My Lord Jesus, you are truly the head of all men and angels, the worthy King of kings and Lord of lords; and you do all your works out of true and ineffable love." With such words Saint Bridget (or Birgitta) of Sweden addressed Christ. It was the tenor of her conversation with the Holy One for most of her long life--a life crowded with child rearing, visions and prophecies, travels and appeals for holiness.
Born the daughter of a governor, Bridget married Ulf Gudmarsson when she was just fourteen. For many years she was mistress of his estate at Ulfasa and bore him four sons and four daughters. She was a little past forty when he died. Before that, she was summoned to serve as a maid in waiting to Queen Blanche of Namur. She made every effort to win King Mangus II and Queen Blanche to holy living, but the pair were irresponsible and she had no success. Eventually she obtained leave of absence from the court. Already she was being teased because of visions and dreams she had recounted. "What was the Lady Bridget dreaming about last night?" she was asked.
Bridget crisscrossed Sweden to minister to the people. While her chaplains preached; she worked miracles of healing which cemented the folk in their new faith. The visions continued. Bridget had begun writing them down. Afraid that they might be from the devil, she submitted them to holy men who assured her they were of God. Among the revelations she received were calls for the pope to leave Avignon and return to Rome. She also made predictions. Pope Urban V and Charles would meet in peace, she said. They did. She warned Urban that if he left Rome he would soon die. He left and died within four months. Another of her revelations said she was to form a new order for the purification of the church. The result was the Order of the Most Holy Savior, generally known as the Bridgittines.
The Bridgittines received Gregory XI's approval in 1370. The order was based on the Augustine rule. Each house consisted of nuns and thirteen monks as well as a few male assistants, all governed by the Abbess. However, the ranking monk would be spiritual leader of the community. The order's primary purpose was contemplative. The monks and nuns were allowed as many books as they wanted. Consequently the nunnery at Vadstena, the first of several she founded, became a literary center to Sweden. King Mangus, by the way, frightened by her warnings, funded this convent.
Bridget toured the holy land where she experienced numerous revelations. Pope Benedict XIV said they were not matters of divine faith. In other words, they were not 100% reliable. Bridget died on July 23, 1373, just after her return from Palestine. She was in her seventies and had been ailing. She left behind a reputation of kindliness and meekness. Her daughter, Catherine of Sweden, also was canonized as a saint of the church.
- "Bridgettine Order." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.
- Butler, Alban. Lives of the Saints. Westminster, Maryland: Christian Classics, 1981, 1956. Oct 8.
- Hirsch, J.P. "St. Bridget of Sweden." The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1914.
- Medeltiden, Aldre. Sveriges Historia. Stockholm: Norstedt and Soners, 1926.
- Women in the Medieval Church. Christian History. Vol. X No. 2.