St. Catherine of Vadstena

Author: Rev. Clifford Stevens


Feast: March 24

Her mother was St. Bridget of Sweden and, like her mother, she married young. After the death of her own husband, Ulf, Bridget went to live in Rome, and Catherine followed her, with the consent of her husband. Her mother begged her to stay with her, and Catherine reluctantly agreed. While in Rome, Catherine's husband died. She stayed on with her mother, accompanied her on several journeys, one to the Holy Land, refusing every offer to remarry.

At the death of Bridget, Catherine returned to Sweden with her mother's body, which was buried at her great monastery of Vadstena. Bridget founded her order there, but it had not been fully established and approved. Catherine took on the mammoth task of forming the community in the rule her mother had written and directing the Order of the Holy Savior, or Bridgettines, as they were called. After some years, she returned to Rome to work for her mother's canonization.

She stayed there five years and returned to Sweden before her mother was canonized but obtained from Pope Urban VI the ratification of the Bridgettine rule. While in Italy, she formed a close friendship with St. Catherine of Siena and almost accompanied her on a trip to the court of Joanna of Naples, a notoriously immoral queen. Joanna had brought about the moral disgrace of Bridget's son, Charles, and St. Catherine of Vadstena could not bring herself to face the woman who had endangered her brother's soul. She returned to Sweden at the outbreak of the Great Western Schism.

Sometime after her return, Catherine's health began to fail, and she died peacefully at Vadstena after a painful illness. She was never formally canonized, but her name was added to the <Roman Martyrology> and her feast is observed in Sweden and in the Bridgettine Order. A chapel in the Piazza Farnese in Rome is dedicated to her.

Thought for the Day: Bridget was a saint and influenced her daughter, St. Catherine of Vadstena, greatly in her own search for holiness. Parents can have a profound effect upon their children, but something is required of the children as well. Consider Catherine's brother, Charles, who did not follow in his mother's footsteps. Living with a saint does not necessarily make one holy.

From 'The Catholic One Year Bible': "Love your <enemies!> Be good to <them!> Lend to <them!> And don't be concerned about the fact that they won't repay. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as sons of God: for he is kind to the <unthankful> and to those who are <very wicked.>"—Luke 6:35

Taken from "The One Year Book of Saints" by Rev. Clifford Stevens published by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, IN 46750.