St. Catherine of Sweden, Virgin
Invoked against abortion and miscarriage
It’s not often we hear about saints who were both virgins and married at the same time, but it’s also not often that we hear about saints like Catherine of Sweden. She was one special lady.
Born around 1330 to her parents, Prince Ulfo and his wife, Bridget (Birgitta), who would become St. Bridget, patroness of Sweden, St. Catherine was well educated and quite holy from a young age. When she was around 13, her father gave her in marriage to Lord Egard, a young nobelman who was half Swedish and half Westphalian (German). Although both had wished for a life of solitude and celibacy, they agreed to the marriage in order to be obedient to their parents and help maintain strong royal ties. Once married though, they mutually chose to live chastely and never consummated their marriage, hence her life as both a virgin and a married woman. Together, they spent time in prayer and in service to the poor of their land.
In 1348, Catherine went to Rome to visit her mother who had lived there since shortly after the death of Catherine’s father, awaiting the return of the pope from France. For the next 25 years, Catherine and Birgitta traveled greatly, going on arduous pilgrimages to holy places as far away as Jerusalem. When Birgitta eventually passed away, Catherine brought her mother’s body back to Sweden, to be buried at the monastery Birgitta had founded but never actually been a part of. Perhaps this was really what God had used both of these women for, because upon returning, Catherine was made the Superior of the Order of the Most Holy Savior, or the Brigittines. It seems as if He used the mother to lay the groundwork for the daughter’s work.
What Bridget never saw accomplished in her lifetime, though she received many visions telling her what was to be done, Catherine was able to oversee. To speak of one of these two holy women without the other is to think of peanut butter without the jelly. It doesn’t make sense. It was through her mother’s holy example that Catherine was able to be the pious woman she was, even encouraging her husband on to great holiness through their chaste life together. Had it not been for her mother’s founding of a unique order of religious women, Catherine had never become an abbess, living out her widowed life with great purpose.
As people living in our modern world, it may seem hard to take much from her life that has a real relevance to our own. But think for a minute: she chose to be both obedient to her legitimate superiors in this world while never wavering from her true vocation that she had received from God. She managed to be both virgin and wife, princess and abbess, simply by remaining true to her own conscience. This is what makes St. Catherine relevant today: she followed her conscience no matter what else she was called upon to do.
On a side note, while she is invoked against abortion and miscarriage, I am hard pressed to find any reason as to why. Obviously, having lived and died a virgin, she was never pregnant and therefore never had a miscarriage. Regardless of the why, it’s still nice to know that she’s there, praying for all of us who have gone through a miscarriage and praying for others to never go through either a miscarriage or an abortion.