DAILY CATHOLIC    FRI-SAT-SUN     July 3-5, 1998     vol. 9, no. 129


To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE & SECTION TWO
          The third chapter of the Age of Marian Apparitions picks up where chapter two left off, leaving the 13th Century and entering the 14th and 15th Centuries when both Jesus and Mary appeared to a special saint. In this third installment we highlight the special calling of Saint Bridget of Sweden

More promises of protection!

Installment Three
          The 14th Century was best known for the apparitions and promises from Our Lord and the Blessed Mother to Saint Bridget of Sweden. Bridget was born just after the turn of the century in 1303 in Uppsala, Sweden. At that very moment, Our Lady chose to appear to the curate of Rasbo, Sweden by the name of Benedict and assure him his people would be delivered from the tyranny of the Ingeborde rule as she related to him on June 14, 1303: "A child has been born at Birger; her voice will be heard by the entire world." Little did anyone truly realize what this meant.

          When Bridget was 12 years-old, Our Lady first appeared to her and shortly after that, at the tender age of 14, she was married to 18 year-old Ulf Gudmarsson and the couple proceeded to have eight children, one of whom was a saint herself - Saint Karin. About the time Bridget was 33 she was asked by King Magnus II to serve as the lady-in-waiting to Magnus' young queen Blanche of Namur. Though the worldly trappings of royalty were a temptation for Bridget, rather than weakening, she was strengthened and strove relentlessly to convince the royal couple to cut back on their luxury and give more to the poor. Discouraged by their excesses, Our Lady comforted Bridget by appearing to her interiorly and imparting private messages to the Swedish saint. It was after the death of her youngest son Gudmar that she and Ulf decided to travel to Santiago de Compostela. Just as many have experienced tremendous conversion experiences at Medjugorje, so also Bridget and Ulf realized from that point on they would spend the remainder of their lives in monasteries, even though they were not members of a religious community. In 1344 Ulf died at the age of 45 in a Cistercian monastery. As a widow Bridget withdrew into deeper prayer and asceticism. Her visions and private revelations grew stronger and more often and she consulted a Cistercian monk to be her spiritual director and help her discern if these were truly of God. He reassured her and was so impressed he wrote the messages down in Latin. Prompted by Our Lady and aided by the resources of Magnus II, she founded a religious order of Bridgettines and a monastery for the Institute of the Most Holy Savior. Shortly thereafter she made a pilgrimage to Rome. Little did she know when she made that trip in 1350 that she would never set foot again on her beloved homeland soil of Sweden. But when God closes one door, He always opens another wider. Such was the case for Bridget who for the next 23 years would play a vital role in the papacy and give to the world the 21 Promises and 15 Prayers of St. Bridget Jesus conveyed to her while she was at prayer in the Church of St. Paul at Rome below the Crucifix. This same crucifix can be seen today above the tabernacle in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of St. Paul's-outside-the-walls in Rome.

          The Promises and 15 Prayers are contained in the inspirational "Pieta Prayer Booklet" available by calling (616) 731-4490. The 15 Prayers, along with a corresponding 15 Our Father's and 15 Hail Mary's said for an entire year compose the total number (5,480) of blows to the body that Jesus was dealt during His Passion as He confirmed to Bridget. These prayers honor His Wounds.

          Like her counterpart, mystic and Doctor of the Church Saint Catherine of Siena, Bridget was influential in tirelessly working to bring the pope out of exile in Avignon and back to the See of Rome. Like she had advised the King and Queen of Sweden, she also pulled no punches in denouncing the debauchery and greed of the noble ruling class in Naples and Cyprus. God had given her both the gifts of prophecy and fortitude to fulfill His Will and He lovingly called her home on July 23, 1373. Her casket carried triumphantly back to the monastery near Vadstena in Sweden where she was buried. She was quickly referred by all her countrymen as the "Patroness of Sweden." Eighteen years later Pope Boniface IX canonized her.

          Our Blessed Mother appeared two more recorded places during the 14th Century. One apparition was to Pope John XXII in 1322 when Our Lady appeared to the pontiff and bestowed the Sabbatine Privilege of the Brown Scapular in Rome. The Pope issued a bull stating that whoever wore the Brown Scapular of the Carmelites would be delivered by Our Lady out of Purgatory on the Saturday after their death. This was later amended by Pope Paul V in 1613 to say that one must have been in the state of grace and worn the Scapular and that it was a "pious belief" that Mary would be especially propitious to those who have worn the Brown Scapular given to Saint Simon Stock. Our Lady reappeared in Russia for the second time in less than a century, this time at Pochaiv in the Ukraine in 1340 where an Icon of Our Lady became the source for multiple miraculous healings.

          During the 14th and 15th centuries two other saints are said to have had apparitions of Our Lady. One was Dutch-born Saint Lidwina in Schiedam, Holland in 1413. Very little is known about these apparitions. The other is Saint Frances of Rome. Born in 1384, Frances' life paralleled St. Bridget's in that she was married at an early age, had several children, and her husband and offspring died before her. In fact her husband Lorenzo Ponziani had been commander of the papal guard and he was paralyzed fighting against General Ladislaus of Naples who captured the anti-pope John XXIII. Two of her children died from the plague and Frances nursed her husband throughout his ordeal while still attending to the poor and needy of Rome. To better care for all and to provide almshouses, she founded the Olivetan Oblates of Santa Maria Nuova. This, some sources say was inspired by visions of Our Lady to Frances. When her husband died in 1436, Frances entered the religious order of Oblates she had founded. There God bestowed numerous extraordinary mystical gifts on her. On March 9, 1440 while reciting the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady appeared to alert Frances that God was calling her home after a life well-lived in His service. She was canonized in 1608 by Pope Paul V who renamed the church of Santa Maria Nuova the Church of St. Frances of Rome. He also cited her prayers and sufferings as instrumental in ending the Western Schism and bringing the papacy back to Rome after a long exile in Avignon.

          The rest of the 15th Century was fairly quiet apparition-wise as the Mother of God concentrated only on a few sites in Europe. Two in Italy: In Caravaggio she appeared to visionary Gianetta di Pietro Vacchi in 1432 promising Peace; eight years later in Bologna many of the villagers reported seeing Our Lady hovering above the rooftops. The Blessed Virgin appeared as Notre Dame de Grace in Aderlecht, Belgium in 1449 and 42 years later in 1491 at Alsace to visionary Dieter Schore of whom hardly anything is known.

          Much is known, however, of what happened the next year. An Italian explorer with a great devotion to Our Lady set sail under the banner of Spain for a new world. The rest, as we know, is history - the history of the western hemisphere and, in particular, our own country which is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. It was in the 16th century when Our Blessed Mother would make her first appearance in the new world to a poor Indian. That apparition would forever change the face of civilization in the new world. In the next issue we will detail that century and the wondrous miracles at Guadalupe.

    TOMORROW: The 16th century: a method to her messages

July 3, 1998       volume 9, no. 129


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