Brigitta Birgersdotter was 10 years old when she heard a homily on the passion of Christ that left a deep impression in her mind.
The following night, in a vision, she saw Christ hanging on a cross. She asked, “Who has treated you thus? The answer, “They who despise Me, and spurn My love for them.”
The vision made a remarkable imprint in her and the Passion of Christ became the core of her spiritual life (Butler 4:53).
Mystic with varied concerns
Bridget or Brigitta was born on June 14, 1303, to a devout Christian couple. Her father, Birgen Persson, was governor of the province of Uppland and her mother, Ingeborg, was his second wife. She grew up with her aunt when her parents died.
She was 13 when she married Ulf Gudmarsson, who became governor of the province of Nericia. The couple, who lived happily for 28 years, had eight children. One of them came to be known as Saint Catherine of Sweden.
She was appointed by Magnus II, the King of Sweden, to be the principal lady in waiting of Blanch of Namur, his bride. While she continued receiving private revelations from God, Bridget tried to influence the royal couple to a life of holiness but “with little success.”
In 1344 Bridget and Ulf made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. On their return, they decided to live on a monastery, but Ulf died. She then lived near the Cistercian monastery of Alvastra.
Visions and revelations became more frequent. She shared them to the prior of the monastery, Peter Olafsson, who compiled them. She did not see the publication of the book, which was approved by the Church and first published in 1492.
Other revelations included the political and social implications prevailing during her lifetime. A courageous woman, she criticized the king and urged ecclesiastical reforms among princes, priests and bishops.
Bridget prophesied the friendly meeting of Emperor Charles IV and Pope Urban V (1362-1370). She strongly advocated for the return of the papacy in Rome, which set its office in Avignon in 1309 during Pope Clement V.
One of the revelations, which was realized, was her founding of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity of Bridgettines in 1346 at Vadstena, to reform monastic life. An order for both men and women, it shares a common church but with different enclosures. It was approved by Pope Urban V three years before she died. However, only the congregation of nuns, known as Bridgettines, exists today.
In “Imitation of Christ’s 72 disciples, there were 13 priests [12 apostles and Saint Paul] four deacons, eight lay brothers and in the nearby convent, 60 nuns, who by their prayers, were to sustain the preaching apostolate of the priests,” according to AJM Mausolfe and JK Mausolfe in Saint Companions for Each Day.
She made a pilgrimage to Holy Land in 1373 in obedience to a vision. Two years after her return to Rome, she died on July 23, 1373. Her body was brought to Valdstena, Sweden, for burial. She was canonized by Pope Benedict IX on October 7, 1391.
Damo-Santiago is a former regional director of the Department of Education National Capital Region. She is currently a faculty member of Mater Redemptoris Collegium in Calauan, Laguna, and of Mater Redemptoris College in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija.
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons