Saint of the Day – 8 October – St Bridget of Sweden (c 1303-1373) Widow – Patronages – Europe, Sweden, widows.
St Bridget, Widow
By Fr Francis Xavier Lasance (1860-1946
St Bridget, known in the entire Church of God, on account of the many divine revelations with which she was graced, was born in Sweden, of noble and pious parents. Shortly before the birth of Bridget, her mother was in great danger of shipwreck but was miraculously saved. In the following night, a venerable old man appeared to her, who said: “God has saved your life on account of the child to whom you will give birth. Educate it carefully, for it will arrive at great holiness.” This command was faithfully followed by the pious mother as long as she lived. After her death, Bridget, then only seven years old, was given into the charge of a very devout aunt, who brought her up most piously.
When ten years of age, she heard a sermon on the bitter passion and death of our Lord, which made a deep impression on her young and tender heart. In the following night, Christ appeared to her, hanging on the Cross, while streams of blood flowed from His wounds. Bridget, deeply moved, cried out: “O, Lord, who has so maltreated thee?” “Those who despise My love,” answered Christ, that is, those who transgress My laws and are ungrateful for My immeasurable love for them. This vision remained in Bridget’s memory and caused her, from that hour, to manifest the most tender devotion to the Passion and Death of the Saviour, of which she could never think without shedding tears.
This vision was followed by many others, especially during her prayers, which the Saint loved so well that it seemed as if no other occupation could give her joy or contentment. She often rose quietly during the night and passed hours in pious meditation. She also used many ways and means, to mortify her delicate body, so as to resemble, in silently enduring pain, Him Who had suffered so infinitely more for her.
In obedience to her father, she, at the age of thirteen, gave her hand to Ulpho, Prince of Nericia, whose heart she won so entirely by her amiability and sweetness of manners, that she weaned him, in a short time, from gaming, immoderate luxury in dress and other similar faults and induced him to lead a life pleasing to God, by his assiduity in prayer and in going to Confession. She lived with him in undisturbed love and harmony. She was also very solicitous for her domestics and allowed nothing that might offend the Almighty or prevent His blessing from coming upon her house.
She became the mother of four sons and as many daughters. Two of her sons died in their innocence; two while travelling in the Holy Land. Two of her daughters lived at Court, and became models of all virtues. The third became a Nun and led a holy life and the fourth, Catherine, was numbered among the Saints; which is evidence of the pious care with which St. Bridget educated her children. She herself instructed them in religion and in the way of living piously and led them, from their most tender years, to practise works of charity and mortification, being an example to them in all virtuous deeds.
With the consent of Ulpho, she founded a hospital and waited daily, at certain hours, like a servant, on the poor and sick resident there. She often washed their feet, kissing them most reverentially.
Her husband became dangerously ill on his return from Compostella, whither he had gone with St Bridget, to visit the tomb of the holy Apostle St James. But St Dionysius, who appeared to Bridget, announced to her, besides other future events, that Ulpho would soon recover. She soon saw this prophecy fulfilled and had atoo, the joy of perceiving that Ulpho was disgusted with the world and desired to end his life in retirement. With the permission of his pious spouse, he went into a Cistercian Monastery, where he ended his life most devoutly.
Bridget lived thirty years after her husband had entered a Monastery and, being free from many former cares and anxieties, she devoted herself with great zeal, to a most perfect and penitential life. Her temporal possessions she gave to her children, clothed herself in a penitential robe, and unweariedly practised acts of devotion, charity and penane. She fasted four times in the week and on Friday, took only water and bread. She gave the greater part of the night to prayer, spending whole hours prostrate before the Crucifix or the Blessed Sacrament. Every Friday she let fall a few drops of boiling wax into a wound which she had, to remember, by the pain this gave her, the suffering of our Lord. She daily fed twelve poor persons and served them at table. She founded a Convent for sixty Nuns and gave them a Rule, which she had received from Christ Himself. These regulations were afterwards adopted by many houses of Religious men. This was the origin of the celebrated Brigittine Order. St Bridget herself, entered a Convent which she had founded and was a shining light to all in the practice of virtue.
Having lived there for two years, she was commanded, in a vision, to make a pilgrimage to Rome, with her daughter Catherine and thence to the Holy Land. On her return, a malignant fever seized her, which greatly increased when she had arrived at Rome and lasted a whole year. The great pains she suffered were made easy to her, by the thought of the bitter passion of our Saviour and for love of Him, she was willing to endure much more. She derived the greatest comfort from a vision in which God appeared to her and assured her of her salvation. The hour of her death was also made known to her by Divine revelation. She prepared herself most carefully for her end and after receiving the holy Sacraments, she breathed her last in the arms of her holy daughter and, rich in merits and virtues, went to receive her reward in Heaven, in the 71st. year of her age, in the year 1373. Before and after her death, God wrought many and great miracles by her intercession. Her body was taken to Sweden on the 7th of this month.