Eustochium Calafato


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St Bridget of Sweden (c. 1303—1373)


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Franciscan abbess of Messina. Daughter of Bernard, a rich merchant of Messina and his wife, she was christened Smeralda (= Emerald). After experiencing a vision of Christ crucified, she entered the Poor Clare convent of S. Maria di Basico in 1446. In 1457, disillusioned by its supposed laxity, she was authorized to found a community of strict observance nearby, under the care of Franciscan Observants: this community was transferred to Montevergine in 1463. By then it included some of her close relatives.

Her love of Christ in poverty and penance was outstanding; she wrote a treatise, now lost, on the Passion, and her devotion to the Holy Places (which she never visited) in some ways recalls that of Bridget of Sweden. Elected abbess at the age of thirty, she suffered many exterior and interior trials, dying at the age of only thirty-five. She was buried at Montevergine. Her incorrupt body was described in great detail by the archbishop of Messina in 1690 and is still venerated. The cult was formally approved in 1782 and she was canonized in 1988. In art she is represented with a cross in her hand or kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament. Feast: 20 January.

AA.SS. Ian. II (1643), 251; Lives by R. G. Nuti (1925), M. Catalano (1942), and [Clarisse di Montevergine] Vita della B. Eustochia (1961); see also Bibl. SS., iii. 660–2.

Subjects: Christianity.

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