|BRIDGET OF SWEDEN (ca 1303 - July 23, 1373)|
Bridget was a woman of many roles
mother of 8 (one of whom is also a Saint)
princess of Sweden
confidant, advisor and critic of Kings, Popes and Councils
visionary and recipient of several revelations
foundress of an Order
In 1999, She was named, along with Catherine of Siena and Edith Stein, as one of the women co-patronesses of Europe. The men are Benedict, Cyril & Methodius.
Her marriage, begun in 1316, ended when her husband died in 1344, after they had returned from a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
From early childhood, Bridget believed she had received visions or revelations, and after her husband died, these revelations become more frequent.
In one of them, the Lord directed her to found an order, his Order « The Order of the Most Holy Savior, O.Ss.S.» to live a life of praise for His Mother, the Blessed Virgin. The revelations detailed a rule of life, the form of liturgical prayer her Nuns were to pray, and even the unique habit the Nuns were to wear.
Bridget, with the assistance of King Magnus of Sweden and his wife, founded a monastery at Vadstena in 1346. She was directed to go to Rome to seek papal approval for her community, and her rule. She journeyed to Rome in 1349. The Popes, however, resided in Avignon in France at this period, and one of Bridget's many missions was to encourage, in any way she could, including criticism, the return of the papacy and the curia officials to Rome.
There was a temporary success, and during it, in August of 1370, in Rome, Pope Urban V confirmed the constitutions of Bridget's new order.
Bridget continued doing charitable work in Rome and throughout Italy and then made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1373. She returned to Rome, died on July 23rd. Afterwards, her daughter, St. Catherine of Sweden, returned Bridget's body to Vadstena and became first Abbess of the new order.
It is of interest to note that Bridget, although both foundress and lawgiver, was never a member of her order, never wore the habit of the order and which she had described from her visions, never was a nun, in fact. And perhaps never prayed the office she left for her Nuns. Much of the iconography which shows Bridget does picture her in a habit, or in pilgrim's attire and sometimes, even in the dress of royalty.
|the bridgettine order(s)|
The Bridgettine Order was founded principally for contemplative nuns. Each Abbey was to be independent and its government would be exercised by an Abbess. Bridget also included monks in the Order, so that there were, for many centuries, Abbeys with double monasteries (i.e., one for women, one for men -- they would share one building only, the church). The monks were to be chaplains to the Nuns.
Bridget's rule specified numbers for each community, i.e.,
"the number of choir nuns shall not exceed sixty, with four lay sisters; the priests shall be thirteen, according to the number of the thirteen apostles, of whom Paul the thirteenth was not the least in toil; then there must be four deacons, who also may be priests if they will, and they are the figure of the four principal Doctors, Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory and Jerome, then eight lay brothers, who with their labors shall minister necessaries to the clerics, therefore counting three-score sisters, thirteen priests, four deacons, and the eight servitors, the number of persons will be the same as the thirteen Apostles and the seventy two-disciples" (Rule).
The order grew, and by many accounts, its reputation was one of holiness. The constitutions were further approved by Urban VI again by Martin V. The crises in Europe which followed these good beginnings took their toll: the reformation, the many wars, national and civil. By the mid 1860's, the double monasteries ceased.
There are five Abbeys of Nuns of the original order today: Syon Abbey (founded in 1415) in England, ALTOMÜNSTER (1497) in Germany, UDEN (1713, at the present location, although the Abbey was founded as Mariënwater ca 1437 in Rosmalen ) and WEERT (1843) in Holland, as a foundation from Uden, and VADSTENA (re-founded in 1963 from Uden in Holland).
« Syon Abbey has the distinction of being the only religious community of continued, unbroken existence since its foundation in 1415 before the Reformation, although its Nuns have been several times in Exile and only finally returned to England in 1861. »
There is another order of contemplative Bridgettines, entirely independent of the original branch, founded in Spain in the 17th century. These Bridgettines of the Recollection have houses in Spain, in Mexico, in Venezuela and in Peru.
An "active" branch of the Bridgettines, founded in 1911 by Elisabeth Hesselblad, has several communities in Europe and one in the United States. Their ministry of maintaining guest houses is centralised from Rome, and their headquarters are the house in which St. Bridget lived.
The male branch of the order has come to life again, in the United States, in Oregon. Since 1976, they live a contemplative life and are called simply Brigittine Monks.
|THE BRIDGETTINE OFFICE|
- The Bridgettine Office is modeled on the Divine Office of the Roman Rite of the Middle Ages.
- It contains all the traditional elements of the liturgy of the hours: psalms, canticles, readings, hymns and prayers, and is arranged according to the liturgical hours in use at the time of its writing (Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline).
- Its use as a canonical office by the Bridgettine Nuns is unusual: most communities of contemplative Nuns who are solemnly vowed are obliged to pray, in choir, the complete Divine Office (either Roman, Ambrosian, Monastic, or one of the Roman Rite variants, such as Carmelite or Dominican).
- Its form and its texts were revealed by the Lord to be the staple of the Nuns' praise in honor of His Mother. (Many think it a variant of one of the several versions of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin. It is not.)
- In the very late middle ages, a Brother of Syon Abbey composed the famous Mirror of Our Lady, which saw (printed) publication in 1530. It is a detailed commentary on the Bridgettine Office, though it became very popular among clergy and laity. There is no direct evidence as to authorship, but the best research suggests that it was Thomas Fishbourne (+1428), one of Syon Abbey's Bridgettine Monks and its first Confessor-General.
- Mirror of Our Lady is a learned text, though it is not considered "great" literature from the period; however, its author had an excellent understanding of the liturgy of the hours, and took great pains to ensure that his readers (primarily the Nuns of Syon Abbey) understood their Breviary texts. (For example, he shows that while every antiphon in the office is Marian-focused, it also derives its text and theme from the psalm or psalms which it frames. )
Specific Bridgettine components of the Office
- The Readings at Matins (Lesson) are taken from one of the revelations called the Sermo Angelicus. In the traditional structure, there are three long readings and responsories from the Sermo each day. An English translation of the Sermo, made by The Rev. Brian Foley for use by the Nuns of Syon Abbey, is provided on the internet by Julia Holloway, here. « Double click this picture to enlarge it. »
- Every hymn, antiphon, versicle, prayer, etc., is Marian-oriented (and this is one of the reasons why some consider it a form of the Little Office). Many of these Bridgettine-specific elements are not found in other offices, past or present.
- The entire office (except the Readings) was (and is) chanted. Some of the original Bridgettine chants are preserved from manuscripts in microfilm in various universities (e.g., Hill Monastic Library at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville).
- The nuns were, by rule, required to pray the entire Psalter every week. The psalms which are not included in the breviary would be used elsewhere, e.g., in the Office of the Dead, in the Seven Penitential Psalms, the Gradual Psalms, the Office of the Holy Spirit, etc.
- The last printed breviary was published in 1908 by the Nuns of Syon Abbey through the firm of Desclee & Cie. It was revised from the previous breviary of 1697 to include a current calendar.
- From the mid 1960's, the Nuns of Syon Abbey in England have chanted their office in English. The translation of the office was made (with the exceptions of a few antiphons) by The Rev. Brian Foley (+2000) a priest of the Archdiocese of Liverpool. The English Office texts were adapted to incorporate chants from the Bridgettine repertory.
- The Syon Abbey Nuns do use the office of the Roman Rite during the Paschal Triduum, on All Souls' Day (for the Office of the Dead) and on any other day when there is a celebration of the Office of the Dead.
continue here for the STRUCTURE OF THE OFFICE
These Bridgettine Office pages were prepared with the assistance and the kindness of
Mother Abbess and the Bridgettine Nuns
SOUTH BRENT - DEVON
added November 5, 2000