Bridget the Charitable Bibliophile

Saint Bridget of Sweden (+1373) was known for her kindness, her patience, her good works, first, as a wife and mother of six children, all of them surviving infancy, which was rare at that time (and up until modern obstetrics), including one canonized saint, Catherine, also of Sweden. After her husband’s death in 1344, she made various pilgrimages, to Bethlehem, Rome, Jerusalem, retired to a life of prayer and penance, founding the Congregation of the Most Holy Saviour, known more commonly as the Brigitinnes, which had the unique characteristic of being ‘co-ed’, with both men and women, in separate cloisters, governed by an abbess, who would represent the Blessed Virgin. Odd, one might think, but I was glad to read as a fellow blbliophile that the members, although bound to poverty in other respects, could have as many books as they liked.  One should never strive for intellectual poverty.

In her prayer, she was given many private revelations from Christ, details of His nativity, His passion, with some rather curious specifics, such as the fact that He apparently suffered 5480 blows in the scourging, which is a lot more than the ’40 minus one’ of the Talmudic law, with forty lashes being the liminal limit of fatality. She also received the details on the  efficacy of certain prayers and devotions, some with extravagant promises, such as ‘attaining your heart’s desire’, or saving fifteen family members from perdition. We may take or leave these as our own minds lead us, but we should follow Bridget in her life of perfection, as we are able in our state. For whatever our path, simple and straightforward, or circuitous and complex, we are all called to the heights of charity, which has no limit.