Apostasy & Reform in the
Revelations of St. Birgitta

By Ingvar Fogelqvist
Almqvist & Wiksell
ISBN: 91-2201-572-8
262 pages
$59.50 paper


This study deals with apostacy and reform in the Revelations of St. Birgitta of Sweden (c. 1303-1373). Birgitta accuses the Christians of her time of having fallen prey to the three temptations of pride, covetousness of riches and carnal pleasure. In consequence they have deserted Christ which is manifested in a disregard of the seriousness of sin, a vain hope, a weak or erroneous faith and a charity which has grown cold. She reproaches the secular and spiritual leaders for neglecting the spiritual welfare of their neighbors.

Birgitta understands her own attempt of reform as a return to the Biblical and Patristic models of Christian life. Moreover, reform in the Revelations means basically personal renewal. It begins zeal for God, which includes penance, hope in Christ's mercy, fear of his justice, faith and charity. Zeal for God is accompanied by a corresponding contempt for the world . Inward and outward humility are the central concepts here along with contempt for worldly riches and a life of abstinence.

Birgitta follows to a large extent the monastic scheme of personal reform as laid down by the Benedictine and Cistercian tradition. There are, however, themes which are not directly inspired by monastic spirituality. She has a strong concern for the salvation of souls and speaks of the duty to edify others by word and example and to share with them the fruits of one's personal reform but also for the reform of the Church's pastoral mission. Thus, she would have the prelates abandon their practice of simony and end their non-residence. Her persistant exhorations for the pope's return to Rome give evidence of her conviction that his own reform was a first requirement of the Church reform.

Bibliotheca Theologiae Practicae Kyrkov Studier

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