On a trip to Rome a few months ago I visited the Church of St Bridget of Sweden in the Piazza Farnese. I had visited the church before, but this time I made a point of calling in to greet the sisters and request a visit to the rooms of St Bridget. The sisters were very kind and I got a wonderful tour by a lovely German sister. I learned a great deal about the Saint, including one snippet of information which had particular interest for me as an Irishman: St Bridget of Sweden was called after St Brigid of Ireland. St Bridget's mother had a devotion to our Brigid and so named her daughter after her, though the spelling is slightly different.
St Bridget always fascinated me, partly because my own mother bears her name, but also because Bridget was part of that spiritual movement in the 14th century which sought to rekindle a renewal of spiritual life, one to which a later Saint, St Catherine of Siena, would dedicate her life. At the heart of St Bridget's plan of reform was meditation on the passion of the Lord. Later reformers would take up this spirituality, notably St Alphonsus Ligouri and St Paul of the Cross. St Bridget was credited with writing the famous Fifteen Prayers which are said to be the fruit of various visions. Now, while we cannot prove for certain that Bridget actually wrote these prayers, we do know that they share her spiritual vision and can lead us to understand her spirituality.
We cannot escape the passion of the Lord, and it is necessary for us to meditate on it frequently. For one thing as we pray the passion we realise that we were redeemed by the death of Christ, offered as free gift in love; a gift we cannot earn, but one we are asked to receive and live, re-orienting our lives to conform with the love that is revealed on the cross. Why does the Church ask us to follow the Gospel? Because it is the way our Crucified Lord laid out for us, it is the way to heaven and it takes us into the pierced Heart of Christ where we will find our salvation and our eternal life. The truth of the Gospel is guaranteed by the Suffering and Risen Saviour, and so in abandoning ourselves to the passion of the Lord, we come to understand the Gospel and we are inspired to live it, not as a daily toil, but as daily offering of love.