Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Saint Bridget of Sweden – Feast Day – July 23

Saint Bridget of Sweden was also called Birgitta Birgersdotter, Princess of Nericia or Birgitta of Vadstena. She was born in 1303 in Uppland, Sweden and died on July 23 1373 in Rome, Papal States at the age of 70 years. She was the founder of the Bridgettines nuns and monks. Her feast day is celebrated on July 23 every year in the Catholic Church.

Saint Bridget of Sweden Biography
Saint Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden
Saint Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden
Date of Birth 1303
Place of Birth Uppland, Sweden
Profession Founder of the Bridgettines nuns and monks
Place of Work Sweden and Rome, Italy
Date of Death July 23 1373
Place of Death Rome, Papal States
Feast Day July 23
Canonization By Pope Boniface IX on October 7 1391
Patron Saint of Europe, Sweden, Widows, Failures

Saint Bridget of Sweden Life History

Bridget’s father was Birger Persson, a knight from the wealthy family of Finsta and her mother was Ingeborg Bengtsdotter. She got married to Ulf Gudmarsson of the family of Ulvåsa, Lord of Närke in 1316 at the age of 13 years. They were blessed with eight children, four sons, and four daughters. Out of the eight children, six of them survived infancy. St Catherine of Sweden was her second daughter. 

When Bridget was ten years old, she had a vision of Jesus hanging upon the cross. She asked Jesus, “who had treated him like this?”, Jesus answered, “They who despise me, and spurn my love for them.” This impressed her so much that from then she made the Passion of Christ the center of her spiritual life.

Bridget received many revelations right from her childhood and the records of these Revelations called “Celestial revelations” were very fashionable in the Middle Ages. They made her become a controversial figure to a few people but to many, she looked like a celebrity.

One of her visions that was mostly depicted in art was that of the Nativity of Jesus which she had before her death. Bridget said that she saw the infant Jesus lying on the ground, and emitting light himself, and this light dimmed other sources of light. She saw the Blessed Virgin Mary as blond-haired, a candle or a small light source attached to the wall, and God the Father’s presence above.

Other visions of Saint Bridget of Sweden were;

  • Where she saw the Blessed Virgin Mary kneeling to pray to her Jesus, her child and is joined by Saint Joseph and another vision is that of Purgatory.
  • She predicted an eventual Vatican State, and exactly where the boundaries would be as demarcated in 1921 by Mussolini.

After praying for a very long time, Saint Bridget was finally told by Jesus, in a vision, to know how many blows He suffered during His Passion in Jerusalem. Jesus Christ told her that He received 5480 blows upon His Body and if she wished to honor them she, every day for an entire year, should recite the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father) fifteen times, Hail Mary fifteen times, and other Prayers which He would teach her. At the end of the year, she would have honored each of His Wounds.

Since in original Latin each prayer started with ‘O’, the prayers were often referred to as the “Fifteen O’s. In the Middle Ages, those who recited these prayers for at least one year were promised indulgence and other assurances of 21 supernatural graces. They also promised the release of fifteen of the devotee’s family members from Purgatory and also keep in a state of grace, fifteen living family members.

These many promises made Martin Luther to nickname St Bridget ‘The foolish Bridget’. This formed part of the disagreement between the Vatican and some protestant Churches like the Lutheran Church, such that in 1954 the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office found the alleged promises, not the prayers, to be unreliable. They directed that the circulation of pamphlets containing the promises be stopped. 

This started the process of ecumenical reconciliation between the Vatican and the Lutheran Church and on October 8 1991, Pope John Paul II and two Lutheran bishops were able to pray together in Rome during the 600th anniversary of St Bridget’s canonization.

Bridget had a good heart and performed many works of charity like caring for the single families in Östergötland. She and her husband went to Santiago de Compostela on pilgrimage in 1341 but in 1344 after returning from pilgrimage her husband Ulf died at the Cistercian Alvastra Abbey in Östergötland.

After becoming a widow, Bridget joined the Third Order of St Francis and continued with her works of charity and devoted herself to a prayerful life. In the midst of this life, God revealed to her that she can establish religious communities. She, therefore, established the Order of the Most Holy Saviour, or the Brigittines where they lived without luxury and gave their extra material things to the poor. This community consisted of both men and women but lived separately in a different cloister.

In 1350, Bridget together with her daughter, Catherine made a pilgrimage to Rome and in the process obtain the authorization of the new Order from the Pope. She had to remain in Rome until 1370 when Pope Urban V confirmed her Order. While she was there, she spoke up about ecclesiastical reforms, went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and also continued with her good works and gained recognition in Rome. 

She, however, with a smiling face, faced many challenges in Rome including debts and opposition from those who were against her agitation against Church abuses

While still in pilgrimage, Bridget told those who had been left in Östergötland, Sweden to build a monastery in Vadstena which is in the modern world known as Blue Church. 

Saint Bridget of Sweden never even saw the monastery in Vadstena. It is said that nothing she set out to do was ever realized. She never saw any nun in her own order, she never returned to Sweden but died, far away from home and she never managed to make peace between France and England. She can be called the Patroness of Failures.

Saint Bridget of Sweden Birth

Bridget was born in 1303 in Uppland, Sweden with the name Birgitta Birgersdotter. Her father was Birger Persson, a knight from the wealthy family of Finsta and her mother was Ingeborg Bengtsdotter.

Saint Bridget of Sweden Death 

Bridget never returned to Sweden and remained in Rome until she died on July 23 1373. She was buried at San Lorenzo in Panisperna but her remains were returned to Sweden and are preserved at Vadstena Abbey, also known as Blue Church.

Canonization

Saint Bridget of Sweden was canonized by Pope Boniface IX on October 7 1391. This was confirmed in 1415 by the Council of Constance and also in 1436 by the Council of Basel.

Saint Bridget of Sweden is the Patron Saint of 

She is the patron saint of Sweden, Widows and Europe. Pope John Paul II, on October 1 1999 named Saint Bridget as the patron saint of Europe.

Saint Bridget of Sweden Feast Day

Her feast day is celebrated on July 23 in the Catholic Church being the day of her death. Initially, the feast was celebrated on October 7, when she was canonized but five years later, it was moved to October 8. It remained here until 1969 when it was moved to August 23.

 

Saint Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden
Saint Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden

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