When life doesn't turn out as planned or you feel like a failure, be inspired by Bridget of Sweden.
Ever had a moment where you think you’re making the right move in life, and then nothing goes as you planned? Maybe you got engaged to someone and were happily planning a wedding, only to be left with a broken heart and broken engagement a few months later. Or maybe you started a new job, sure that it was the best path for your life, and you then you lost your job within the year. Whatever the case may be, we can carefully discern a decision, feel sure it’s from the Lord, and start living that decision, only to have it fail somehow and leave us wondering where we went wrong.
That’s where a wife, mother, and religious sister from hundreds of years ago comes in. Her name is Bridget of Sweden, and July 23 is her feast day. Her life had some surprising twists and turns, but she still managed to live through her failures with enough grace and humility to become a saint.
Bridget was a wife and mother in the 1300s. As a young teenager, she married a man named Ulf, whom she loved very much throughout their life together. They had eight children, and many of the children lived to adulthood, which was not common at the time. After embarking on a pilgrimage together, Bridget watched her husband become very ill and almost die. She prayed fervently for him and he recovered. But then a little while later, he died. After his death, she wasn’t sure what to do next. She prayed many hours by his grave and took care of their affairs. She realized that God wanted her to found a religious order, and she was 41 when she was able to act on this call. But many things she set out to do while an abbess failed.
She tried to get the pope to move back to Rome (he was living in France at the time), but to no avail. She moved to Rome to try to help reform the Church, but her earnest letters and entreaties were not very successful. Even the plans she had for her order did not come to fruition in the way she planned. Eventually, she died in Rome, far away from her home and family in Sweden, without affecting major change in the Church.
But what did happen as a result of her life? She and her husband lived virtuously and raised their children to know God. In fact, one of their daughters is a canonized saint — St. Catherine of Sweden. The religious order Bridget founded spread and did good all over Europe. During her time in Rome, she affected the Church on a smaller scale by her goodness and charity. People saw her example and it inspired them to love God the way she did. While the big things she wanted to accomplish didn’t happen, the way she lived influenced many people for the better.
What St. Bridget’s life shows us is that even if we feel like failures, and even if what we thought we were called to do doesn’t work out, our lives are important and God still works through and with it all. We may never see exactly why things didn’t work out how we hoped they would, but that doesn’t matter. A “successful” life means living with humility and love while trying to follow God in whatever we do. Failure is always possible, but, so is holiness.
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