Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Feast of St. Bridget of Sweden, Wife, Mother, Mystic

Altarpiece in Salem church,
Södermanland, Sweden

St. Brigid was born in in 1303,  in Uppland, Sweden, her father a wealthy knight, her mother of noble descent. When she was just 14 years old Brigid married a nobleman named Ulf Gudmarsson  and together they had eight children, four daughters and four sons, all of whom survived to adulthood -- something which was very rare in the fourteenth century.  Brigid (or Birgitta) became well known for her saintly and charitable life and was successful in her religious influence over her husband, Ulf, converting him to a pious life, as well as raising model children, one  who achieved the highest virtue being her daughter, St. Catherine of Sweden.   
After Ulf died in 1344, Brigid became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis and devoted herself wholly to a life of prayer and caring for the poor and the sick.  She eventually established the Order of the Most Holy Saviour, or the Brigittines, though it took many years to have it confirmed due to the confusion caused by the Great Schism within the Church at that time. Because she was constantly championing the cause of her order, St. Brigid spent the majority of her later life in Rome, and finally died there in July of 1373, only three years after the Brigittines were made an official Order of the Church by Pope Urban V. She was originally buried in Rome, but her remains were eventually returned to Sweden. She was canonized in the year 1391 by Pope Boniface IX.  Because she was a visionary, the Council of Basel officially confirmed her  writings concerning her revelations in 1436.

About Those Visions...
It seems that even as a child, St. Brigid had vision, but as she became an adult they became more frequent.  She recorded these in her "Celestial Revelations," at the directive of her Confessor, Peter, the Prior of Alvastra.  Her revelations were many and included such things as visions of Purgatory, but the most famous of her visions were of  Jesus' Nativity, and her descriptions of that holy event had a great influence on on art at that time.  Here is an excerpt:
...the Virgin knelt down with great veneration in an attitude of prayer, and her back was turned to the manger.... And while she was standing thus in prayer, I saw the child in her womb move and suddenly in a moment she gave birth to her son, from whom radiated such an ineffable light and splendour, that the sun was not comparable to it, nor did the candle that St. Joseph had put there, give any light at all, the divine light totally annihilating the material light of the candle.... I saw the glorious infant lying on the ground naked and shining. His body was pure from any kind of soil and impurity. Then I heard also the singing of the angels, which was of miraculous sweetness and great beauty...

The Miraculous Prayers of St. Bridget: The Fifteen O's
Saint Bridget had long prayed to know how many blows Jesus Christ suffered during the Passion.  In answer to her patience, Our Lord appeared to her and said: 
"I received 5480 blows upon My Body. If you wish to honor them in some way, recite fifteen Our Fathers and fifteen Hail Marys with the following Prayers, which I Myself shall teach you, for an entire year. When the year is finished, you will have honored each of My Wounds."
The prayers became known as the Fifteen O's, because in the original Latin, each prayer began with the words O Jesu, O Rex, or O Domine Jesu Christe.  They can be found in their entirety on this webpage.   It is a simpler devotion, as well, to devote fifteen Paters and fifteen Aves every night for a year in honor of Our Lord's Passion.  Alternatively, some pray five of each every night for three years, etc...

St. Brigid is the patron saint of widows, of Europe, in general, and of Sweden, in particular.  But, being the successful mother of a large family, I believe she would happily attend to the petitions of mothers, as well!

A coloring page for the day:
Click and print to color.
*  Does this look familiar?   It's a repost from last year...

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