Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Bridget of Sweden who founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior in 1346 after her husband, Ulf, died. The holy couple had eight children, among them St. Catherine of Sweden.
The Order of the Most Holy Savior consisted of men and women, and are better known as the Brigittines. This order suffered much, particularly during the persecutions of Henry VIII. The King envied the Brigittines because of their wealth, which they freely gave to the poor. Ultimately, his greed drove him to seize all of the community’s property, including Syon Abbey, the only Brigittine house in England.
Henry VIII also despised the Brigittines because they did not support his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Members of the Brigittines spoke openly against the King, though some sources suggest this was done only in the confessional.
Among the Catholic religious who were persecuted by Henry VIII, St. Richard Reynolds, the only Brigittine Monk honored with Canonization, particularly angered the King. Because of his loyalty to the Church, St. Richard was martyred on May 4, 1535 by drawing and quartering, a punishment reserved for the most treasonous criminals.
During the funeral procession of Henry’s body from London to Windsor for the burial, the King’s casket rested overnight at Syon, then a country home. According to claims and eye-witness accounts, people noticed a rotten stench coming from the casket. The casket seemed to have expanded and even opened and oozed blood in parts. When men came to reseal the casket, a dog was seen to lick up the king’s blood.
This strange and bizarre occurrence seemed to fulfill a prophecy made by a Franciscan friar years earlier, which foretold of the King’s disgraceful burial if the King continued to behave like Ahab. After King Ahab’s death, wild dogs had licked Ahab’s blood (cf. 1 Kings 22:38).
Due to the severe persecution of the order, the last succeeding Brigittine monk died in 1863. Few Brigittines remain throughout the world, and only one community of monks, founded in 1976, exists today. We would like to extend our warm wishes of a blessed feast day to our affiliate community, the Brigittine Monks in Amity, OR.
St. Bridget of Sweden, pray for us!