Saint Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden
We celebrate St. Bridget's feast on the day of her "birth into heaven," July 23. Having received the Last Rites on the Feast of St. Mary Magdalen, St. Bridget died the next day, following the Consecration during a Mass being said at her bedside. This holy woman of the fourteenth century left an amazingly rich legacy, including the holiness of her entire life, mystical revelations, profound prayers dictated to her by Jesus, and even another saint for the Church: her daughter, St. Catherine of Sweden.
Even as a child, Bridget had mystical experiences. She saw a vision of Our Lady when she was ten, which encouraged her in her growth of mature sanctity. At twelve, she was granted a vision of the Crucifixion and given to understand that it was the sins of mankind which caused it. Bridget resolved to give herself wholly to Christ and to bring others to greater love of Him.
When her mother died, twelve year old Bridget was sent to live with an aunt. Lady Katarina, upon learning that Bridget was rising in the night hours to pray, attempted to stop the pious habit by administering punishing beatings. Miraculously, the stick she was using repeatedly broke upon contact with Bridget, causing her no harm. Lady Katarina saw the hand of God in this and left Bridget to her nightly prayer.
While fourteen year old Bridget would have preferred the cloister, she was obedient to her father, who betrothed her to Ulf, future Lagman of Naarke. Ulf's piety matched that of Bridget. Together they vowed the first two years of their marriage to virgin chastity, after which they began their family. They went on to have eight children.
Following a period of service to the King and Queen of Sweden, Bridget and Ulf went on a pilgrimage. On the return trip, Ulf became so ill that the Last Rites were administered. Ulf vowed to dedicate himself entirely to God if he were to recover. After his recovery, and with Bridget's blessing, Ulf gave up his post as Lagman and entered the monastery at Alvastra, where their son, Benedict was a monk, and where he died not long after. Bridget went to live in a solitary guest house at the monastery and revealed to a spiritual mentor named Master Matthias her visions. He was able to discern that they were from God.
Told in a vision to go to Rome, Bridget went under the spiritual direction of Master Peter Olafson, who began to record the numerous revelations of the holy woman. One of these revelations was that of the Immaculate Conception, five hundred years before this dogma was proclaimed. She was also given visions of Purgatory, and foreknowledge of the boundaries of a future Vatican State. Books on the revelations of St. Bridget are available, and can also be accessed freely online.
In her visions, Bridget was told to work to bring the Pope back to Rome from Avignon. She worked tirelessly on this, but while the pope did return for a short time, it was not lasting, and Bridget felt this failure on her part. Also in her revelations was a call to form the Order of the Holy Savior, an order for both men and women, very unusual for that era; she built a monastery at Vadstena. Bridget practiced many acts of charity, and was instrumental in developing works to assist young unwed mothers. Many miracles took place through Bridget, and she was well known and revered in her day.
It was during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land that Bridget was given visions that allowed her to see the sweet infancy of Jesus while she visited Bethlehem, as well as the Passion of Christ during her visit to the Holy Sepulchre. It was also during this pilgrimage that Our Lord revealed to Bridget fifteen prayers by which she and any who committed to praying them, could honor the 5480 wounds inflicted during the Crucifixion. There are attached to these prayers, a set of promises to which the Church has not given ecclesiastical approval, however, they are popularly trusted by those who commit to the prayers. The Fifteen Prayers of St. Bridget can be found in the booklet of prayers known as the Pieta Prayer Book, and can also be found many places online, such as http://www.discerninghearts.com/?page_id=798.
In St. Bridget, we have a saint who gives us holy example, spiritual guidance, and glorious inspiration. St. Bridget has been named patroness of Europe, Sweden and widows.
July 7, 2014