Pope Benedict XVI- General Audiences
On St. Bridget of Sweden
"Together, Christian Spouses Can Follow a Path of Sanctity"
H.H. Benedict XVI
October 27, 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On the fervent eve of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Venerable
Servant of God John Paul II proclaimed St. Bridget of Sweden
co-patroness of the whole of Europe. This morning I would like to
present her figure, her message, and the reasons why this woman has much
to teach -- even today -- to the Church and to the world.
We know well the events of the life of St. Bridget because her spiritual
fathers wrote her biography to promote her process of canonization
immediately after her death, which took place in 1373. Bridget was born
70 years earlier, in 1303, in Finster, Sweden, a nation of Northern
Europe that had received the faith three centuries earlier with the same
enthusiasm with which the saint received it from her parents, who were
very pious individuals, belonging to noble families close to the
We can distinguish two periods in the life of this saint.
The first was characterized by her condition as a happily married woman.
Her husband was called Ulf and he was governor of an important district
of the Kingdom of Sweden. The marriage lasted 28 years, until Ulf's
death. Eight children were born to them, the second of whom, Karin
(Catherine), is venerated as saint. This is an eloquent sign of
Bridget's educational commitment in regard to her children. Moreover,
her pedagogic wisdom was appreciated to the point that Magnus, the king
of Sweden, called her to the court for a certain time, in order to
introduce his young wife, Blanche of Namur, to Swedish culture.
Bridget, spiritually guided by a learned religious who initiated her in
the study of the Scriptures, exercised a very positive influence on her
own family that, thanks to her presence, became a true "domestic
church." Together with her husband, she adopted the Rule of the
Franciscan Tertiaries. She practiced works of charity towards the
indigent with generosity; she also founded a hospital. Together with his
wife, Ulf learned to improve his character and to advance in the
Christian life. On returning from a long pilgrimage to Santiago de
Compostela, taken in 1341 with other members of the family, the spouses
matured the plan to live in continence, but shortly after, in the peace
of a monastery to which he had retired, Ulf concluded his earthly life.
The first period of Bridget's life helps us to appreciate what today we
could define an authentic "conjugal spirituality": Together, Christian
spouses can follow a path of sanctity, supported by the grace of the
sacrament of Marriage. Not infrequently, as happened in the lives of St.
Bridget and Ulf, it is the wife who with her religious sensibility, with
delicacy and gentleness, is able to make the husband follow a path of
faith. I am thinking, with recognition, of so many women who, day in day
out, still today illumine their families with their testimony of
Christian life. May the Spirit of the Lord fuel the sanctity of
Christian spouses, to show the world the beauty of marriage lived
according to the values of the Gospel: love, tenderness, mutual help,
fecundity in generating and educating children, openness and solidarity
to the world, participation in the life of the Church.
The second period of Bridget's life began when she became a widow. She
renounced further marriage to deepen her union with the Lord through
prayer, penance and works of charity. Hence, Christian widows can also
find in this saint a model to follow. In fact, on the death of her
husband, after distributing her goods to the poor, though without ever
acceding to religious consecration, Bridget established herself in the
Cistercian monastery of Alvastra. Here is where the divine revelations
began, which were with her for the rest of her life. They were dictated
by Bridget to her confessor-secretaries, who translated them from
Swedish into Latin and gathered them in an edition of eight books
entitled "Revelationes" (Revelations.) Added to the books was a
supplement, entitled "Revelationes Extravagantes" (Supplementary
St. Bridget's Revelations present a very varied content and style. At
times the revelation is presented in the form of dialogue between the
Divine Persons, the Virgin, the saints and also the demons; dialogues in
which Bridget also intervenes. At other times, instead, it is the
narration of a particular vision; and at others she narrates what the
Virgin Mary revealed to her on the life and mysteries of her Son. The
value of St. Bridget's Revelations, sometimes the object of doubt, was
specified by the Venerable John Paul II in the letter "Spes Aedificandi":
"Yet there is no doubt that the Church," wrote my beloved predecessor,
"which recognized Bridget's holiness without ever pronouncing on her
individual revelations, has accepted the overall authenticity of her
interior experience." (No. 5).
In fact, reading these Revelations we are faced with many important
topics. For example, the description returns frequently, with very
realistic details, of the Passion of Christ, to which Bridget always had
a special devotion, contemplating in it the infinite love of God for
men. On the mouth of the Lord who speaks to her, she puts these words:
"O, my friends, I love my sheep so tenderly that, if it were possible, I
would like to die many times again for each one of them, in the same way
that I suffered for the redemption of all" (Revelations, Book I, c. 59).
Also Mary's sorrowful maternity, which made her Mediator and Mother of
Mercy, is an argument that is repeated often in the Revelations.
Receiving these charisms, Bridget was conscious of being the recipient
of a gift of great predilection on the part of the Lord: "My daughter,"
we read in the first book of the Revelations, "I have chosen you for
myself, love me with all your heart ... more than everything that exists
in the world" (c. 1). Moreover, Bridget knew well, and was firmly
convinced that every charism is destined to build the Church. Precisely
for this reason, not a few of her revelations were directed, in the form
of warnings, including severe ones, to the believers of her time,
including the religious and political authorities, so that they would
live their Christian life coherently; but she did this with an attitude
of respect and complete fidelity to the magisterium of the Church, in
particular to the Successor of the Apostle Peter.
In 1349, Bridget left Sweden for the last time and went on pilgrimage to
Rome. Not only did she wish to participate in the Jubilee of 1350, but
she also wished to obtain from the Pope the approval of the rule of a
religious order that she wanted to found, dedicated to the Holy Savior,
and made up of monks and nuns under the authority of an abbess. This is
an element that should not surprise us: In the Middle Ages there were
monasteries founded with masculine and feminine branches, but with the
practice of the same monastic rule, which provided for the direction of
an abbess. In fact, the great Christian tradition recognizes the dignity
proper to women, as well as -- taking as an example Mary, Queen of the
Apostles -- her own place in the Church that, without coinciding with
the ordained priesthood, is also important for the spiritual growth of
the Community. Moreover, the collaboration of consecrated men and women,
always with respect toward their specific vocation, is of great
importance in today's world.
In Rome, in the company of her daughter Karin, Bridget dedicated herself
to a life of intense apostolate and prayer. And from Rome she went on
pilgrimage to several Italian shrines, in particular to Assisi, homeland
of St. Francis, to whom Bridget always had great devotion. Finally, in
1371, she crowned her greatest desire: her trip to the Holy Land, where
she went in the company of her spiritual children, a group that Bridget
called "the friends of God."
During those years, the Pontiffs were in Avignon, far from Rome: Bridget
addressed them earnestly, urging them to return to the See of Peter in
the Eternal City.
She died in 1373, before Pope Gregory XI returned definitively to Rome.
She was buried provisionally in the Roman church of St. Lawrence in
Panisperna, but in 1374 her children Birger and Karin, took her back to
her homeland, to the monastery of Vadstena, headquarters of the
religious order founded by St. Bridget, which immediately enjoyed a
notable expansion. In 1391, Pope Boniface IX canonized her solemnly.
Bridget's sanctity, characterized by the multiplicity of gifts and
experiences that I wished to recall in this brief biographic-spiritual
profile, makes her an eminent figure in the history of Europe. Coming
from Scandinavia, St. Bridget attests how Christianity had permeated
profoundly the life of all the peoples of this continent. Declaring her
co-patroness of Europe, Pope John Paul II hoped that St. Bridget -- who
lived in the 14th century, when Western Christianity had not yet been
wounded by division -- can intercede effectively before God, to obtain
the much-awaited grace of the full unity of all Christians. We want to
pray, dear brothers and sisters, for this same intention, which we
consider so important, so that Europe will be able to be nourished from
its own Christian roots, invoking the powerful intercession of St.
Bridget of Sweden, faithful disciple of God, co-patroness of Europe.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[The Holy Father then greeted the pilgrims in several languages. In
English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Our catechesis today is on Saint Bridget of Sweden. Born in thirteen
hundred and three, she grew up steeped in the faith. She and her husband
had eight children, and dedicated themselves with great fervour to the
spiritual life and their children's Christian formation. Bridget was the
driving force behind her and her husband's "conjugal sanctity," and
became a model for many women through the ages of how to be the
spiritual centre of the family. Following her husband's death, Bridget
renounced further marriage in order to deepen her union with the Lord,
through prayer, penance and works of charity. She gave away her
possessions and lived in a monastery. In her prayer, she experienced
many intense mystical experiences. In thirteen forty-nine, she made a
pilgrimage to Rome, to obtain Papal approval for a religious order of
both men and women which she intended to found, and, while in Rome, she
lived a life of intense apostolic prayer and activity. Bridget died in
thirteen seventy-three, and was canonized eighteen years later. She is a
significant reminder of a united Western Christendom, a powerful example
of feminine sanctity, and was proclaimed co-Patroness of Europe by the
Venerable John Paul the Second, during the great Jubilee. May her
intercession help unite all Christians, and draw the people of Europe to
an ever greater appreciation of their unique and invaluable Christian
I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors
present today. In particular, I extend greetings to the Bridgetine
Sisters here for their General Chapter. Upon all of you, I invoke God's
Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
[In Italian, he said:]
Finally, I turn to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Beloved,
tomorrow we celebrate the feast of the Holy Apostles Simon and Jude
Thaddaeus. May their glorious testimony sustain all of you in responding
generously to the Lord's call.
[The Pope then made a final appeal]
In the last hours, a new terrible tsunami has struck the coasts of
Indonesia, also hit by a volcanic eruption, causing numerous dead and
dispersed. To the families of the victims I express my heartfelt
sympathy for the loss of their dear ones and to all the Indonesian
population I assure my closeness and my prayer.
I am, moreover, close to the dear population of Benin, struck by
continuous floods, which have left many people homeless and in
precarious hygiene-health situations. Upon the victims and upon the
entire nation I invoke the blessing and comfort of the Lord.
I appeal to the international community to provide the necessary aid to
alleviate the afflictions of all those who suffer because of these
[Translation by ZENIT]
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