22 Mar Saint Catherine of Sweden, Widow
Today is the feast day of Saint Catherine of Sweden (Vadstena). Ora pro nobis.
Saint Catherine was the fourth child of St. Bridget and her husband, Ulf Gudmarsson. She was born 1331 or 1332 and died 24 March, 1381. At the time of her death St. Catherine was head of the convent of Wadstena, founded by her mother; hence the name, Catherine Vastanensis, by which she is occasionally called. At the age of seven she was sent to the abbess of the convent of Riseberg to be educated and soon showed, like her mother, a desire for a life of self-mortification and devotion to spiritual things. At the command of her father, when about thirteen or fourteen years, she married a noble of German descent, Eggart von Kürnen. She at once persuaded her husband, who was a very religious man, to join her in a vow of chastity.
After the death of her father, Saint Catherine, out of devotion to the Passion of Christ and to the relics of the martyrs, obtained her spouse’s permission to join her mother in her well-known pilgrimages and practices of devotion and penance in Rome. She went to her there and they visited the tombs of the martyrs and the churches, and together practiced mortification and works of piety, caring for the sick in the hospitals.
Not long afterward, Catherine’s royal spouse died piously and then she found herself obliged to refuse numerous requests for her hand in marriage. In 1372 St. Catherine and her brother, Birger, accompanied their mother on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; after their return to Rome St. Catherine was with her mother in the latter’s last illness and death.
In 1374, in obedience to St. Bridget’s wish, Catherine brought back her mother’s body to Sweden for burial at Wadstena, of which foundation she now became the head. It was the motherhouse of the Brigittine Order, also called the Order of St. Saviour. Catherine managed the convent with great skill and made the life there one in harmony with the principles laid down by its founder. The following hear she went again to Rome in order to promote the canonization of St. Bridget, and to obtain a new papal confirmation of the order.
She secured another confirmation both from Gregory XI (1377) and from Urban VI (1379) but was unable to gain at the time the canonization of her mother, as the confusion caused by the Schism delayed the process. When this sorrowful division appeared she showed herself, like St. Catherine of Siena, a steadfast adherent of the part of the Roman Pope, Urban VI, in whose favour she testified before a judicial commission. Catherine stayed five years in Italy and then returned home, bearing a special letter of commendation from the pope. Not long after her arrival in Sweden she was taken ill and died. In 1484 Innocent VIII gave permission for her veneration as a saint and her feast was assigned to 22 March in the Roman martyrology. Catherine wrote a devotional work entitled “Consolation of the Soul” (Sielinna Troëst), largely composed of citations from the Scriptures and from early religious books; no copy is known to exist. Generally she is represented with a hind at her side, which is said to have come to her aid when unchaste youths sought to ensnare her.
Image: Catherine of Vadstena. Sculpture at Trönö church, Hälsingland. (5)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff