, although she slipped up once or twice in ordaining a priest or two, when the bishop was tardy. Saint Mael was remorseful of his error, and undertook a pilgrimage of
expiation, to Jerusalem, and there at the grave of Mary he was
reproached by her for administering to Brigid an honour which even the Queen of Heaven had neither sought nor received. She forgave him however and laid upon him the penance of never touching strong drink until the day when he would drink the new wine in the Kingdom of her Son. This makes Saint Mael Ireland's first (and possibly only) teetotaller.
The good nuns at school delighted in this naughty tradition, this
breakdown of normal church order, although it was never recounted in the presence of any priest. Nonetheless, it is part of the oral tradition of the Irish Catholic Church, transmitted to me as a boy and with a fond place in my heart even now.
The chapel in the convent of Anglican sisters in Christchurch, NZ,
contains a fine stained glass window of St.Brigid, a window they say is over 80 years old, and which shows the Saint clothed in the vestments of a bishop.