Birgitta Birgersdotter was born in 1303 in Uppland, Sweden. Her father, Birger Persson, was a knight and one of the richest landowners. Her mother, Ingeborg, was related to Swedish kings. At the age of eight years old, she had her first encounter with Blessed Mary. She awoke one night and saw a “beautiful lady” in shining white clothes, holding a gleaming crown in her hands. She was sitting on a beautiful altar. Then the Blessed Virgin spoke to her,
“Come, Birgitta … Do you want to have this crown?”
Recognizing the lovely lady as the Blessed Virgin, Birgitta sprang from her bed and knelt in front of her at her feet. She eagerly nodded YES to the Virgin’s question. Then she saw and distinctly felt Our Lady gently place it on her head. Many years later, as St. Bridget, she stated that she could never forget this decisive experience, for it made her understand that she was to live her life as a burning sacrifice of love for God in return for the crown of eternal life.
Around age ten, Bridget (Birgitta) was praying one evening before a crucifix. Suddenly, she saw the living Christ bleeding on the cross and heard Him say,
“See how I am wounded?”
Stricken with horror by the vividness of His suffering, the 10-year old Bridget exclaimed,
Oh, Lord, who did that to you?”
“Those who scorn Me and neglect My Love.”
After losing her own mother as a young girl, Bridget turned to the Blessed Mother for help. Once, when she was working on a particularly difficult piece of embroidery, she asked Blessed Mary for assistance. A short time later, one of her cousins came into the room and was astonished to see “a beautiful lady bending over her and directing her work.” Then, Our Lady suddenly vanished in front of them.
At the age of fourteen, Bridget was obliged by her family to marry – but God gave her an unusually devout young husband named Ulf (or Wulf), with whom she lived in deep spiritual harmony and pure Christian happiness for 28 years. Bridget and her husband prayed only for children who would serve Him well. Regarding Bridget’s prayers, Blessed Mary had this to say:
“Hear me, you who pray to God with all your heart that your children may please Him. Truly, such a prayer is pleasing to God. And there is no mother who loves My Son more than anything on earth – and who prays for this grace for her children whom I would not be ready to help at once to fulfill her prayer. Also, there is no widow who faithfully prays for help to remain a widow until death, in order to honor God, whose wish I would not be ready to fulfill at once, for I, too, was like a widow, as on earth I had a son who had no physical father. Also, there is no young woman who prays to God to keep her virginity until death whom I would not be ready to protect and to strengthen, because I am truly a Virgin myself.”
On one occasion when Bridget was suffering in childbirth, a mysterious lady was seen standing by her bed and relieving her pains. Later, Blessed Mary reminded Bridget of this help, saying,
“When you had trouble in childbirth, I, Mary, came to you. So, you would be ungrateful if you did not love me. Therefore, strive that your children may be mine, too. The daughter of Joachim, who is the Mother of God, wishes to be like a mother to the children of Ulf and Birgitta.”
They had four sons and four daughters. Her second daughter is now honored as St. Catherine of Sweden.
At the age of 45, Bridget’s devout husband entered a Cistercian monastery and died a year later. For many years, Bridget had been leading the life of a saintly member of the Third Order of St. Francis. Now she gave herself entirely to God and, beginning in 1346, a wonderful series of mystical experiences and divine conversations began. Her confessors carefully recorded them in the nine books of her Revelations.
When personally training Bridget in sanctity, the Blessed Virgin often instructed her on such varied subjects as modesty in dress, dancing and various ways of practicing true Christian wisdom and humility. For her future work in correcting and converting extraordinary sinners, Bridget was shown in case after case how great God’s mercy and how powerful Mary’s intercession for them are, if only they ask for it.
One day, the glorious Mother of God appeared to Bridget and said,
“I am Mary, the Queen of Heaven and the Queen of Angels. My Son loves you with His whole heart; therefore, love Him, too. When you have Him, you have all virtues.”
Later, Our Lord accepted Bridget as a mystical spouse. Blessed Mary said sweetly,
“As My Son has given you the name of His new spouse, so I now call you my Daughter-in-Law. For God and I want to show our will to our friends in the world through you.”
On another occasion the Blessed Mother told to Bridget,
“I am the Mother of Mercy, the joy of the just, and the gate to God for sinners.
In the fire of Purgatory there is no suffering that through my intercession would not be more easily bearable than otherwise. No one is so damned that, as long as he lives, he will lack my mercy. No one is so far from God, if he is not completely accursed, that he may not come back to God and obtain mercy when he appeals to me.”
The Blessed Virgin also explained to Bridget that her Immaculate Heart was so full of compassion for the sufferings of sinning humans because she had herself suffered so much from their sins. Blessed Mary told Bridget,
“From My Son’s birth until His death, I was filled with grief. Tears used to come into my eyes when I gazed at His hands and feet, which the nails were going to pierce … when I meditated on His future Passion … and when I saw the Prophets’ sayings concerning Him all being fulfilled … and now I look at all the human beings on earth to see whether maybe there are a few who feel compassion for me and who think of my sorrows, but I find very few who meditate on my suffering and sorrows. Therefore, my daughter, do not forget me, for I am forgotten and ignored by many. See my grief and imitate me as well as you can. Meditate on my sorrows and my tears — and mourn that the friends of God are so few … I am grieved over the enemies of My Son in the world who now crucify Him worse than the Jews formerly did. With their vices they crucify My Son in a spiritual way more cruelly and more fearfully than those who crucified Him physically.”
In the year 1350, Jesus sent Bridget to Italy to convert certain princes and rulers, monks and prelates, with forceful warnings that unless they changed their way of living, they would soon suffer grievous punishments – which did invariably overtake those who refused to reform. Jesus told Bridget:
“Know that I do not speak to you for your own sake only, but also for the salvation of all Christians … Know also that when it pleases Me, men shall come who will take up the words of the divine Revelations with joy and consolation … My words, which you often hear in spiritual visions, like a wholesome drink, satisfy those who thirst for true love, give warmth to the cold, cheer the sorrowful, and heal those whose souls are sick.”
Through her, Jesus also transmitted several messages to His Vicar in Avignon, France (where the Popes resided for 70 years), bidding him to return to Rome. Once Our Lord pointed out to Bridget a section of the city of Rome around St. Peter’s basilica and told her that one day:
“A Pope who loves the Church as much as did He, Himself, and His friends would possess that place in peace …”
This amazing prophecy came true more than 550 years later with the creation of Vatican City in 1929.
After 33 years of “miracle-working” and inspiring holiness in Rome, Bridget suffered a painful and prolonged illness. Blessed Mary appeared one last time just before she died and told her these words:
“Blessed Francis, too, was sick for a long time … You may ask why your illness has lasted so very long … I answer you – that My Son and I love you. When My Son told you as you entered the Church of His Holy Sepulcher, that all your sins were forgiven, He did not say that you would not suffer any more during the rest of your life on earth. For it is the will of God that the love of men should correspond to the love of God, and that earlier negligences should be expiated in patience and sickness … Truly, My Daughter, the doctors do not pay attention to what death means – for that man dies — who cuts himself off from God and becomes hardened in sin. And he who does not believe in God and who does not love his Creator is also dead. But, whoever fears God at all times and cleanses himself from his sins through frequent Confession – whoever yearns for union with his God has life and shall not die!”
Bridget’s God-given treasures of divine wisdom acquired from her contacts with Jesus and Mary were fully approved by several popes. Sadly, they were allowed to fall into neglect – apart from an 1888 out-of-print German book. The complete Revelations of St. Bridget remained in Swedish until the great Danish Catholic writer, Johannes Joergensen, developed a two-volume biography during World War II that was translated into English. Recently, St. Bridget’s Revelations has finally been published in English.
Bridget died on July 23, 1373. She became St. Bridget with her canonization on October 7, 1391 by Pope Boniface IX. The Council of Basel confirmed the orthodoxy of the messages and revelations in 1436.