BRIGIDA: bride and happy mother of a large family
Brigida in the gothic etymology means “luminous”, was born in 1302. Her father Birger was governor of the region of the Upland. She appears to have had her first vision at the age of 12.
According to the customs of the time, Bridget was given in marriage very young: she was only 14 years old. From her marriage with Ulf Gudmarsson eight children were born: four boys and four girls. Although historians tend not to exaggerate the influence of Bridget on Ulf, however it seems that their marriage was not only happy but also in the light of God.
Bridget was also appreciated for her pedagogical skills. She expressed these gifts first in court as a guardian of Bianca, the young bride of King Magnus Eriksson, and then throughout her life as a wise and tender mother and educator of her eight children. It is no coincidence that one of her daughters became Saint Catherine of Sweden.
In 1341 Bridget and her husband Ulf undertook a long pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. A pilgrimage that made her travel through Europe, from north to south, making her aware of the situation of the divided Church, with the Pope residing in Avignon. On his return Ulf became seriously ill and eventually died on February 12, 1344 in a Cistercian monastery at Alvastra.
It is from this painful moment, the loss of her husband, that Bridget began the second part of life. Returning to Sweden, she renounced all her possessions and began a life of penance and prayer in a monastic house. It was here that the first revelations began, whose authenticity was witnessed by her confessors and spiritual directors, to whom Bridget always obeyed.
During these years of intense contemplation and prayer, God made known to her her mission through these revelations. From the genuine contemplation of God and his glory, she was called to action for God and for his kingdom. In 1349 accompanied by her confessors and her daughter Catherine, Bridget left for Rome leaving Sweden forever and became “Roman” by adoption. Pope Clement VI wrote of her: The transfer to Italy constituted a decisive stage of enlargement, not only of geographical and cultural, but above all spiritual, of the mind and heart of Bridget”.
The basis of Bridget’s spiritual experience is the mystical union. Bridget called herself “Bride of Christ” and described with passionate words the ineffable sweetness that this union gave her. Her main desire was “to love God with all her heart … in denying herself and her own will.” This ardent fusion of will found its reward in the singular grace of the spirit of mystical ecstasy.
The mystical work of Bridget goes under the name of “Revelations”. It was written in Swedish and translated into Latin. The content is extremely varied. Sometimes the revelation takes the form of a dialogue between dear friends, the Virgin Mary, the saints and Bridget herself. Even the demons get some dialogue role. There is also the story of particular visions with the Virgin Mary as the protagonist. Also in these “Revelations” Bridget is a daughter of the fourteenth century. Expanding on the devotional themes dear to the spirituality of that century: devotion to the suffering Christ, recognition of the Virgin Mary as mediator, patron saints, trust in the guardian angel, faith and acceptance of God’s justice always tempered by infinite mercy . During a pilgrimage to Jerusalem she fell ill, only to become worse later; when she returned to Rome, she died on July 23, 1373, assisted by her daughter Catherine, to whom she had entrusted the Order of the Holy Savior. (O.SS.S).
She was initially buried in the Church of San Lorenzo in Damaso, before being transferred to the Swedish monastery of Vadstena. Some relics are preserved in Rome in the Churches of San Lorenzo in Panisperna and San Martino ai Monti.
Lastly: Bridget, despite having founded a religious order, with the male and female components unified in the government by a single Abbess, always remained herself a lay person. Also in the “Revelations” she makes one feel the fact of always being a woman, a bride, a mother of a family. Bridget feels herself always a mother: she has motherly tastes, she uses expressions and examples typical of a mother, the doctrine that she often exhibits is exposed in maternal light, it is interesting to note that both the Lord Jesus and the Virgin Mary willingly approve of this natural feeling in Bridget.
The “Revelations” are rightly considered one of the most important contributions to medieval Swedish literature. This work has earned Bridget the nickname “seer” or “Northern Mystic”. And the good done by this work over the centuries is enormous, just one example: St. Alphonsus of Liguori in “The Glories of Mary” often refers to the doctrine of the great Swedish Saint, contributing to her fame throughout the Church.