Saint Bridget of Sweden
Also known as: Birgitta of
Sweden; Birgit of Sweden
Saint Bridget of Sweden was one of the most charismatic figures in the late medieval mystical tradition. She was born June 14, 1303 to Birger Persson, a governor, judge and wealthy land owner and Ingeborg Bengtsdotter, a deeply pious woman. Her father was one of the wealthiest landholders of the country, and, like her mother, distinguished by deep piety. Birger's daughter received a careful religious training. When only seven Bridget had a vision in which our Lady placed a crown on her head, and when ten, after a sermon on the Passion, she saw in a dream Christ wounded and bleeding. These two experiences seem to have been the formative ones of her life. When Bridget was 12, her mother died, and she was raised by an aunt at Aspenaes on Lake Sommen. When she was 14, she was wedded to 18-year-old prince Ulf Gunmarsson. The fruit of their happy, 28-year marriage was eight children, including another saint, Karin or Catherine of Sweden. Their four sons died young, two during one of the crusades. After some years she and her husband separated by mutual consent; he entered the Cistercian Order.
The saintly life and the great charity of Bridget soon made
her name known far and wide. She was acquainted with several learned and pious
theologians, among them Nicolaus Hermanni, later Bishop of Linköping, Matthias,
canon of Linköping, her confessor, Peter, Prior of Alvastrâ, and Peter Magister,
her confessor after Matthias. She was later at the court of King Magnus
Eriksson, over whom she gradually acquired great influence. Early in the forties
(1341-43) in company with her husband she made a pilgrimage to Santiago de
Compostella. On their return to Sweden, Ulfo, with his wife's consent, entered a
Cistercian monastery, where he died soon after, in the odor of sanctity. After
his death St. Bridget renounced her rank of Princess and changed her habit.
She founded a religious order of nuns, called Brigittines, 1346, at Vadstena, Sweden. It received confirmation by Pope Urban V in 1370. In 1349 she journeyed to Rome and remained there until her death, except while absent on pilgrimages, the most important of which was to the Holy Land. Bridget established a hospice for Swedish students and pilgrims at Rome. She played an important part in influencing Urban V to return to Rome from Avignon (1367). She is represented praying before a crucifix, holding an image of the Blessed Virgin. Canonized, 1391. St. Bridget is known for the revelations she received on the wounds and passion of Jesus, known as the 15 Prayers of St. Bridget. She died July 23, 1373 and was canonized on October 7, 1391. In 1999, Pope John Paul II chose Birgitta as Europe's patron saint.
Patronage: Europe, Sweden, widows
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