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Catholic Heroes… St. Bridget

July 6, 2021 saints No Comments


St. Bridget (1303-1396), mystic and saint, was born after her mother had just been saved from drowning. Afterward, her mother was told by an angel who appeared that she had been rescued so as to give life to Bridget. She was one of three children to survive childhood; four others did not.
Born in Uppland, east-central Sweden, at age seven Bridget saw her first vision. In the dream she was proffered and accepted a heavenly crown. Three years later, at ten, she saw Christ crucified, and blood coursing from His wounds.
Her mother, related to the royal family, was most pious. Another close relative was also a saint, St. Ingrid, who had died twenty years before Bridget’s birth.
Her wealthy father was a knight and governor, but sadly her mother died when Bridget was only 13. Her father was already offering her in marriage. She had hoped to offer her life to God, but agreed to her father’s wishes. Her husband, Ulf Gudmarsson, was a young nobleman of 18. The two did not consummate the marriage for a year or two, asking God to accept their offering so as to offer Him holy children. They gave life to eight, one of whom became St. Catherine of Sweden. They were a couple united in holiness of mind and intent.
Especially impressive for the times, the couple made the long pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela together. Her husband grew ill but still made it back, though he died at a monastery on his return in 1344. Thereafter Bridget devoted herself more and more to all things spiritual.
She had the gift of prophecy, miracles took place in her presence, and she became one of the most familiar saints of the Middle Ages. Her Revelations, visions put to paper and later translated into Latin and other languages, numbered over 1,500 pages in length and were extremely popular at the time, a valuable deposit for the faithful.
Her work included founding the Brigittine order. St. Bridget dressed below her station, prayed, fasted, and continued to see more and more as God chose to share with her. She likewise advised the King and Queen of the country until such time as the Lord wished her to go to Rome. She took her daughter Catherine with her and they advocated bringing the Pope, then in Avignon, back to Rome.
Bridget would visit many Italian cities, and even, in 1371-1372, the Holy Land. However, she did not return to Sweden until her body was returned there for burial after her death. The patron saint of Sweden, as she came to be known, was canonized very quickly, less than 25 years after she died.
Among the writings she left behind are the famous Fifteen Prayers of St. Bridget on the Passion of Our Lord, approved by Pope Pius IX. For some time, she had prayed, wanting to know how many blows Christ had rain down upon His sacred Body. One day when He appeared, He told her: “I received 5,480 blows on my body. If you wish to honor them in some way, say 15 Our Fathers and 15 Hail Marys with the following prayers [He taught her] and you will have honored each one of my wounds.” These prayers may be found easily on the Internet or in the TAN booklet, Revelations of St. Bridget, for instance. Those who say the prayers are honored with certain promises.
October 1, 1999, Pope St. John Paul II issued a motu proprio when named Bridget, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Edith Stein as co-patronesses of Europe. (There are six total European patron saints.) Speaking of Bridget:
“Her profound union with Christ was accompanied by special gifts of revelation, which made her a point of reference for many people in the Church of her time. Bridget was recognized as having the power of prophecy, and at times her voice did seem to echo that of the great prophets of old. She spoke unabashedly to princes and pontiffs, declaring God’s plan with regard to the events of history. She was not afraid to deliver stern admonitions about the moral reform of the Christian people and the clergy themselves.”
After all, God is not to be mocked. His tone as it comes across in the excerpts read from the Revelations comes across sternly, due to the hurt to which He has been subjected repeatedly.
“Jesus speaks: I had three things in My death. First Faith, when I bent My knees and prayed, knowing that the Father could deliver Me from My Passion. Second, Hope, when I waited so constantly and said, ‘Not as I will.’ Third, Charity, when I said, ‘Thy will be done.’ How then do they deserve to enter into My glory who have little faith, vain hope, and no charity? If, indeed, they had the faith of eternal joy and horrible punishment, they would desire naught but Me.
“Did they believe that I know and see all things, and am powerful over all things, and see judgment of all, the earth would grow vile to them, and they would be more afraid of sin before Me for fear of Me, than before men. Had they firm hope, then their whole mind and thought would be to Me. Had they divine charity, they would at least think in mind what I did for them….So when they cry out to me and say, ‘Have mercy on me O God, they do not deserve to be heard, nor to enter into my Glory’.”
Post Note: One can still visit the home of St. Bridget Vadstena Abbey today. Located along the water, there are even limited pilgrim quarters there and a restaurant on site. Apparently, she is honored by Lutherans as well as by Catholics. While services are held, it is unclear what domination and how often, given the current COVID situation. Another question also remains, namely, what relics are in situ in the abbey? We don’t mean to be too graphic, but after her death, St. Bridget was boiled and her bones interred in a reliquary at Vadstena. As time marched on, relics of over 20 other persons, including her saintly daughter, were added to the mix. But one skull went missing, stolen in 1645. Nevertheless, it was still presumed over the years that the remaining two skulls were those of mother Bridget and daughter Catherine. That is, until 2010.
Mitochondrial DNA analysis reveals the relationship between female relatives, and an analysis undertaken found that the two skulls, which should have matched, were in no way related! Moreover, one predated Bridget’s life, the other postdated hers. This mystery may have to simply remain shrouded for now in mystery, and as no doubt other relics are at the site, prayers may be said in any case.
St. Bridget, pray for Sweden, intercede for Europe, and aid all those of Swedish extraction throughout the world today!
Her feast day is July 23.

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