St. Bridget, Widow
St. Bridget, known in the entire Church of God, on account of the many divine revelations with which she was graced, was born in Sweden, of noble and pious parents. Shortly before the birth of Bridget, her mother was in great danger of shipwreck, but was miraculously saved. In the following night, a venerable old man appeared to her, who said: “God has saved your life on account of the child to whom you will give birth. Educate it carefully; for it will arrive at great holiness.” This command was faithfully followed by the pious mother as long as she lived. After her death, Bridget, then only seven years old, was given into the charge of a very devout aunt, who brought her up most piously. When ten years of age, she heard a sermon on the bitter passion and death of our Lord, which made a deep impression on her young and tender heart. In the following night, Christ appeared to her, hanging on the Cross, while streams of blood flowed from His wounds. Bridget, deeply moved, cried out: “O, Lord, who has so maltreated thee?” “Those who despise my love,” answered Christ, that is, those who transgress my laws and are ungrateful for my immeasurable love to them. This vision remained in Bridget’s memory, and caused her, from that hour, to manifest the most tender devotion to the passion and death of the Saviour, of which she could never think without shedding tears.
This vision was followed by many others, especially during her prayers, which the Saint loved so well that it seemed as if no other occupation could give her joy or contentment. She often rose quietly during the night and passed hours in pious meditation. She also used many ways and means to mortify her delicate body, so as to resemble, in silently enduring pain, Him who had suffered so infinitely more for her. In obedience to her father, she at the age of thirteen gave her hand to Ulpho, prince of Nericia, whose heart she won so entirely by her amiability and sweetness of manners, that she weaned him, in a short time, from gaming, immoderate luxury in dress and other similar faults, and induced him to lead a life pleasing to God, by his assiduity in prayer and in going to confession. She lived with him in undisturbed love and harmony. She was also very solicitous for her domestics, and allowed nothing that might offend the Almighty or prevent His blessing from coming upon her house.
She became the mother of four sons and as many daughters. Two of her sons died in their innocence; two while travelling in the Holy Land. Two of her daughters lived at court, and became models of all virtues. The third became a nun and led a holy life, and the fourth, Catherine, was numbered among the Saints; which is evidence of the pious care with which St. Bridget educated her children. She herself instructed them in religion and in the way of living piously, and led them, from their most tender years, to practise works of charity and mortification, being an example to them in all virtuous deeds. With the consent of Ulpho, she founded a hospital and waited daily, at certain hours, like a servant, on the poor and sick, who were in it. She often washed their feet, kissing them most reverentially. Her husband became dangerously ill on his return from Compostella, whither he had gone with St. Bridget, to visit the tomb of the holy Apostle St. James. But St. Dionysius, who appeared to Bridget, announced to her, besides other future events, that Ulpho would soon recover. She soon saw this prophecy fulfilled, and had also the joy to perceive that Ulpho was disgusted with the world and desired to end his life in retirement. With the permission of his pious spouse, he went into a Cistercian monastery, where he ended his life most holily.
Bridget lived thirty years after her husband had entered a monastery, and being free from many former cares and anxieties, she devoted herself with great zeal to a most perfect and penitential life. Her temporal possessions she gave to her children, clothed herself in a penitential robe, and unweariedly practised acts of devotion, charity and penance. She fasted four times in the week, and on Friday, took only water and bread. She gave the greater part of the night to prayer, spending whole hours prostrate before the Crucifix or the Blessed Sacrament. Every Friday she let fall a few drops of boiling wax into a wound which she had, to remember, by the pain this gave her, the suffering of our Lord. She daily fed twelve poor persons and served them at table. She founded a convent for sixty nuns, and gave them a rule which she had received from Christ Himself. These regulations were afterwards adopted by many houses of Religious men. This was the origin of the celebrated Brigittine Order. St. Bridget herself entered a convent which she had founded, and was a shining light to all in the practice of virtue.
Having lived there two years, she was commanded, in a vision, to make a pilgrimage to Rome, with her daughter Catherine, and thence to the Holy Land. On her return, a malignant fever seized her, which greatly increased when she had arrived at Rome, and lasted a whole year. The great pains she suffered were made easy to her by the thought of the bitter passion of our Saviour; and for love of Him, she was willing to endure much more. She derived the greatest comfort from a vision in which God appeared to her and assured her of her salvation. The hour of her death was also made known to her by divine revelation. She prepared herself most carefully for her end, and after receiving the holy sacraments, she breathed her last in the arms of her holy daughter, and, rich in merits and virtues, went to receive her reward in heaven, in the 71st. year of her age, in the year 1373. Before and after her death God wrought many and great miracles by her intercession.
I. Christ appeared to St. Bridget, wounded over His whole body, saying that those who had despised His love, and had shown themselves ungrateful for His mercies, had thus maltreated Him. Are you not also one of those who despise the Saviour’s love and show themselves ungrateful to Him? Are you not, perhaps, even one of those who, according to the words of St. Paul, crucify Him anew? “You crucify the Lord anew as often as you become guilty of a mortal sin,” says Hugh, the Cardinal. And how often has this happened? And what were your reasons for so doing? What could you answer, if Christ would address you, as St. Bernard introduces Him speaking: ” Am I not yet wounded enough for you? Have I not yet sufficiently suffered for your misdeeds? why do you still add new pains to the old ones? The wounds of your sins are much more painful to me than the wounds of my body.”
What, I ask, could you answer, if Christ spoke thus to you? Oh! prostrate yourself before your crucified Saviour, humbly ask His pardon and promise Him that in future you will show yourself grateful and not offend Him. In every temptation to sin, remember your crucified Lord, and address yourself in the words of St. Bernard: “My God hangs on the Cross, and shall I submit to lust?” Shall I sin? Shall I, for a miserable gain, for a short sensual pleasure, offend my God? “How can I do this wicked thing, and sin against my God?” said the chaste Joseph, when tempted to sin (Genesis, xxxix.). He meant by this, that it was impossible for him to offend so great and so good a God. “How can I sin against my God?” Speak thus to yourself, when Satan or men tempt you to sin. How dare I do it? How can I thus offend my good God? How thus offend my kind Redeemer, and open afresh all His wounds? But your acts must correspond with these words, and as Joseph rather drew upon himself the anger of his mistress and all that might follow it, than offend God, so in the same manner must you act.
II. St. Bridget, in a most gentle manner, reformed her husband of many faults, such as gaming and immoderate love of dress. She taught her children to pray, to perform works of mercy, and mortification. Oh! that all wives would so act to their husbands; all mothers adopt the same plan in the education of their children! How great would their merit be on earth, and how inexpressible their joy at meeting their children in a happy eternity! But on the contrary, how heavy will be the account which those women will have to render before God, and how excruciating their pain in hell, who have incited their husbands to pride, to hatred, and to enmity, to oppression and persecution of their neighbor, to all kinds of fraud, injustice, and other vices! And terrible too will be the punishment of those mothers who take not proper care in the instruction of their children, who do not correct their faults, who do not lead them, by precept and example, to piety, but to frivolous vanities, to love of dress and of the world and all kinds of sinful amusements. What has here been said applies also to husbands and fathers.
Married people should love each other; and what is more opposed to Christian love, than for one to be to the other an occasion of sin, and thus injure one who should be shielded from all evil? Both parents are obliged to lead their children, by word and example, in the path to heaven, and to teach them those lessons which God gives so emphatically by the Psalmist: “That they may put their hope in God and may not forget the works of God.” (Psalm lxxvii.) If they neglect this, and perhaps do the contrary, what Origen says will happen to them: ” The parents will have to render account of the sins of their children, if they have not instructed them well, and punished them duly; for, it is they who are guilty of the eternal perdition of their children, and they condemn themselves for all eternity.”
Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O’Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.