Saint Birgitta (Bridget) of Sweden († 1373) Patroness of Sweden

Saint Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373) Co-Patroness of Europe

 

We can distinguished two periods in this Saint's life.

The first was characterized by her happily married state.

Her husband was called Ulf and he was Governor of an important district of the Kingdom of Sweden. The marriage lasted for 28 years, until Ulf's death. Eight children were born, the second of whom, Karin (Catherine), is venerated as a Saint. This is an eloquent sign of Bridget's dedication to her children's education. [...]

Bridget, who was given spiritual guidance by a learned religious who initiated her into the study of the Scriptures, exercised a very positive influence on her family which, thanks to her presence, became a true "domestic church".

Together with her husband she adopted the Rule of the Franciscan Tertiaries.

She generously practiced works of charity for the poor; she also founded a hospital.

At his wife's side Ulf's character improved and he advanced in the Christian life. On their return from a long pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, which they made in 1341 with other members of the family, the couple developed a project of living in continence; but a little while later, in the tranquillity of a monastery to which he had retired, Ulf's earthly life ended.

 

This first period of Bridget's life helps us to appreciate what today we could describe as an authentic "conjugal spirituality": together, Christian spouses can make a journey of holiness sustained by the grace of the sacrament of Marriage.

It is often the woman, as happened in the life of St Bridget and Ulf, who with her religious sensitivity, delicacy and gentleness succeeds in persuading her husband to follow a path of faith. I am thinking with gratitude of the many women who, day after day, illuminate their families with their witness of Christian life, in our time too. [...]

 

The second period of Bridget's life began when she was widowed.

[...] She settled near the Cistercian Monastery of Alvastra.

Here began the divine revelations that were to accompany her for the rest of her life. Bridget dictated them to her confessors-secretaries, who translated them from Swedish into Latin and gathered them in eight volumes entitled Revelationes (Revelations). A supplement followed these books called, precisely, Revelationes extravagantes (Supplementary revelations). [...]

The value of St Bridget's Revelations, sometimes the object of criticism Venerable John Paul II explained in his Letter Spes Aedificandi:

"The Church, which recognized Bridget's holiness without ever pronouncing on her individual revelations, has accepted the overall authenticity of her interior experience" (n. 5).

 

Indeed, reading these Revelations challenges us on many important topics.

For example, the description of Christ's Passion, with very realistic details, frequently recurs. Bridget always had a special devotion to Christ's Passion, contemplating in it God's infinite love for human beings. She boldly places these words on the lips of the Lord who speaks to her:

"O my friends, I love my sheep so tenderly that were it possible I would die many other times for each one of them that same death I suffered for the redemption of all" (Revelationes, Book I, c. 59).

The sorrowful motherhood of Mary, which made her Mediatrix and Mother of Mercy, is also a subject that recurs frequently in the Revelations.[...]

Many of her revelations were addressed in the form of admonishments, even severe ones, to the believers of her time, including the Religious and Political Authorities, that they might live a consistent Christian life; but she always reprimanded them with an attitude of respect and of full fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church and in particular to the Successor of the Apostle Peter.

 

In 1349 Bridget left Sweden for good and went on pilgrimage to Rome. She was not only intending to take part in the Jubilee of the Year 1350 but also wished to obtain from the Pope approval for the Rule of a Religious Order that she was intending to found, called after the Holy Saviour and made up of monks and nuns under the authority of the Abbess.

This is an element we should not find surprising: in the Middle Ages monastic foundations existed with both male and female branches, but with the practice of the same monastic Rule that provided for the Abbess' direction.

In fact, in the great Christian tradition the woman is accorded special dignity and - always based on the example of Mary, Queen of Apostles - a place of her own in the Church, which, without coinciding with the ordained priesthood is equally important for the spiritual growth of the Community.

Furthermore, the collaboration of consecrated men and women, always with respect for their specific vocation, is of great importance in the contemporary world. [...]

 

Finally, in 1371, her deepest desire was crowned: to travel to the Holy Land, to which she went accompanied by her spiritual children, a group that Bridget called "the friends of God".

 

In those years the Pontiffs lived at Avignon, a long way from Rome: Bridget addressed a heartfelt plea to them to return to the See of Peter, in the Eternal City.

She died in 1373, before Pope Gregory XI returned to Rome definitively. [...]

 

In declaring her Co-Patroness of Europe, Pope John Paul II hoped that St Bridget - who lived in the 14th century when Western Christianity had not yet been wounded by division - may intercede effectively with God to obtain the grace of full Christian unity so deeply longed for. [...]

 


Benoît XVI, Audience - 27 october 2010