Saint Bridget (of Sweden)
A.K.A. - Bridget of Vadstena; Birgit of Vadstena; Birgitta of Vadstena; Bridgid of Vadstena; Brigida of Vadstena; Brigetta of Vastina
Born: 1302 or 1303 in Uppsala, Sweden at Finsta Castle
Died: July 23, 1373 in Rome, Italy of Natural Causes; Buried in 1374 at the Vadstena, Sweden Convent she had founded
Venerated: Roman Catholic Church; Lutheran Church
Canonized: October 7, 1391 by Pope Boniface IX
Feast Day: July 23
Places: Europe, Sweden
Representations: Abbess in Brigittine robes with a cross on her forehead, and holding a book and pilgrim's staff; Book; Head and Cross; Nun Enthroned, with Christ Above her and Hell below, while she gives Books to the Emperor and Kings; Nun Giving a Book to Saint Augustine; Nun in Ecstasy before the Crucifix with Instruments of the Passion nearby; Nun Reading, Holding a Cross, with Builders in the Background, Nun with a Cross on her Brow Witnessing the Birth of Christ, which she saw in one of her Visions, Nun with Shells, a Sign of Pilgrimage, Sewn on her Habit; Nun Writing with a Pilgrim's equipage Nearby; Nun Writing with an Angel Hovering over her Shoulder, often Whispering in her Ear; Nun Writing while Christ and the Virgin appear before her; Pilgrim's Staff; Small Child at the Scourging of Christ, which she saw in one of her visions; Heart Marked with a Cross
A few years ago Rome celebrated the 600th anniversary of Birgitta Birgersdotter (Bridget in English). For this occasion Lutheran bishops from the Swedish State Church met to pray together with the Holy Father in the Church of Saint Peter in Rome. The King and Queen of Sweden also took part in this prayer meeting. Pope Boniface IX had Birgitta Birgersdotter canonized in the year 1391.
In the center of Sweden there is a place called Vadstena (situated beside Lake Vaettern). In the middle ages Vadstena was a religious and cultural center which radiated far beyond its region. The patron saint of this town is Saint Bridget; she is also protector of Sweden, pilgrims and travelers.
Saint Bridget is one of the most renowned personalities of Sweden. Very well known are her revelations and prayers, the texts of which were translated into Latin by her confessional priests, Father Petrus Olavi and Matthias of Linkoeping. From these texts one can learn a lot about the time when Sweden became Christian and as well it gives an insight into the lifestyle of Sweden of that time. It gives a clear account of how the women lived during the middle ages. Interestingly enough, one can also find political information. Most of all the Swedish pagan nobility criticized Saint Bridget.
Saint Bridget, who was of noble blood, married at 14 years of age, a country judge named Ulf Gudermarsson. She bore him eight children. Bridget was a good wife who lived happily with her husband for 28 years. Her husband died after a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Saint Bridget was also a good mother, she reared all of her children to lead holy lives.
King Magnus Eriksson gave Saint Bridget a present of a country estate called Vadstena, even though she sometimes made him uncomfortable with her counselling. Saint Bridget wanted to erect a twin-convent on the grounds of the Bjaelbo Palace, but her patience was put to trial. Due to internal ecclesiastical disputes she had to wait for 20 years for the return of the Pope from Avignon. Her wish was granted shortly before her death in 1373; however, her daughter Katarina (later Saint Catherine of Sweden), in Vadstena, took over from there to expand on the building up of the Bridget Order. The relics of Saint Bridget are presently in the Gothic Convent Church in Vadstena, which was built in 1430.
The Bridget Order has had a very moving past. The Church was prosperous, and during the time of reformation, King Carl IX had forbidden the Catholic religion and the nuns of the Bridget order were also cast out of the country. In 1952 there was a constitutional change which allowed the Catholic religion the same rights as the Swedish State Church. This made way for the return of the Bridget Order. Today in Vadstena there exists another convent of the Bridget Order. Presently there are 13 nuns living humble lives in a building near the original convent. The original convent is still in the possession of the State and is presently used as a hotel.
The famous “Fifteen Prayers of Saint Bridget on the Passion of Our Lord” and their promises were copied from a book printed in Toulouse in 1740 and published by Father Adrien Parvilliers of the Society of Jesus, Missionary Apostolic of the Holy Land with the approbation, permission and recommendation to spread the devotion.
At the time of Saint Bridget in the 14th century, printing had not been invented but recourse was to copyists. Pope Urban VI encouraged the multiplication of the number of copies of the revelations of Saint Bridget, which Kings, Bishops, Universities, Convents and Libraries were clamoring for.
The books containing these prayers and promises have been approved by a great number of prelates among whom are His Eminence Cardinal Giraud of Cambria in 1845 and Archbishop Florian of Toulouse in 1863. The collection of small books, among which were these Prayers, was blessed by his Holiness Pope Pius IX on May 31, 1862. Finally, this collection was recommended by the Great Congress of Malines on August 22, 1863. Those who visit the Church of Saint Paul at Rome can see the natural size crucifix sculptured by Pierre Cavallini before which Saint Bridget knelt and the following inscription is placed in the church: “Pendentis, pendente Sei verba accepit aure accipit et verbum corde Brigitta Deumm anno Jubilei MCCCL," which recalls the prodigy with which the crucifix conversed with Bridget.
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