Those who argue that the Catholic Church is anti-woman clearly don’t know how much the Church honors and upholds women who are models of what it is to be a faithful child of God. From our Blessed Mother to female Doctors of the Church, there are no shortages of examples of why the argument is false.
With her feast of July 23rd around the corner, St. Bridget of Sweden serves as a shining example of why others are wrong. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in 2010, St. Bridget of Sweden is one of those women who, despite having lived several centuries ago, still has much to teach the Church and the world.
Here are five facts you should know about this inspiring saint, Bridget of Sweden.
Much is known about the life of St. Bridget of Sweden because her spiritual fathers were so struck by her holy life that they immediately began working on her biography shortly after her death in 1373. During her lifetime, she was so well known for her piety and charity towards the poor that King Magnus of Sweden asked her to help teach his wife, Blanche of Namur, the customs of ways of their people as a Lady-in-Waiting. She was canonized a saint on October 8, 1391, less than two decades after her death. Her original feast day was October 8th but is now celebrated on July 23rd.
Co-patroness of Europe
St. John Paul II named St. Bridget of Sweden co-patroness of the continent of Europe right before the Great Jubilee in 2000. She shares the patronage with two strong female saints: St. Catherine of Siena and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
One can take a look at her life and see why she’s perfect for the role. She made several Italian pilgrimages during her lifetime, especially to Assisi due to her devotion to St. Francis. She also did a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
When Popes Clement VI, Gregory XI, and Urban VI were displaced in Avignon, France, she urgently and ardently asked them to return to Rome. Sadly, she didn’t live long enough to see Pope Gregory XI follow her advice and return to Eternal City.
Saintly Wife and Mother
St. Bridget of Swedencame from Swedish nobility who were also devout Catholics that frequented confession and made many pilgrimages to the Holy Land. After her mother died when Bridget was only 12, she was raised by an equally devout aunt. The faith her family instilled in her continued to flourish in her for the rest of her.
This fervor was passed down to many her own children. Bridget of Sweden was a devoted mother to her 8 children and one of them, Catherine, even became a saint in her own right. Her husband of 28 years (until his death), Ulf, was greatly influenced by her example and even adopted the Rule of the Franciscan Tertiaries together in the latter part of their marriage.
Religious Order Foundress
After the death of her husband, St. Bridget of Sweden sold all her possessions and devoted the rest of her life to God. She founded the Order of the Most Holy Saviour (also known as the Bridgettines) at Vadstena, Sweden in 1346. Due to her inspiration, instruction, and friendship, King Magnus and his wife donated a palace and land to found a new monastery. However,Bridget of Sweden never saw the monastery as God had called her to go to Rome. Bridget left for Rome in 1349 in order to receive confirmation of her order and stayed there until her death. Pope Urban V confirmed her order in August 1370, only three years before her death.
St. Bridget of Sweden began receiving visions at the age of seven when she saw an image of a wounded Christ. These visions increased after the death of her husband and they were never in the same style nor did they have the same message. Standing in front of a crucifix inside the Church of St. Paul while on a trip to Rome, she had a vision of Christ. In this divine revelation, Jesus asked her to pray 15 specific prayers per day for a year in honor of the 5840 wounds he received during this Passion. During one of the visions, she asked him who had hurt him. He replied, “Those who despise me and refuse my love for them.”
These facts are only scratching the surface about Bridget of Sweden. Although some of her revelations are still criticized to this day, we can remember what St. John Paul II said about Bridget of Sweden: “The Church, which recognized Bridget’s holiness without ever pronouncing on her individual revelations, has accepted the overall authenticity of her interior experience.”
May we, like countless other people before us, learn from Bridget of Sweden’s example and may she intercede for us so that we may grow in holiness as once did. St. Bridget of Sweden, pray for us.