July 22, 2016

July 23rd: Optional Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden

St. Bridget of Sweden
Saint Bridget died on this date in 1376. She was born into a devout family. Her mother was deeply pious; her father went to confession every Friday and made pilgrimages to the Holy Land. At 13, Bridget married, Ulf Gudmarsson with whom she had eight children. Following the death of her husband, she founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior, erecting a double monastery for monks and nuns at Vadstena. It was an order primarily for women, ruled by an abbess. The brothers had as their head a Confessor General who was responsible for the spiritual formation of both convents. The Order soon spread quickly throughout continental Europe. St. Bridget is one of three co-patronesses of Europe and the patron saint of Sweden.

St. Bridget is famous for her Revelations concerning the sufferings of our Lord. At the age of ten, Bridget had a vision of Jesus hanging upon the cross. When she asked who had treated him so cruelly He answered: "They who despise me, and spurn my love for them." She was so impressed that from then on, the Passion of Christ became the center of her spiritual life. These revelations became more frequent, and her records of these Revelationes coelestes ("Celestial revelations") were translated into Latin and widely read during the Middle Ages.

Click to recite the 15 prayers Jesus gave St. Bridget in honor of His Passion.

The Life of St. Bridget

Bridget was born in Sweden of noble and pious parents, and led a most holy life. While she was yet unborn, her mother was saved from shipwreck for her sake. At ten years of age, Bridget heard a sermon on the Passion of our Lord; and the next night she saw Jesus on the cross, covered with fresh blood, and speaking to her about his Passion. Thenceforward meditation on that subject affected her to such a degree, that she could never think of our Lord's sufferings without tears.

She was given in marriage to Ulfo prince of Nericia; and won him, by example and persuasion, to a life of piety. She devoted herself with maternal love to the education of her children. She was most zealous in serving the poor, especially the sick; and set apart a house for their reception, where she would often wash and kiss their feet. Together with her husband, she went on pilgrimage to Compostella, to visit the tomb of the apostle St. James. On their return journey, Ulfo fell dangerously ill at Arras; but St. Dionysius, appearing to Bridget at night, foretold the restoration of her husband's health, and other future events.

Ulfo became a Cistercian monk, but died soon afterwards. Whereupon Bridget, having heard the voice of Christ calling her in a dream, embraced a more austere manner of life. Many secrets were then revealed to her by God. She founded the monastery of Vadstena under the rule of our Savior, which was given her by our Lord himself. At his command, she went to Rome, where she kindled the love of God in very many hearts. She made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; but on her return to Rome she was attacked by fever, and suffered severely from sickness during a whole year. On the day she had foretold, she passed to heaven, laden with merits. Her body was translated to her monastery of Vadstena; and becoming illustrious for miracles, she was enrolled among the saints by Boniface IX.

Excerpted from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

St. Bridget founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior (Bridgettines) at Vadstena in 1346. It received confirmation by Pope Urban V in 1370, and survives today. The new branch of the order was refounded by Blessed Elisabeth Hesselblad and has grown substantially, around the world.

Patron: Europe; Sweden; widows.

Symbols: Pilgrim's staff, bottle and wallet; open book and dove; crosier, lute and chain; taper; heart charged with cross; book; head and cross; pilgrim's staff.

Often Portrayed As: Abbess in Bridgettine robes with a cross on her forehead, and holding a book and pilgrim's staff; 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.

Collect Prayer

O God, who guided Saint Bridget of Sweden along different paths of life and wondrously taught her the wisdom of the Cross as she contemplated the Passion of your Son, grant us, we pray, that, walking worthily in our vocation, we may seek you in all things. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer to St. Bridget of Sweden

O St. Bridget of Sweden, God revealed heavenly secrets to you as you meditated on the Passion of Jesus. Grant that I may attain the joyful contemplation of His Passion and Glory to be with you and Jesus in heaven. Amen.

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