Words on the Word

St Birgitta of Vadstena

So many-faceted was St Birgitta’s life that almost anyone will have something in common with her. Born into a rich family in 1303, she died a pauper, seventy years later. She was a wife and mother. She was also the founder of a monastic order. Profoundly woven into the fabric of Swedish society, she was yet a tireless pilgrim. She was a politician and a writer. She entertained visions, yet knew stretches of spiritual dryness. She was willing to say adsum whenever the Lord had a task to lay upon her. In his hands, she proved almost infinitely pliable. Thus relieved of having to feed her ego, she could fully surrender to God’s cause. She did this with unfailing courage. She readily spoke truth to power, whether the potentate was the Swedish king, the pope in his Avignon exile, opposing factions in the hundred-year war, or the clergy of her day for whom, not without reason, she had scant human regard. We may worry today about the chaotic state of the Church and of the world. Still, compared to the turmoil of the 14th century, it doesn’t seem like much. St Birgitta shows us what it takes to sail straight through choppy waters. We must be deeply rooted in Christ, ready at all times to follow his will, offering up our tranquillity for the unity and peace of the Church. If we live like that, then, like Birgitta, we shall get to know what our collect calls ‘the wisdom of the Cross’. And we shall have a reliable standard by which to evaluate all manner of foolishness from other quarters.

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