Community - Bridgettine Sisters

St Bridget of Sweden and Blessed Mother Elisabeth Hesselblad

St Bridget of Sweden

St Bridget of Sweden is best known as author of a book of "Revelation" and as the foundress of the order of the Most Holy Saviour. She was born at Finsta in Sweden in 1303. From childhood the Lord granted her special graces, visions and an extraordinary understanding of divine realities. At a very early age she had a vision of the crucified Jesus in all the tragedy of his Passion, and she felt enkindled in her soul a profound devotion to the Saviour. This devotion would later become a precious heritage of the Bridgettine Order, as expressed in its motto "Amor Meus Crucifixus Est".

Bridget married at age thirteen out of obedience to her parents, though she would rather have entered monastic life. She was the mother of eight children whom she raised with exemplary care in the Christian faith. She travelled as a pilgrim to many shrines together with her husband who, upon returning from a visit to Santiago de Compostela, entered the Cistercians of Alvastra in Sweden, where he lived for two years before his death.

Remaining at Alvastra following her husband's death, Bridget joined the Franciscan Third Order, and while remaining in the world she devoted herself to a more ascetic life through the practice of penance, a life of poverty and zealous work in helping the poor, the needy and the infirm.

Assiduously devoted to prayer, she had numerous visions of the Saviour, who asked her to establish a new monastic order and to travel to Rome in order to await the return of the Pope from Avignon. For the fulfillment of this latter intention she offered constant prayers, practiced mortifications and made urgent appeals to the Pope to return to his See in Rome.

Bridget moved to Rome in the company of a small group of priests and friends in 1349. Her virtuous life was an example to all, and she made many penitential pilgrimages the last of these, which she made at an advanced age, was to the Holy Land, after she had seen the return of the Pope to Rome. A prophetess of God, she vehemently denounced the sins of the people. The house where she lived and her church, in Piazza Farnese, are a place of pilgrimage and prayer, especially for Nordic visitors.

Bridget wrote many works in which she recounted her own mystical experiences. She died on 23 July 1373, on the same table she used for writing and for taking her frugal meals with the poor, thus imitating her Saviour who died on the wood of the Cross. The aspects of Mary's life upon which Saint Bridget carefully meditated are her Immaculate Conception, her sufferings at the foot of the Cross and the mystery of Nazareth, where the Blessed Virgin is present as "Mother and Teacher of all" Bridget was canonized on 7 October 1391.

In many ways her life can be seen as a model for the religious life, a model of a strong mother may stand for all women and all Christians. Because of her great love for Christ and for the Church she became a fearless tutor for the Church and secular leaders of her day.

On 1st Oct. 1999 Pope John Paul II proclaimed St.Bridget, Patron of Europe. Her daughter, St.Catherine, became the first Abbess of the Bridgettine Monastery in Sweden. The present day Order of the Most Holy Saviour owes its origins to the spiritual experience of Blessed Mother Elisabeth Hesselblad.

>Blessed Mother Elisabeth Hesselblad was born on 4 June 1870 in Fåglacik (Sweden), to Lutheran parents. Elisabeth Hesselblad worked for several years as a nurse in a hospital in New York. Thanks to the help and guidance of the Jesuit, Father Hagan, she felt an ardent desire to deepen her knowledge of the Catholic faith, and was received into the Church on 15 August 1902.

The following year she travelled to Rome where she came upon the house of Saint Bridget. After gaining the encouragement and support of Pope Saint Pius X, she founded the Order of the Most Holy Saviour on 8th Sept 1911, which had earlier been founded by Bridget and her daughter St.Catherine.

From that point on, her life was spent in following Christ and growing in the spirituality of her great compatriot.

Elisabeth adapted the Bridgettine religious spirit to the needs of the Church and the world of her day in a constant effort to blend contemplative life and apostolic activity, two aspects typical of the life of St Bridget in the fourteen century.

She is called "the second Bridget " because of her efforts in making St. Bridget better known and for having revived the Order and in this way continuing St.Bridget's work in our own day. The lives of crucified Jesus and his sorrowful Mother at the foot of the cross and the ideal willed by the Lord in his prayer "Ut unum sint" were to be the charism of her foundation.

Faithful to the initial vocation of Blessed Elisabeth, the Order today engages in missionary, charitable and social activities, with special concern for the ecumenical ideal for which Blessed Mother Elisabeth lived. Just as Saint Bridget had spared no effort in working for the return of the Pope to his See of Rome, so too, in this century, the Order of the Most Holy Saviour works energetically for the unity of all God's people in order that the commandment of Jesus be fulfilled in our day. The daughters of Bridget offer to the Father a life of prayer which is characterized by conversion of heart, devotion to the Eucharist and praying in common with other Christians.

Elisabeth died in 24th April 1957 in Rome. Pope John Paul II beatified her on 9th April 2000 in Rome. Pope Francis canonised Mother Elisabeth on 5th June 2016.

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