Marriage can be a real path of holiness and "many times it is the woman who succeeds in taking her husband on a journey of faith."
This was the case with St. Bridget of Sweden, "an eminent figure in the history of Europe", a "holy woman who still has much to teach men, the Church and the world," but still today quite often it is the "women who, with her religious sensibility, delicacy and gentleness, succeeds in taking her husband on a journey of faith. I think with gratitude of the many women who, day after day, still light up their families with their witness of Christian life. May the Spirit of the Lord inspire the sanctity of Christian spouses even today, to show the world the beauty of marriage lived according to Gospel values: love, tenderness, mutual support, and fecundity in the generation and education of children, openness and solidarity to the world, participation in the life of the Church".
These the remarks made today by Benedict XVI, illustrating the figure of the saint from Sweden, to whom he devoted his latest catechesis on the female figures of the Church of the Middle Ages to about 25 thousand people at the general audience.
The audience also gave the Pope an opportunity to launch an appeal on behalf of the people of Indonesia and Benin, the first hit by a tsunami and a volcanic eruption, the second by violent floods.
Benedict XVI expressed his "closeness and prayer" and asked the international community to "make efforts to provide the necessary help and ease the pain of those suffering from this devastation."
Returning to his audience address, the Pope said that St. Bridget on the one hand is an example of the "true spirituality of marriage", and on the other, she who John Paul II proclaimed patron saint of Europe in 1999.
She "shows how Christianity has really permeated the lives of all the peoples of this continent”, she helps renew our hope that the Old Continent "will always be able to nourish its Christian roots."
Moreover she shows how the role of women in the Church, "without overlapping that of ordained priesthood, is equally important for the spiritual growth of the community”.
The fact, finally, that may be experienced when the Church had not yet divided Benedict XVI has urged her to address the prayer to "obtain from God the grace so attests the unity of all Christians."
The Pope said that Bridget was born in 1103 in Finsta, Sweden, "in a nation which had accepted the Christian faith three centuries before." Her life was divided into two periods.
"The first is characterized by her condition as a happily married woman" wife of Ulf Gudmarsson. Their marriage lasted 28 years until his death. They had eight children, the second of which, Karin, is venerated as a saint. "This is an eloquent sign of Bridget’s educational care towards their children."
Bridget " exerted a very positive influence on her family which due to her presence became a true domestic Church." Together with her husband, they adopted the rule of the Third Order Franciscan. They took care of the poor and also founded a hospital. "This first period helps us appreciate what we today might call an authentic spirituality of marriage. Together Christian spouses can journey on a real path to holiness.
The second period of life of the saint begins with the death of her husband in 1344.
"She forsake other marriages in favour of a deeper union with God through prayer, penance and works of charity. Even Christian widows, therefore, can find a model to follow in this Saint”.
Bridget distributed her goods to the poor and began a series of pilgrimages. In 1349 Bridget left Sweden forever and came to Rome.
"Not only to take part in the Jubilee of 1350, but she also wanted to obtain the Pope's approval to found a religious order, composed of monks and nuns under the authority of Abbess.
"This is something that should not surprise us: there were monastic foundations in the Middle Ages with male and female branches, but which practiced the same monastic rule, under the direction of an Abbess. In fact, in the great Christian tradition, the dignity of women and their place in the Church is recognized, and - following the example of Mary, Queen of the Apostles - while not overlapping that of the ordained priesthood, they are equally important for the spiritual growth of the Community. In addition, the collaboration of men and women religious, while respecting their specific vocation, is of great importance in today's world. "
She died in 1373 and was canonized in 1391 by Boniface IX.