Saturday, July 23, 2011

St. Birgitta Birgersdotter of Vadstena

Today is the Feast Day of St. Birgitta Birgersdotter of Vadstena, much more commonly known in English as St. Bridget of Sweden; she is one of the six patron saints of Europe (and after St. Benedict of Nursia the one who is most commonly thought of as the patron saint of Europe). She was born into a wealthy and extremely important family, and was married off at the age of 13 to Ulf Gudmarsson, lord of Närke; she bore him four daughters and four sons. After Ulf's death in 1344, she founded the Birgittines, which for a while were extraordinarily important. They were largely destroyed by the Reformation, but there are some scattered convents and monasteries still alive today, and the Order seems to have done quite well in general for the past forty years.

Her most famous work is the Revelations, a recounting of her visions. Here is a sample, from Chapter 14:

There are three kinds of people who serve me in this world: The first are those who believe me to be God, the Creator and giver of all things and mighty ruler over everything. They serve me with the intention of gaining honor and worldly things, but the things of heaven are considered as nothing to them so that they would gladly do without it if they, instead, could gain the perishable and present things. According to their desire, worldly pleasure falls to them in everything and so they lose the eternal things, but I recompense them with worldly benefits for all the good things they have done for my sake right down to the last farthing and the very last moment.

The second are those who believe me to be God almighty and a strict judge, and these serve me because of fear of punishment but not out of love for the heavenly glory. If they were not afraid of suffering, they would not serve me.

The third are those who believe me to be the Creator of all things and true God and who believe me to be just and merciful. These do not serve me because of any fear of punishment but because of divine love and charity. Rather, they would prefer and endure every punishment, if they could bear it, than to even once provoke me to wrath. These truly deserve to be heard in their prayers, for their will is according to my will.

But the ones who belong to the first kind shall never escape from the place of punishment and torment or get to see my face. The ones who belong to the second kind shall not be punished and tormented as much, but will still be unable to see my face, unless he corrects his fear through penitence and amendment.

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