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St Bridget of Sweden and the Pope Call Christian Married Couples to be the 'Sweet and Smiling Face of the Church'

By Deacon Keith Fournier
July 23rd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Bridget married Ulf and together, as a fruit of their love, they had eight children. In the hearth of the home she learned the way of selfless, kenotic love. Through the real nitty-gritty stuff of family life, including the tragic loss of a child, she became so configured her to Jesus Christ that she became a prophetic voice to the world of the twelfth century, addressing its leaders in a manner which led them to the way of repentance. After years learning the way of domestic holiness, domestic kenosis, she and her husband Ulf made a pilgrimage which changed the course of their lives.

SNOWQUAMIE, WA. (Catholic Online) - I write from the beautiful little town where my oldest son, daughter in law and their children live in the Pacific Northwest. It is time for our regular visit to share some days with a part of the extended family we see too rarely due to the distance between us. I write on the morning when, in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, we commemorate the life of a saint who achieved her great sanctity by living a true Christian vocation, marriage and motherhood in Christ.

Her name is Bridget of Sweden. Her life reveals several important truths. Among them, that all Christians are called to be configured to Jesus Christ and grow into His image. Next, for most of us, that is done within the very environment into which we are called. Finally, most of us are called to Christian marriage and family. For Bridget, her life as a wife and mother provided the fertile soil for her to enter into what I call "domestic kenosis' and learn the way of selfless love right there. Let me explain.

Luring our contemporary age into idolatry is a new golden calf around which many modern men and women now worship - the idol of choice itself. The truth is that some choices are simply wrong, like the choice of selfishness, the choice that always leads to death. The real question we should concern ourselves with in life is what we choose.and who we become through our choices

Blessed John Paul II, wrote frequently about of the implications of the exercise of human freedom. In one of his letters of instruction on the Christian family he wrote these insightful words in the letter he addresses to families: "History is not simply a fixed progression toward what is better - but rather, an event of freedom. Specifically, it is a struggle between freedoms that are in mutual conflict: a conflict between two loves - the love of God to the point of disregarding self and the love of self to the point of disregarding God (John Paul II, Christian Family in the Modern World, n. 6)"

This conflict between two loves, this event of freedom is played in each of our lives on a daily basis. The recurring questions presented to our first parents in that Garden in Eden echo and call us to respond. How will we exercise our "freedom"? At which tree will we make our decision? Will it be the tree of disobedience and self centeredness, where the first Adam chose against love or the tree on Golgotha's hill where the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:47), the Son of God, chose the obedience of Redemptive Love?

The choice of freely given "kenotic" or self emptying love is perfectly and completely shown to us in Jesus Christ, the Servant. Paul writes to the Philippians: "Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God, a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant'' (Philippians 2:6).

The phrase "emptied Himself" is a loose translation of the Greek word "kenosis". It means to be poured out in love for the other and hold nothing back. This choice of self emptying, of kenosis, of pouring out His life, is now to become our choice, no matter what our state in life. It is that choice that lies at the heart of the Christian vocation. It is the choice that leads to a life of true freedom.

We CHOOSE our future through the exercise of our freedom. In the words of the Catholic Catechism: "Freedom makes man a moral subject. When he acts deliberately, man is, so to speak, the father of his acts" (CCC, n. 1749). This extraordinary "power" of choice, what philosophers sometimes call the reflexive nature of human choice, has been the subject of deep reflection in the Christian tradition. An early father of the Church opined:

"Now, human life is always subject to change: it needs to be born ever anew.but here birth does not come about by a foreign intervention, as is the case with bodily beings, it is the result of a free choice. Thus we are in a certain way our own parents, creating ourselves as we will, by our decisions." - St. Gregory of Nyssa

When we choose in a way that is contrary to Gods plan and the way of love, we sin. Sin is an abuse of the freedom to choose given to us by God (cf. CCC, n. 1730-1738).The New Testament is filled with the insight. We "become" adulterers when we look at a woman with lust (Mt. 5:28); what comes out of our "heart" (The "heart" is the biblical center where freedom is exercised, human choices are made and character formed) is what makes us "unclean" (Mk 7:14-23).

There is a self-determining character to our exercise of choice. In that sense, freedom is not free. it always costs. Our wrong choices corrupt us. Christians understand the heart of that choice because Love became a Person and made the ultimate choice on the second tree where He emptied Himself so that we might live (see Phil 2:5-11). Because of that we have a higher obligation to continue His choice through our poured out lives of self gift.

Bridget married a man named Ulf and together, as a fruit of their love, they had eight children. In the hearth of the home she learned the way of selfless, kenotic love. Through the real nitty-gritty stuff of family life, including the tragic loss of a child, she became so configured to Jesus Christ that she became a prophetic voice to the world of the twelfth century, addressing its leaders in a manner which led them to the way of repentance.

After years learning the way of domestic holiness, domestic kenosis, she and her husband Ulf made a pilgrimage which changed the course of their lives. After his death, Bridget went on to found an order of consecrated religious women named the Order of the Most Holy Savior or the "Bridgettines."  Bridget had a deep interior life of prayer and lived in deep communion with the Lord. She wrote down many of her revelations and inspirations. She died in Rome 1373 while on another pilgrimage. She is the Patroness of Sweden.

On this Feast, Pope Benedict XVI invited all Christian married couples to become "the sweet and smiling face of the Church" in a message which he had delivered to the eleventh international meeting of the "Equipes Notre Dame" Movement which is meeting in Brazil. The theme of the gathering was "Daring with the Gospel". The movement promotes conjugal spirituality and was founded in 1939 by the French priest Fr. Henri Caffarel.

The Pope called married couples to be "the best and most convincing messengers of the beauty of a love supported and nourished by the faith, a gift of God which is given to everyone abundantly and generously, so that day after day they can discover the meaning of their lives".

He reminded them that, "In our world, which is so deeply marked by individualism, activism, haste and distraction, sincere and constant dialogue between spouses is essential to avoid the emergence, development and degeneration of misunderstandings which, unfortunately, often lead to irreparable breaks which no one can then mend".

St Bridget of Sweden and the Pope call Christian married couples to be the 'Sweet and Smiling Face of the Church' in this age so desperately in need of saints.

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