Birgitta (Bridget) Birgerstotter was born in Sweden about 1303, daughter of the governor of the province of Upland. As a child, she began to have dreams about the suffering of Christ. She was married at 13 to Ulf Gundarsson, son of the governor of the province of West Gothland. They had four offspring. In 1335 she became chief lady-in-waiting to the Queen of Sweden. In 1341, she and her husband made a pilgrimage to Compostela in Spain, and on the return trip her husband fell ill and died soon after.
Birgitta began to live a more ascetic life. Her dreams and visions grew more frequent and vivid, and became more and more the focus of her life. She devoted her life to prayer, to assisting the poor and needy, and to speaking plainly to those in power. She mediated between warring rulers, and warned the Pope at Avignon that it was his duty to return to Rome.
In 1351 she founded an order of both monks and nuns, to be governed by an abbess. The order, the Order of the Holy Savior, popularly called the Brigittines, spread through Europe, and was an important educational influence. Today, the Society of St. Birgitta in Sweden is a laypersons' society that seeks to carry on her work.
She is known for her Revelations, which are largely meditations on the Passion of Our Lord. An extract follows:
Blessed are you, my Lord Jesus Christ. Fearing your passion and death, you poured forth blood from your innocent body like sweat, and still you accomplished your redemption as you desired and gave us the clearest proof of your love for all men.
Eternal blessing be yours, my Lord Jesus Christ, because in your last agony you held out to sinners the hope of pardon, when in your mercy you promised the glory of paradise to the penitent thief.
Blessed may you be, my Lord Jesus Christ. You redeemed our souls with your precious blood and most holy death, and in your mercy you led them from exile back to eternal life.
Prayer (traditional language)
O God, who by thy Holy Spirit dost give to some the word of wisdom, to others the word of knowledge, and to others the word of faith: We praise thy Name for the gifts of grace manifested in thy servant Birgitta, and we pray that thy Church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the same Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God for ever and ever.Prayer (contemporary language)
O God, who by your Holy Spirit give to some the word of wisdom, to others the word of knowledge, and to others the word of faith: We praise your Name for the gifts of grace manifested in your servant Birgitta, and we pray that your Church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.