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The Life of Saint Bridget of Sweden

 Saint Bridget of Sweden

Jesus Reveals His Passion  to Saint Bridget from the Cross

 

Our Lord has given us such unforgettable gifts in the churches, Basilicas and the Cathedral of Rome.  For the purpose of this great Miracle of the Cross, we want to focus in on the magnificent Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.  As you approach the grounds from a distance, you are in awe!  You enter the beautifully sculpted gardens leading to the entrance into the Basilica and rising before you are the imposing figures of St. Paul with the two-edged sword in his hand and St. Peter holding the Keys to the Kingdom.  Then you enter the magnificent Basilica!  The first thing to catch your breath is the gigantic mosaic mural in the apse at the front of the Church, depicting Jesus seated, flanked by the four writers of the Gospel.  Majestic columns line the center aisle leading to the altar.  Your eyes travel up the massive marble walls to a border of Portraits of the Popes of our Church from Peter to our present Pope John Paul II - the 2000 year unbroken succession of our Church! 

This Basilica began as a small chapel built over the tomb of St. Paul toward the end of the First Century.  When Constantine embraced the Church, and Christianity was accepted as the state religion, the small chapel grew into a small church.  In 324 A.D. Pope Sylvester I consecrated the little church.  But the church soon became too small to accommodate the overflowing host of Pilgrims flocking to the Shrine of the Apostle Paul.  Consequently in 395 A.D. Emperor Theodosius decided to build a large Basilica.  He was never to see the completion of his dream.  The Basilica was completed under Emperor Honorius.  The splendid Basilica survived the Barbarian invasion and the ravages of time.  But that was all to come to an end! 

Anna Maria Taigi prophesies destruction of St. Paul's

One day Blessed Anna Maria Taigi was praying before the Crucifix in a side chapel at St. Paul Outside the Walls, when Our Lord appeared to her and told her that because of the sins and blasphemies committed there in the Basilica, He intended to turn it into a heap of ruins.  Shortly after in 1823, a fire broke out and the Basilica was almost completely destroyed.  Only the apse was left untouched.  As always the faithful came forward.  Donations flowed in from the four corners of the world and the new Basilica (left true to the original) was consecrated by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1854.

Now, a natural and normal way to visit the Basilica is to make your way towards the tomb of St. Paul which is directly down the main aisle right in front of you.  If you are not careful, and you have a guide who is not knowledgeable about the Faith, you might miss one of the most significant chapels in the Basilica, and a powerful Miracle of the Cross.  Let us begin by telling you a little about St. Brigid of Sweden, who is integral to our story about the Miraculous Crucifix.

Saint Bridget of Sweden and the Miraculous Crucifix

 

 

Saint Brigid or Saint Bridget of Sweden is one of the most powerful women, who have graced Mother Church with their love and faithfulness.  A little brusque at times, or as a dear Bishop once called Penny - a little forthright; she was considered a Prophet to Pope Gregory, as was St. Catherine of Siena.  But whereas the Pope himself called her a Prophet, he did not have the fond affection toward her that he had for St. Catherine, who was strong like

Saint Bridget of Sweden but gentle. 

Saint Bridget of Sweden, like St. Catherine was a Mystic!  She had the courage to speak out strongly on the need for reform.  She boldly attacked the corruption and politics in the Church!  Now both powerful women felt the same about Mother Church.  But whereas Saint Bridget of Sweden spoke of gloom and doom, St. Catherine called the Church a garden with beautiful flowers having been allowed to grow wild, with weeds in its midst choking it.  Whereas both desired the Pope return to Rome, it was gentle Catherine who accomplished it.  Or could it be that like St. John the Baptist, Saint Bridget led the way for St. Catherine?

Saint Bridget was born of royal blood June of 1303 - her father a knight and governor of Upland, the principal province of Sweden, and her mother Ingeborg, daughter to the governor of East Gothland.  There were mysterious circumstances surrounding Saint Bridget='s life from the very beginning.  Her mother narrowly escaped death from drowning shortly before she was to be born.  At that time, an Angel appeared to Ingeborg and revealed that the reason she had been saved was because of the child in her womb.  The Angel admonished her: "Bring her up in the love of God, for she is His gift to you."   

Now as she was being born, Benedict, Curate of Rasbo, was praying for her mother Ingeborg to have a safe delivery.  Deep  in prayer and meditation, he was suddenly encompassed by a brilliant, gleaming, luminous cloud.  From within, Our Lady appeared and told him, "A child has been born to Birger (St. Bridget's father); her voice will be heard."

Saint Bridget has a Vision of Jesus on the Cross

Bridget got off to a slow start, not speaking until she reached three years old.  But once she did begin to speak, her vocabulary and intellect was far advanced to that of other children her age.  Early on, Bridget showed strong signs of sensitivity and charity toward all.  Her destiny to walk toward holiness, began when she was but seven years old.  She had a Vision of Our Lady.  Our Blessed Mother offered her a precious crown; she accepted it and Our Lady placed the crown on her head.  Brigid never forgot the feel of that crown on her head. 

Three years passed and at ten, deeply affected by a homily on the Passion of Christ, the following evening she had a Vision of Christ hanging on the Cross.  She heard Him say, "Look upon Me, My daughter."  To which she replied, "Who has done this to You?"  The Lord said, "They who despise Me, and spurn My love for them."  That made such an impression on her that from that time on the Suffering Christ became the center of her life and would remain so, until the end of her  life; no amount of pain and rejection would be strong enough to erase that which He told her that day.

Bridget was to know and carry the cross in many ways - the first heavy one being her mother died when she was only eleven years old.  After her mother's death, as it was fitting for one of her station to not be without a female chaperone, she was sent off to live with her aunt Lady Katherine. 

Now Bridget's heart had belonged to Jesus from the time she was a tiny child, and she later shared, she would have rather die than marry.  But nevertheless, when Brigid's father arranged a marriage for her at age thirteen, accepting his wishes as the Will of God, she obeyed.

Well groomed and equally well educated, as was fitting for one of her station, she married Ulf, an eighteen year old, also of royal blood.  Their marriage knew joy and holiness mixed with understanding and singleness of purpose; they were of one mind, heart and spirit; it lasted twenty-eight happy years.  Although Ulf agreed to Bridget's request they abstain from living a conjugal union for the first year or so, their union finally brought forth eight children.  The young couple's prayer that if they should bear offspring they be steeped in virtue and charity, bore fruit: all were distinguished for their holiness, one of whom, their daughter Catherine, was raised to the honors of the Altar, and was canonized St. Catherine of Sweden.

Her husband Ulf proved himself to be highly cultured, gentle, remarkably religious and yet most capable exercising his inherited responsibilities in the affairs of the court.  They were well matched; she accepted and carried out her role as a feudal lady on her husband's estate, with the same dedication she had for her role as wife and mother.  She not only supervised their children's upbringing, she was gracious to all who visited her and her husband.  In addition, she tended the sick and the poor. She counseled girls who had strayed into a life of sin, affording them a new lease on life. 

Well known for her wisdom and piety, Brigid was summoned to court by the king, King Mabnus II as principal lady-in-waiting and advisor to him and his bride, Queen Blanche of Norway and Sweden.  She held that post for six years.  The king proved weak and at times wicked, so Brigid began to assume additional duties, taking an active part in the affairs of the court. 

The Lord continued to talk to Brigid; and she would pass on to the kings of different nations, His words.  Most ignored her warnings and others began to taunt her with their snide remarks.  "What was the Lady Brigid dreaming about last night?" became one of their favorite jibes.  But she persisted!  Her job was to obey.  What they did was up to them! 

Future Saint and Prophet, Brigid was devoted to reading Holy Scripture, as well as about the lives of the Saints; she was especially fond of St. Bernard.  She studied the Early Fathers of the Church.  Always hungering for the truth, and in love with Mother Church, she went about getting a complete and thorough formation in Theology, through not only her reading, but by her frequent association with highly distinguished and respected teachers and Bishops.

As in all married life, Ulf and Brigid had their heartaches.  Their eldest daughter married a ne'er-do-well noble and had a stormy marriage.  Then their youngest son died in 1340.  Brigid went on pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Olaf of Norway, returning with new resolve to try to rectify the problems in the court.  Unsuccessful, the grieving couple, now married twenty-four years, in 1342 decided to go on a Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (St. James). 

They made a stop in Avignon, where the Papal court had fled, when it became too dangerous for the Pope to remain in Rome.  On the way, Ulf became ill, and he received the Last Rites.  Everyone thought it was all over for Ulf, but during a revelation, St. Brigid received word from St. Denis that he would recover.  The couple made a vow to no longer be involved with things of the world and dedicate themselves to serving God and Mother Church in religious houses.  But before their dream was to begin, Ulf died in a Cistercian Monastery in 1344.

Now Brigid, a widow at all of forty-one years old, remained a caring mother, her eyes and heart aware of her eight children - their whereabouts and welfare.  However, she no longer dressed in her finery, but instead began to live a simple and austere life.  Her revelations came more and more frequently until she became alarmed, fearful they might be of the devil or a figment of her imagination.  But God never leaving us alone and unprotected, granted her the same Vision three times, directing her to seek counsel from a canon who was considered highly reputable.  He confirmed that her revelations were of God.  We know of them today, because out of obedience, she related them to Peter, Prior of Alvestra, and he wrote them down in Latin and preserved them for posterity. 

Brigid founded a new religious order, containing both male and female communities.  The order was dedicated to the Divine Savior.  She once again warned the King that God would visit His Wrath upon him, his queen, his nobles and the Bishops who were compromising the Faith in his court.  The king mended his ways, and gave Brigid a gift of a castle to use for her new order.  She'd had a revelation she was to found the monastery for her order at a Castle in Vadstena, and this was the castle she received.  The castle had a breathtaking view overlooking the great Lake Vatern, which further enhanced its use as a monastery.  And so, along with her many possessions in hand, St. Brigid turned the castle into a monastery. 

From the time St. Brigid was in Avignon, she felt that there was something wrong there.  It was not like Church.  Being from royalty, the Papal Court reminded her of the royal courts she had known in her life.  She had a Vision, where she was directed to write to the Pope and tell him the Lord wanted him to return to Rome.  She obeyed her Vision by writing a very strong letter to Pope Clement VI, urging him to leave Avignon and bring the Papacy back to the original seat of Peter - Rome.  In addition, she begged him to bring about reconciliation between the kings of England and France. 

The Pope addressed her second concern, by sending an emissary, who miserably failed to bring about the desired peace between the two countries.  Outspoken and determined to right the wrongs she saw, she became out of favor with the Swedish court, but not the people.  They loved her.  They cheered her, and she on her part went about the countryside bringing about healings.  She shared with the people Jesus and His love for each and every one of them, privileged and underprivileged; and before you knew it great conversions came about.  In spite of there being no Pope in Rome, she chose to go there for the Holy Year of 1350.  Her people wept, as they witnessed their angel leaving them to go to Rome.  They would never see her again, as she was to remain in Rome till the day she died.

The Crucifix comes to life and speaks to St. Brigid

Rome became Brigid's home, spending much time there involved in her ongoing search of knowledge, improving her prayer life, making visits to the catacombs and sanctuaries, especially the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul Outside the Walls.  It was in St. Paul Outside the Walls, where she would spend hours upon hours praying before the Crucifix, adoring her Crucified Savior, that Our Lord spoke to her.  It was before this Crucifix that she received countless revelations.  Many were warnings to heads of state. 

She is best known for the twenty-one promises and fifteen prayers given to her by Our Lord, before this Crucifix.  It was also before this Crucifix that Jesus shared with her His Passion, telling her how many Wounds He suffered, and of the Wounds that hurt Him the most.  When St. Brigid begged the Lord to know the number of times He had been struck during His Passion, He came to life on the Cross and said:

"I received 5,480 blows on My Body.  If you wish to honor them in some way, say fifteen Our Fathers and fifteen Hail Marys with the following Prayers (which He taught her) for a whole year.  When the year is up, you will have honored each one of My Wounds."

When you stand so close to the Lord and His Passion, you find yourself desiring to share every phase of His Life, especially to soothe His Wounds and many hurts.  The Lord accommodated her, by allowing this little servant to undergo trials of every kind, especially those of humiliation and poverty.

In 1364, St. Brigid went on Pilgrimage, with a small entourage of pilgrims to some Italian Shrines, which was to end up in Naples, where she remained until 1367.  On her journey of faith, some of the Shrines St. Brigid visited were the Holy House of Nazareth in Loreto, Italy, where she spent much time praying for the guidance and intercession of Mother Mary, and the Cave of St. Michael in the Gargano, near where Padre Pio's Shrine is today.

When you adore the Cross, get ready to endure the gifts of the Suffering Crucified Savior and His Most Precious Mother.  How do you wound a mother most deeply?  Her children!  In 1372, she embarked with her children, among them Charles and St. Catherine, on a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Stopping at Naples before boarding the ship, Charles became enamored of and by Queen Joanna, who had a less than enviable reputation.  Now, Charles' wife was still alive in Sweden and Joanna's husband in Spain; but she desired to marry Charles and he was no less enthusiastic.  No amount of pleading and reasoning would dissuade Charles; and so a mother, St. Brigid began to pray unceasingly to God to handle the situation.  And God did!  Charles was struck down by an unexplainable fever and after two weeks died in his mother's arms.  Grief-stricken, after she laid her son to rest, two pilgrims left for the Holy Land; but the hearts of the mother and sister remained with the loved one they could no longer touch.  The account of this mother's heart with regard to the immortal soul of her child reminds us of the trials of St. Rita of Cascia, whose children vowed a vendetta against the people who had killed their father and her husband.  They vowed death to the brigands to the last of the family, wife, sons and daughters, and grandchildren.  St. Rita prayed that if her sons were to lose their immortal souls in the commission of these horrendous acts, please let her take their bodies Home.  She even nursed her two boys during their last days on earth, as did St. Brigid.

St. Brigid returned to Rome.  In addition to time spent there, adoring and listening to Our Lord, she remained involved in  important issues concerning the rulers of her homeland, Sweden, as well as Cyprus and Naples.  In addition, she relentlessly worked toward the day the Papacy would return to the Apostolic See of Rome.  In a Vision, the Lord revealed to her that the Pope would return to Rome.  But her gift of seeing this long hoped and awaited for dream to come true was short lived.  Like Moses before her, she would not see it during her lifetime, but would have to salute it from afar.  During another revelation she was told by the Lord that she was to go to the Pope and tell him he had a short time to live; and at that time she was to show him the Rule for her order  in Vadstena.  The Rule was approved and four months later Pope Urban died.  Three times St. Brigid wrote to his successor at Avignon, Pope Gregory XI, to return to Rome; four years after her death he finally did.  Although St. Catherine of Siena is given credit with having brought the papacy back to Rome, there are those who believe that St. Brigid had a great deal to do with it, even though her methods were at opposite ends of the spectrum from St. Catherine's.  St. Brigid was a zealot who told it the way it was, but without the love of Jesus, or so some thought.  She had no time for niceties.  There was a world to be saved, and she went out to do it.

Her final journey over, God's Will done, this powerful woman of the Church went to her Lord July 23rd, 1373.  Her body was kept in Rome for a short time, and then transported by her daughter and her closest friend and confessor, Fr. Peter of Alvastra, as if on pilgrimage, through Dalmatia, Austria, Poland and Danzig, to Vadstena in Sweden,  where she had her community of Nuns.  Her body rests there to this day.  She was canonized less than twenty years later in 1391.  She was a powerful Saint whose intercession it would be very much to our advantage to pray. 

The Crucifix that spoke to St. Brigid in St. Paul's - today!

The people of Rome have always had a great devotion to the Crucifix that spoke to St. Brigid.  They have venerated it faithfully, especially on the first Sunday of every month, and on Good Friday.  In addition, the Popes down through the centuries have had a great devotion to the Crucifix, and never enter St. Paul's without praying at the Feet of the Crucified Savior on this Cross.  Although the Church was practically leveled in the fire of July, 1823, the Chapel and the Crucifix survived.  Be sure, when you go to St. Paul's, to visit this Chapel, which is situated on the left as you face the main altar, and pray before the Crucifix, which spoke to St. Brigid.

Some years ago, there was a well-dressed man who always sat outside the Chapel of the Crucifix and told the following story to whomever would come to the Chapel.  He had been away from Mother Church and the Sacraments for twenty-five years.  One day he ventured inside St. Paul Outside the Walls Basilica, to study the art and architecture.  Being an art expert, he became fascinated with the Crucifix in the Chapel.  He told us that when he first looked at the position of Our Lord's Head, how It was bent to the side, he knew and believed that Jesus had to have spoken to St. Brigid, because on all the Crucifixes made prior to and after that time, Jesus' Head was not in this position.  It was very clear that Our Lord Jesus had turned His Head to speak to her from this cross.  Needless to say, this man experienced a great conversion.  He returned to Mother Church and spent the rest of his life telling all who came to the Basilica about the Miraculous Cross.

The Saints live forever.  Their memory is deeply steeped in that which they have left behind.  Let us close with the promises from Our Lord to St. Brigid.

Promises made to Saint Bridget of Sweden

Our Lord made the following promises to anyone who recites the fifteen St. Brigid Prayers for a whole year:

  1. I will deliver fifteen souls of his lineage from Purgatory.
  2. Fifteen souls of his lineage will be confirmed and preserved in Grace.
  3. Fifteen souls of his lineage will be converted.
  4. Whoever recites these Prayers will attain the first degree of perfection.
  5. Fifteen days before his death, I will give him My Precious Body in order that he may escape eternal starvation; I will give him My Precious Blood to drink lest he thirst eternally.
  6. Fifteen days before his death, he will feel a deep contrition for all his sins and will have a perfect knowledge of them.
  7. I will place before him the sign of My Victorious Cross for his help and defense against the attacks of his enemies.
  8. Before his death, I shall come with My Dearest Beloved Mother.
  9. I shall graciously receive his soul, and will lead it into eternal joys.

10.And having led it there, I shall give  him a special draught from the fountain of My Deity, something I will not for those who have not recited My Prayers.

11.Let it be known that whoever may have been living in a state of mortal sin for thirty years, but who will recite devoutly, or have the intention to recite these Prayers, the Lord will forgive him all his sins.

12.I shall protect him from strong temptations.

13.I shall preserve and guard his five senses.

14.I shall preserve from a sudden death.

15.His soul will be delivered from eternal death.

16.He will obtain all he asks for from God and the Blessed Virgin.

17.If he has lived all  his life doing his own will, and he is to die the next day, his life will be prolonged.

18.Every time one recites these Prayers he gains one hundred days indulgence.

19.He is assured of being joined to the Supreme Choir of Angels.

20.Whoever teaches these Prayers to another, will have continuous joy and merit which will endure eternally.

21.There, where these Prayers are being said or will be said in the future, God is present with His Grace.

Promises to those who sing "Ave Maria Stella."

During a riot in Rome, a mob came to the house where St. Brigid lived and their leader talked of burning Brigid alive.  She prayed and asked the Lord if she should flee to safety.  Jesus told her to stay: "It doesn't matter if they plot thy death.  My power will break the malice of thy enemies; if Mine crucified Me, it is because I permitted it."

Our Blessed Mother added: "Sing as a group the Ave Maria Stella and I'll guard you from danger."

St. Brigid was told by the Lord: "I will send my Angel who will reveal to you the lesson that shall be read by the Nuns of your monastery, and you shall write it as He tells you."  And although Brigid, considered these to be the words of the Lord, she always submitted her revelations to the judgment of Mother Church.  She never sought glory or fame, only to do the will of God.  Her maid said of St. Brigid, she was "kind and meek to every creature and she had a laughing face."

Pope Boniface IX canonized St. Brigid' October 7, 1391


About the Authors:

Bob and Penny Lord are renowned Catholic authors of many best selling books about the Catholic Faith. They are hosts on EWTN Global Television and have written over 25 books. They are best known as the authors of “Miracles of the Eucharist books.” They have been dubbed, “Experts on the Saints.” Many of the ebooks are now available at Smashwords.com.

 

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