St. Bridget of Sweden was one of three children born to a pious family in Sweden. Her mother died when she was 10 and she was sent to live with her Aunt. It was there that she had a dream-vision of The Man of Sorrows. This dream was very vivid and it forever changed Bridget. She asked the man who had done that to Him, He answered: “ All those who despise my love.” At age 13 she was married and she went on to have eight children, including St. Catherine of Vadstena.
She and her husband worked for the royal family where she was a lady-in-waiting for the Queen. Her husband grew ill and died and at 41 and at the abbey at Alvastra God called her “be My Bride and My canal.” God gave her the task of founding a new religious order, mainly for women. He said that the other orders had fallen into decay and this new order would be a vineyard whose wine would revivify the Church.
God showed her how her abbey church was to be built, gave directions concerning the clothing and prayers of the nuns, 60 in all, who needed priests as chaplains, 13 priests, four deacons, and eight lay brothers. These two communities were to be ruled by an abbess, who was to represent the Blessed Virgin Mary together with the Apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem.
The king donated a little palace and much land to the abbey. But as soon as she began her work, Christ appeared to her again and this time asked her to go to Rome. Not only did He want her to go to Rome, but she needed to stay there until the Pope returned from France to Rome. Bridgett left Sweden in 1349 and never returned alive.
For the rest of her life, she saw visions about the reform of the Church, messages to kings and popes, and many others in high places, directing them to work for the Church. St Bridget is often known as the Patroness of failures. Nothing she set out to do ever came to fruition. She never became a nun, she never saw the habits Christ had shown her, the pope never returned to Rome permanently, she never saw peace between France and Britain, and she never returned to Sweden.
She died an old lady worn out from her travels in 1373. Bridget was however a successful failure as she was canonized in 1391. Bridget was the only woman at that time to found a religious order. The order spread swiftly throughout Europe with monasteries from Scandinavia right through Europe down to Italy. In modern times it has expanded into five different, juridically independent branches; Spain 1629, Rome 1911, U.S.A. 1970, Mexico at the change of the century. None of these foundations have brothers (except the U.S.A. which has one male convent).
The last Brigantine father died in Altomünster 1863. She is the patroness of Sweden. Her feast day is July 23rd.
St. Catherine of Vadstena: Her Mother was St. Bridget of Sweden, and like her mother, she married young. When Bridget’s husband died she left for Rome and St. Catherine followed her. While there her mother asked her to stay and she reluctantly agreed. While in Rome, Catherine’s husband died. She then stayed with her mother and joined her on different travels including to the Holy Land.
After the death of her mother, she returned to Sweden with her body and had it buried at the great monastery of Vadstena. It was there that Bridget had founded her order, although it had not yet been fully established and approved. This was to be St. Catherine’s mission. Catherine took on the huge task of forming the community in the rule her mother had written and directed the Order of the Holy Savior, or Bridgettinesas they were called.
After some years she returned to Rome to work on her mother’s canonization. She stayed in Rome for 5 years and returned to Sweden before she could see her mother canonized but did obtain from Pope Urban VI the ratification of the Bridgettine rule. Sometime after her return to Sweden, her health began to fail and she died peacefully after a painful illness.
Her feast day is celebrated on March 24th and is the patron saint against abortions and miscarriages.