Saint of the Day – 24 March – St Catherine of Sweden (1331-1381) – Widow, Religious of the Brigittine Order also called the Order of St Saviour, Abbess – born in 1331 in Sweden and died of natural causes on 24 March 1381 (aged 50). Her cultus was confirmed by Pope Innocent VIII in 1484. Patronage – unborn children, mothers who suffer miscarriage, expectant mothers and those praying to conceive.
St Catherine was the fourth child of Saint Bridget of Sweden. At the time of her death St Catherine was head of the convent of Wadstena, founded by her mother hence the name, Catherine Vastanensis, by which she is occasionally called.
At the age of seven she was sent to the abbess of the convent of Riseberg to be educated and soon showed, like her mother, a desire for a life of self-mortification and devotion to spiritual things.
At the command of her father, when about thirteen or fourteen years old, she married a noble of German descent, Eggart von Kürnen. She at once persuaded her husband, who was a very religious man, to join her in a vow of chastity. Both lived in a state of virginity and devoted themselves to the exercise of Christian perfection and active charity. In spite of her deep love for her husband, Catherine accompanied her mother to Rome, where St Bridget went in 1349.
Soon after her arrival in that city Catherine received news of the death of her husband in Sweden. She now lived constantly with her mother, took an active part in St Bridget’s fruitful labours and zealously imitated her mother’s ascetic life.
Although the distinguished and beautiful young widow was surrounded by suitors, she steadily refused all offers of marriage.
In 1372 St Catherine and her brother, Birger, accompanied their mother on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. After their return to Rome St Catherine was with her mother in the latter’s last illness and death. In 1374, in obedience to St Bridget’s wish, Catherine brought back her mother’s body to Sweden for burial at Wadstena, of which foundation she now became the head. It was the motherhouse of the Brigittine Order, also called the Order of St Saviour. Catherine managed the convent with great skill and made the life there one in harmony with the principles laid down by its founder.
After some years, she returned to Rome to work for her mother’s canonisation. She stayed there five years and formed a close friendship with St Catherine of Siena (1347-1380).
Catherine died on 24 March 1381, mourned like her mother by the whole of Sweden. In 1484 Innocent VIII gave permission for her veneration as a saint.
Catherine wrote a devotional work entitled “Consolation of the Soul” (Sielinna Troest), largely composed of citations from the Scriptures and from early religious books but no copy is known to exist. Generally she is represented with a hind at her side, which is said to have come to her aid when unchaste youths sought to ensnare her.
Although she never experienced the pain of miscarriage herself, Catherine counselled women who had suffered a miscarriage or were experiencing complications in their pregnancy.
A traditional prayer to St Catherine reads:
Prayer to St Catherine for Consolation after a Miscarriage
Dear St Catherine,
patron of those who have suffered a miscarriage,
you know the dangers that await unborn infants.
Please intercede for me
that I may receive consolation from the loss I have suffered.
My soul has been deprived of peace
and I have forgotten what true happiness is.
As I mourn the loss of my child,
I place myself in the hands of God
and ask for strength to accept His will in all things,
for consolation in my grief
and for peace in my sorrow.
Glorious St Catherine,
hear my prayers and ask that God,
in good time,
grant me a healthy baby
who will become a true child of God.