SAINT CATHERINE of SWEDEN (c.1331-1381), virgin and religious
Today, the Church honors Saint Catherine of Sweden, who devoted herself to a life of perpetual virginity and asceticism [self-discipline], and, coupled with spiritual and corporal works of mercy, she was able to spiritually grow in Christian perfection.
Catherine was the daughter of Ulf Gudmarsson and his wife Bridget, who later became known as Saint Bridget of Sweden. Catherine was born about the year 1331, and, at the age of seven, was sent to the Abbey at Riseberg by her parents and placed under the care of the abbess to receive an education and to build a foundation for her spiritual life.
At the age of thirteen, Catherine was taken from the abbey and given in marriage to Eggart von Kürnen, a very religious man and a German nobleman. Upon meeting Eggart, she at once persuaded him to join her in a vow of perpetual chastity. Both lived in a state of virginity and devoted themselves to the exercise of Christian perfection and active charity.
About the year 1349, after the death of her father and with her husband’s blessing, Catherine accompanied her mother to Rome. Soon after her arrival in the city, Catherine received news of the death of her husband in Sweden. She now lived constantly with her mother, taking an active part in Saint Bridget’s fruitful labors, and zealously imitated her mother’s ascetic lifestyle.
Mother and daughter spent many years living in Rome, including visiting and paying honor to the relics of the Roman Martyrs. They also used Rome as a base for a series of pilgrimages, including one to Jerusalem. While at home in Rome, they would spend their days in prayer and meditation, working with the poor and teaching them religion.
They each had to fend off the unwanted advances of local men, including young lords; during one of these occasions, legend has it that a wild hind [deer] came to Catherine’s defense, chasing off the troublesome, would-be suitor.
In 1373, Saint Bridget died and Catherine returned to Sweden with her mother’s body, burying her at the Mother House of the Order of the Holy Savior (Brigittines) at Vadstena. Catherine soon became Superior of the Order and served as abbess. Two years later, Sister Catherine returned to Rome to promote the cause for her mother’s canonization, and also to gain papal approval of the Rule for the Order.
Not long after she returned to Sweden with confirmation for the Order’s formal approval, Catherine became ill and died on March 24, 1381. She was known by all who met her as one who embraced an austere lifestyle and the practice of making daily use of the Sacrament of Confession (as it used to be called), as well as living a life of holiness and genuine love for God and for the poor.
Catherine of Sweden was canonized a saint in 1484 by Pope Innocent VIII.
We commemorate her feastday on March 24.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for Virgins)
“Lord, hear the prayers of those who recall the devoted life of the virgin Saint Catherine. Guide us on our way and help us to grow in love and devotion as long as we live.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”