Saint Bridget of Sweden, Religious

Matthew 13:10-17

Prophets and holy men longed to hear what you hear

The disciples went up to Jesus and asked, ‘Why do you talk to them in parables?’ ‘Because’ he replied, ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them. For anyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case this prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:

You will listen and listen again, but not understand,

see and see again, but not perceive.

For the heart of this nation has grown coarse,

their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes,

for fear they should see with their eyes,

hear with their ears,

understand with their heart,

and be converted

and be healed by me.

‘But happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’


Jeremiah 2:1-3,7-8,12-13

I brought you to a fertile country and you defiled it

The word of the Lord was addressed to me, saying, ‘Go and shout this in the hearing of Jerusalem:

‘“The Lord says this:

I remember the affection of your youth,

the love of your bridal days:

you followed me through the wilderness,

through a land unsown.

Israel was sacred to the Lord,

the first-fruits of his harvest;

anyone who ate of this had to pay for it,

misfortune came to them –

it is the Lord who speaks.”

‘I brought you to a fertile country

to enjoy its produce and good things;

but no sooner had you entered than you defiled my land,

and made my heritage detestable.

The priests have never asked, “Where is the Lord?”

Those who administer the Law have no knowledge of me.

The shepherds have rebelled against me;

the prophets have prophesied in the name of Baal,

following things with no power in them.

‘You heavens, stand aghast at this,

stand stupefied, stand utterly appalled

– it is the Lord who speaks.

Since my people have committed a double crime:

they have abandoned me,

the fountain of living water,

only to dig cisterns for themselves,

leaky cisterns

that hold no water.’


Psalm 35(36):6-11

In you, Lord, is the source of life.

Your love, Lord, reaches to heaven;

your truth to the skies.

Your justice is like God’s mountain,

your judgements like the deep.

In you, Lord, is the source of life.

O Lord, how precious is your love.

My God, the sons of men

find refuge in the shelter of your wings.

They feast on the riches of your house;

they drink from the stream of your delight.

In you, Lord, is the source of life.

In you is the source of life

and in your light we see light.

Keep on loving those who know you,

doing justice for upright hearts.

In you, Lord, is the source of life.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Church is communion with Jesus

787 From the beginning, Jesus associated his disciples with his own life, revealed the mystery of the Kingdom to them, and gave them a share in his mission, joy, and sufferings. Jesus spoke of a still more intimate communion between him and those who would follow him: “Abide in me, and I in you. . . . I am the vine, you are the branches.” And he proclaimed a mysterious and real communion between his own body and ours: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”

788 When his visible presence was taken from them, Jesus did not leave his disciples orphans. He promised to remain with them until the end of time; he sent them his Spirit. As a result communion with Jesus has become, in a way, more intense: “By communicating his Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as his body those brothers of his who are called together from every nation.”

789 The comparison of the Church with the body casts light on the intimate bond between Christ and his Church. Not only is she gathered around him; she is united in him, in his body. Three aspects of the Church as the Body of Christ are to be more specifically noted: the unity of all her members with each other as a result of their union with Christ; Christ as head of the Body; and the Church as bride of Christ.


Bridget of Sweden (1303 – 23 July 1373); born as Birgitta Birgersdotter, also Birgitta of Vadstena, or Saint Birgitta (Swedish: heliga Birgitta), was a mystic and saint, and founder of the Bridgettines nuns and monks after the death of her husband of twenty years. Outside of Sweden, she was also known as the Princess of Nericia and was the mother of Catherine of Vadstena. (Though normally named as Bridget of Sweden, she was not a member of Swedish royalty.)

She is one of the six patron saints of Europe, together with Benedict of Nursia, Saints Cyril and Methodius, Catherine of Siena and Edith Stein.

The most celebrated saint of Sweden was the daughter of the knight Birger Persson of the family of Finsta, governor and lawspeaker of Uppland, and one of the richest landowners of the country, and his wife, a member of the so-called Lawspeaker branch of the Folkunga family. Through her mother, Ingeborg, Birgitta was related to the Swedish kings of her era.

She was born in June 1303. There is no exact recording for which precise date. In 1316, at the age of 14 she married Ulf Gudmarsson of the family of Ulvåsa, Lord of Närke, to whom she bore eight children, four daughters and four sons. Six survived infancy, which was rare at that time. Her eldest daughter was Märta Ulfsdotter. Her second daughter is now honored as St. Catherine of Sweden. Her youngest daughter was Cecilia Ulvsdotter. Bridget became known for her works of charity, particularly toward Östergötland’s unwed mothers and their children. When she was in her early thirties, she was summoned to be principal lady-in-waiting to the new Queen of Sweden, Blanche of Namur. In 1341 she and her husband went on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

In 1344, shortly after their return, Ulf died at the Cistercian Alvastra Abbey in Östergötland. After this loss, Birgitta became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis and devoted herself wholly to a life of prayer and caring for the poor and the sick.

It was about this time that she developed the idea of establishing the religious community which was to become the Order of the Most Holy Saviour, or the Brigittines, whose principal house at Vadstena was later richly endowed by King Magnus IV of Sweden and his queen. One distinctive feature of the pre-Reformation houses of the Order was that they were double monasteries, with both men and women forming a joint community, though with separate cloisters. They were to live in poor convents and to give all surplus income to the poor. However, they were allowed to have as many books as they pleased.

In 1350, a Jubilee Year, Bridget braved a plague-stricken Europe to make a pilgrimage to Rome accompanied by her daughter, Catherine, and a small party of priests and disciples. This was done partly to obtain from the Pope the authorization of the new Order and partly in pursuance of her self-imposed mission to elevate the moral tone of the age. This was during the period of the Avignon Papacy within the Roman Catholic Church, however, and she had to wait for the return of the papacy to Rome from the French city of Avignon, a move for which she agitated for many years.

It was not until 1370 that Pope Urban V, during his brief attempt to re-establish the papacy in Rome, confirmed the Rule of the Order, but meanwhile Birgitta had made herself universally beloved in Rome by her kindness and good works. Save for occasional pilgrimages, including one to Jerusalem in 1373, she remained in Rome until her death on 23 July 1373, urging ecclesiastical reform.

In her pilgrimages to Rome, Jerusalem and Bethlehem, she sent “back precise instructions for the construction of the monastery” now known as Blue Church, insisting that an “abbess, signifying the Virgin Mary, should preside over both nuns and monks.”

Bridget went to confession every day, and had a constant smiling face. Although she never returned to Sweden, her years in Rome were far from happy, being hounded by debts and by opposition to her work against Church abuses. She was originally buried at San Lorenzo in Panisperna before her remains were returned to Sweden. She was canonized in the year 1391 by Pope Boniface IX, which was confirmed by the Council of Constance in 1415. Because of new discussions about her works, the Council of Basel confirmed the orthodoxy of the revelations in 1436.

Visions

At the age of ten, Bridget had a vision of Jesus hanging upon the cross. When she asked who had treated him like this, he answered:

“              They who despise me, and spurn my love for them.          ”

She was so impressed that from that moment the Passion of Christ became the center of her spiritual life. The revelations she had received since childhood now became more frequent, and her records of these Revelationes coelestes (“Celestial revelations”) which were translated into Latin by Matthias, canon of Linköping, and by her confessor, Peter Olafsson, prior of Alvastra, obtained a great vogue during the Middle Ages. These revelations made Bridget something of a celebrity to some and a controversial figure to others.

Her visions of the Nativity of Jesus had a great influence on depictions of the Nativity of Jesus in art. Shortly before her death, she described a vision which included the infant Jesus as lying on the ground, and emitting light himself, and describes the Virgin as blond-haired; many depictions followed this and reduced other light sources in the scene to emphasize this effect, and the Nativity remained very commonly treated with chiaroscuro through to the Baroque. Other details often seen such as a single candle “attached to the wall,” and the presence of God the Father above, also come from Bridget’s vision.

The Virgin kneels to pray to her child, to be joined by Saint Joseph, and this (technically known as the “Adoration of the Child”) becomes one of the commonest depictions in the fifteenth century, largely replacing the reclining Virgin in the West. Versions of this depiction occur as early as 1300, well before Bridget’s vision, and have a Franciscan origin, by which she may have been influenced, as she was a member of the Franciscan Order. Her visions of Purgatory were also well known.

In addition, “she even predicted an eventual Vatican State, foretelling almost the exact boundaries delineated by Mussolini for Vatican City in 1921.”

Pope Benedict XVI spoke of Bridget in a general audience on 27 October 2010, saying that the value of Saint Bridget’s Revelations, sometimes the object of doubt, was specified by Pope John Paul II in the letter Spes Aedificandi: “Yet there is no doubt that the Church,” wrote my beloved predecessor, “which recognized Bridget’s holiness without ever pronouncing on her individual revelations, has accepted the overall authenticity of her interior experience.”

The Fifteen ‘Our Father and Hail Mary prayers

Saint Bridget prayed for a long time to know how many blows Jesus Christ suffered during His terrible Passion. Rewarding her patience, one day He appeared to her and said, “I received 5480 blows upon My Body. If you wish to honor them in some way, recite fifteen Our Fathers and fifteen Hail Marys with the following Prayers, which I Myself shall teach you, for an entire year. When the year is finished, you will have honored each of My Wounds.”

The prayers became known as the “Fifteen O’s”, because in the original Latin, each prayer began with the words O Jesu, O Rex, or O Domine Jesu Christe. Some have questioned whether Saint Bridget is in fact their author; Eamon Duffy reports that the prayers probably originated in England, in the devotional circles that surrounded Richard Rolle or the English Brigittines.

Whatever their origin, the prayers were quite widely circulated in the late Middle Ages, and became regular features in Books of Hours and other devotional literature. They were translated into various languages; an early English language version of them was printed in a primer by William Caxton. The prayers themselves reflect the late medieval tradition of meditation on the passion of Christ, and are structured around the seven last words of Christ. They borrow from patristic and Scriptural sources as well as the tradition of devotion to the wounds of Christ.

During the Middle Ages, the prayers began to circulate with various promises of indulgence and other assurances of supernatural graces supposed to attend from their regular recitation over the course of a year. These indulgences were repeated in the manuscript tradition of the Books of Hours, and may constitute one major source of the prayers’ popularity in the late Middle Ages. They promise, among other things, the release from Purgatory of fifteen of the devotee’s family members, and that they would keep fifteen living family members in a state of grace.

The extravagance of the promises made in these rubrics – one widely circulated version promised that the devotee would receive “his heart’s desire, if it be for the salvation of his soul” — attracted critics early and late. In 1538, William Marshall enjoined his readers to “henseforth … forget suche prayers as seynt Brigittes & other lyke, whyche greate promyses and perdons haue falsly auaunced.” In 1954, the Acta Apostolicae Sedis found the alleged promises (though not the prayers themselves) unreliable, and directed local ordinaries not to permit the circulation of pamphlets containing the promises.

Veneration

In 1651 the Brigitta Chapel was erected in Vienna, and in 1900 the new district Brigittenau was founded. In Sweden, adjacent to Skederid Church, built by Bridget’s father on the family’s land, a memorial stone was erected in 1930.

On 1 October 1999 Pope John Paul II named Saint Bridget as a patron saint of Europe. Her feast day is celebrated on 23 July, the day of her death. Her feast was not in the Tridentine Calendar, but was inserted in the General Roman Calendar in 1623 for celebration on 7 October, the day of her 1391 canonization by Pope Boniface IX. Five years later, her feast was moved to 8 October (although the Church in Sweden celebrates it on the 7th), where it remained until the revision of the General Roman Calendar in 1969, when it was set on the date currently used. Some continue to use the earlier General Roman Calendar of 1954, the General Roman Calendar of Pope Pius XII, or the General Roman Calendar of 1960.

The Third Order of St. Francis includes her feast day on its Calendar of Saints on same day as the general Church, honoring her as a member of the Order.

Bjärka-Säby Monastery has a portrait of Bridget of Sweden venerated by Christians of several denominations. An hour away from this monastery, Vadstena Abbey, also known as Blue Church, contains relics of the saint, with her body being venerated by both Lutheran and Catholic believers.

Source: Wikipedia