Feast Day : July 23
Patronage: against miscarriage; Sweden
Bridget of Sweden was born in 1303, the daughter of Birger, the governor of Upland, Sweden, and his second wife, Ingeborg, daughter of the governor of East Gothland. Her parents were pious and instilled in her a sense of religious devotion at an early age. Her father consecrated all Fridays to special acts of penance. Bridget’s mother died when she was 12, and she was raised by an aunt in Aspenas on Lake Sommen. Before she was 14, her father married her to Ulf Gudmarsson, the 18-year-old prince of Nericia in Sweden. The marriage was happy, and Bridget bore eight children. The last was a daughter, Catherine, who became St. Catherine of Sweden. In 1335, Bridget was summoned to be the principal lady-in-waiting to the queen of Sweden, Blanche of Namur. She did not like the loose lifestyle in court and tried to influence the royals, to no avail. She became known for her prophetic dreams and visions, many of them concerning politics and affairs of state. At the time, the Church was in upheaval; the pope resided in Avignon, not Rome, and many people felt there was a need for reform. From her visions, Bridget believed herself charged with a mission to work for reform. Sometime after 1340, she obtained a leave of absence, and she and Ulf made a pilgrimage to Compostela in Galicia, Spain. Ulf became ill and nearly died. The couple vowed to commit themselves to God in separate religious houses. Ulf died in 1344 at the Cistercian monastery of Alvastra. Bridget remained there for four years as a penitent. Meanwhile, her visions began troubling her and she feared she was being plagued by the Devil, or deluded by her own imagination. At the direction of a vision, she confided in Master Matthias, canon of Linköping, who pronounced the visions as from God. Thereafter, she dictated her visions to the prior at Alvastra, Peter, who recorded them in Latin. One vision instructed Bridget to warn the king about his sinful ways. This she did, and for a time he complied. Another vision instructed her to found a monastery at Vadstena on Lake Vattern. The monastery housed 60 nuns and in a separate house for men, 13 priests, four deacons and eight choir boys. The monastery was run according to instructions given in Bridget’s visions. The order, which became known as the Brigittines, was for women; the men were admitted to provide them spiritual instruction. In 1349 Bridget made a pilgrimage to Rome; she never returned to the monastery. Guided by her visions, she stayed to campaign for the return of the papacy to that city. Many of her revelations were uncomplimentary toward the Church and the pope. At St. Paul’s-outside- the Walls, the crucifix spoke to her while she prayed. At the Church of San Francesco a Ripa, a vision of St. Francis of Assisi invited her to eat and drink with him in his cell. She went to Assisi, and then spent two years touring shrines in Italy. She made herself unpopular with her predictions that the Romans would be punished for their sins. In 1371, a vision directed her to make what would be her last pilgrimage, to the Holy Land with Catherine, two sons and several others. In Naples, son Charles became involved with Queen Joanna I, despite the fact that they were both married. Bridget prayed for a resolution. Charles soon became ill and died in her arms, sending her into deep mourning. Bridget’s last pilgrimage was marked by many visions, including one from Christ that predicted her death and gave instructions for her burial and for the eventual editing of her revelations. She returned to Rome in March 1373 in poor health. Her condition deteriorated, and she died on July 23 at age 71. Peter of Alvastra administered last rites. Catherine had her body transferred to Vadstena.