Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Today most of the Catholic world celebrates the Feast of St. Bridget of Sweden, Doctor of the Church, although her feast is still celebrated on October 8 according to the calendar of the Traditional Roman Rite. In this newsletter, I would like to recall some of the wonderful truths about creation that Our Lord and His Blessed Mother have highlighted through the life and writings of St. Bridget. I have taken the information I am sharing in this newsletter from the book Genesis Through the Eyes of the Saints which is available in print form or as an e-book on the Kolbe website.
St. Bridget of Sweden: Wife, Mother, Religious and Mystic
St. Bridget of Sweden was one of the most influential saints of the Middle Ages. Born to members of the Swedish aristocracy in 1302, St. Bridget married a prominent, devout landholder and bore him eight children. After her husband’s death, she consecrated herself to God and founded a religious congregation, the Bridgetines, whose constitutions were approved by the Pope eight years before her death, in 1370. She dedicated the last years of her life to Church reform and to the return of the Papacy to Rome from Avignon.
Throughout her life, St. Bridget was favored with private revelations, many of which were written down by her spiritual advisors. In his letter Spes Aedificandi Pope St. John Paul II wrote that "there is no doubt that the Church, which recognized Bridget's holiness without ever pronouncing on her individual revelations, has accepted the overall authenticity of her interior experience.” The Council of Basel in 1436 actually confirmed the orthodoxy of her revelations.
In Our Lord’s dialogues with St. Bridget, He reaffirmed and elaborated upon His revelations to Moses about Creation and the Fall, emphasizing the goodness of the Divine Nature and of the original Creation before Original Sin. He explained that the first rebellion against the Divine Will was the fall of the angels, and that the possibility of a fall could not be avoided because God created the angels free and rational creatures who could only love as God loves by making a free decision to do so. He told St. Bridget:
It was love that led God to create. There could be nothing lacking in God, nothing wanting to His goodness or His joy.
It was out of love alone that He willed creation, that there might be beings, apart from Himself, who would partake of His infinite goodness and joy. So the Angels came to be, created by God in countless numbers. To them He gave free will, freedom to act, in accordance with their nature, as they willed. As He Himself is under no necessity but has created out of love alone, He willed that the Angels, whom He designed for eternal happiness with Him, should likewise be under no necessity. He looked for love in response to His love, obedience to His offer of eternal joy.
Yet in the first moment of their creation, there were Angels who chose, freely and deliberately against their Creator, in spite of His infinite love, which called them to love in return. Justly they fell, fixed in their evil will, from an eternal joy into an eternal misery. But not all fell. To those Angels who chose love for love, there was given the contemplation of God in all His glory, power and holiness. From this contemplation, they came to know the eternity of God, that He has no beginning and no end; they learnt what it meant to have him for their Creator; and they saw most clearly how everything they possessed had come to them from His love and His power.
They learnt too that His wisdom had given them a wisdom of their own, by which He allowed them to foresee the future. And it was a joy and consolation to them to know that God in His mercy and love wished to replace, in His own way, those Angels who had forfeited by pride and envy their place in heaven.
The Exalted Place of Our Lady in God’s Eternal Plan
Jesus went on to explain to St. Bridget the exalted place of Our Lady in God’s eternal plan of salvation:
In their contemplation of God, the Angels saw with wonder a throne placed next to that of God Himself. They knew that the one for whom this throne had been prepared had not yet been created. Yet already they loved this chosen one, and rejoiced as they waited. Their love for each other was born of their love for God. But between these two loves they saw one who was more lovable than themselves, one whom God loves with great joy more than all his creatures. Virgin Mary, you were the chosen one, destined for that throne near to the throne of God.
It was you whom the Angels loved, after God, from the first moment of their creation, seeing in the contemplation of God, how beautiful He had made themselves, but how much more beautiful He would make you. They saw that in you there would be a love and a joy far greater than their own. They saw too the crown that awaited you, a crown of glory and beauty surpassed only by the majesty of God. They knew how God their Creator was glorified by themselves and they rejoiced. They knew how much more He would be glorified by you, and they rejoiced still more.
Before ever you were created, Mary, God and Angels together rejoiced in you.
Our Lord went on to elaborate on the magnificence of His plan for mankind and on His sorrow over man’s ingratitude. He told her:
You honor Me worthily for every created creature. But, tell me, why do you praise Me for mankind which has provoked Me to wrath more than any other creature? I created him more superior and dignified than all the lower creatures under the sky, and for none else did I suffer such indignities as for mankind and none was redeemed at so great a cost. Or what creature does not abide by its created order other than man? He inflicts me more with sorrow than any other creature. For just as I created you to praise and honor me, so I made man to honor Me. I gave him a body like a spiritual temple, and I made and placed the soul in it like a beautiful angel, for the human soul has power and strength like an angel. In this temple, I, the God and Creator of mankind, wished to be like the third so that he would enjoy Me and find delight in Me. Then I made him another temple, similar to himself, out of his rib.
The Original Dominion of Mankind
Our Lord showed St. Bridget that man’s dominion over the original creation was so complete that his fall brought misery not only to his human descendants but to the lower animals. In answer to a question about animal suffering, He told her:
You ask why animals suffer infirmities. This is because there exists a disorder in them as in the rest of creation. I am the Maker of every nature and have given to each its own temperament and order in which each one moves and lives. However, after man, for whose sake all things were made, set himself against his lover, that is, against Me his God, then disorder entered all the rest of creation, and all the things that should have been afraid of man began to set themselves against him and oppose him. Because of this defective disorder many troubles and difficulties befall humankind as well as animals.
Besides, sometimes animals also suffer because of their own natural immoderation or as a curb to their ferocity, or as a cleansing of nature itself, or sometimes because of human sins in order that human beings, who have a greater use of reason, might consider how much punishment they deserve, when the creatures they love are plagued and taken away. But if human sins did not demand it, animals, which are under human charge, would not suffer in so singular a manner.
But not even they suffer without great justice. Their suffering occurs either to put a quicker end to their lives and lessen their wretched toils that consume their strength or on account of a change in seasons or out of human carelessness during the process of work. People should therefore fear me, their God, above all things, and treat my creatures and animals more mildly, having mercy on them for the sake of me, their Creator. I, God, accordingly decreed the Sabbath rest, because I care for all My creation.
. . . As to why everything is born in pain, I answer: When humankind rejected the fairest pleasure, they immediately incurred a life of toil. And because the disorder began in and through humankind, My justice causes there to be some bitterness even for other creatures, which exist for the sake of humans, so as to temper their pleasure and foster their means of nourishment. For this reason, people are born with pain and make toilsome progress in order to render them eager to hurry to their true rest. They die naked and poor in order to make them restrain their disorderly behavior and fear the coming examination.
Likewise animals, too, give birth in pain in order for bitterness to temper their excesses, and so that they may be participants in human toil and sorrow. For this reason, insofar as humankind is so much nobler than are animals, people should love Me, the Lord God, their Creator, all that much more fervently.
“Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi”
Some of St. Bridget’s most beautiful teachings on creation were set down in the prayers that were written for her religious community—prayers that are still recited daily by Bridgettine communities all over the world. A recurring theme of these prayers is that God is love and that love was His sole motive for creating the universe; a related theme is that the beauty of the first created world was a mere foreshadowing of the beauty of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Since God is eternal and timeless, all things were eternally known to him, before their existence in time. Then, when he willed them to be, they came to be with that exact perfection which suited their purpose. The divine wisdom of God willed all things to be what they are for his own honour and glory. He had no need of them;
it was not to make up for any deficiency in himself - something wanting to his goodness or joy - there can be no defect or deficiency in God. It was his love, and his love alone, which led him to create; that there might be beings, apart from himself, whose existence should be an existence of joy, deriving from his own being and joy. All things, then, foreseen by God,
and present to him eternally, though as yet uncreated, had already that design and perfection which they would possess when his creating brought them to be. One thing excelled all others, designed and perfected by God with a special joy. This was Mary, the Virgin who was a Mother, the Mother who was ever a Virgin.
Our Lord showed St. Bridget that Mary’s acts constituted a new and even more beautiful creation than the first created world:
We read that it pleased God to create the birds, whose flight and song are a delight to men. All the words which you spoke, Mary, heard also in heaven to the joy of the Angels, were more pleasing still.
We read that God created the earth itself, the dry land and the soil; and flowering and fruit-bearing trees of many kinds. Your life, Mary, your occupations and work,
were more pleasing to him, for you would give nourishment, and life itself, to all, and your love would make each act of your life more beautiful to God and the Angels than the fairest of flowers are to men.
God created the plants, flowers, trees, and fruits, minerals, metals, and precious stones - He has made the earth rich with these things. Yet he saw in you, Mary, even before your creating, more qualities and virtues than in all earthly things. We read that God's creation was pleasing to Him, and that He looked with joy on all He had done. It pleased Him still more to create you, Mary, and He looked with greater joy on you, even before your creating, than on this earth and all earthly things. That world and everything in it, - all would be destroyed. Though created before you, Mary, it would not endure. But you, by God's eternal decree, were created to be forever, and to be forever united to Him in deepest love, created in fullest grace, responding to His grace in all things, and so growing to the perfection of holiness.
Thus did God confirm to his saints the teaching of the Fathers—that He created a perfectly good and beautiful world for us, marred only by our sin.
Yours in Christ through the Holy Theotokos, in union with St. Joseph,