Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Catherine of Vadstena, Her Mother's Daughter

Catherine of Sweden (died 24 March 1381)

Catherine of Sweden (or Catherine Ulfsdotter) was the daughter of Ulf Gudmarsson, lord of Ulvåsa, and Birgitta Birgersdotter of Finsta--who would become St. Birgitta of Sweden

A sculpture of Catherine of Sweden,
Trönö church, Hälsingland
Born in 1332, Catherine would, like her mother, marry before she entered into the religious life. And, also like her mother, Catherine would be recognized as a saint.

At the age of seven, Catherine was sent to be educated at the convent of Riseburg, where she received spiritual training. Although the girl preferred her convent life, when she was about twelve or thirteen, her father arranged her marriage to Egard Lydersson von Kyren, a German noble. 

Unlike her mother, however, who had eight children, Catherine convinced her husband to enter into a chaste marriage, and both took vows of perpetual virginity. After a few short years of marriage, Catherine traveled with her mother to Rome in 1349 to visit relics of holy martyrs and to gain recognition for the new religious order that Birgitta, now widowed, hoped to establish. Shortly after their arrival, Catherine learned of the death of her husband.

She remained in Rome with her mother, assisting her in her charitable work and accompanying her mother on several pilgrimages, including a trip to the Holy Land. After Birgitta's death in 1373, Catherine returned to Sweden and became the abbess of the Brigittine convent at Vadstena abbey, a convent that had been founded by her mother.

As abbess, Catherine insured that the established conformed to the Rule established by her mother. She also returned to Rome, working toward her mother's canonization, and while in Rome, she became a friend of another famed religious figure, Catherine of Siena (whom we will meet next month).

Birgitta had originally been buried in Rome, but Catherine received permission to have her mother's remains moved and reburied at Vadstena. Catherine of Sweden served as abbess of Vadstena until her death on 24 March 1381.

The convent at Vadstena
Catherine was never formally canonized, but in 1484, a century after her death, Pope Innocent VIII gave permission for her to be venerated as a saint. (Although Catherine died on 24 March, her feast day is assigned to 22 March.)

Catherine is also known to have written a devotional work, Själens tröst (Consolation of the Soul), but no copies are know to have survived (despite what Wikipedia may say).

Update, 30 January 2018: Nikos Steves writes to say that he has posted a link to this entry on St. Catherine on the podcast page for his history of of the Virgin Mary, Constant Procession . . . If you'd like to hear his podcast on St. Catherine, please click here.