St. Bridget of Sweden: Punishment of Lustful, Immoral Priests

St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373) was a medieval mystic and founder of the Bridgettines. Besides being the most celebrated saint to come out of Sweden, St. Bridget’s writings had a profound effect on late medieval piety, so much so that she is considered one of the patron saints of Europe. St. Bridget’s most famous work is her Celestial Revelations, a series of visions of Christ, Mary and the angels received by St. Bridget and transcribed into Latin by one Mathias, canon of Linköping, and her confessor, Peter Olafsson. In this article, we provide the entirety of Chapters 47-49 of Book I, in which Christ narrates to St. Bridget the offense caused by lustful, prideful priests and details their punishments.

Revelations of St. Bridget, Book I, Chap. 47-49

What kind of murder could be more abhorrent than when someone kills himself? Or what betrayal could be worse than when two persons are joined by an indissoluble bond, such as a married couple, and one betrays the other? What does one of the spouses do in order to betray the other? He says to her by way of deception: ‘Let us go to such and such a place so I can have my way with you!’ She goes with him then in all simplicity, ready for her spouse’s every wish. But when he finds the right opportunity and place, he brings against her three treacherous weapons. Either he uses something heavy enough to kill her with one blow, or sharp enough to slice right through her vital organs, or else something to smother and suffocate the spirit of life in her directly. Then, when she has died, the traitor thinks to himself: ‘Now I have done wrong. If my crime comes out in the open and becomes public, I will be condemned to death.’ Then he goes and puts his wife’s body in some hidden place, so his sin will not be discovered.

This is the way I am dealt with by the priests who are my betrayers. For they and I are bound by a single bond when they take the bread and, by pronouncing the words, change it into my true body, which I received from the Virgin. None of the angels can do this. I have given that dignity to priests alone and have selected them for the highest orders. But they deal with me like betrayers. They put on a happy and pleasant face for me and lead me to a hidden place where they can betray me. These priests put on a happy face by appearing to be good and simple. They lead me to a hidden chamber by approaching the altar. There I am ready like a bride or bridegroom to carry out all their wishes, and instead they betray me.

First they hit me with something heavy, whenever the divine office, which they recite for me, becomes burdensome and heavy to them. They would rather speak a hundred words for the sake of the world than a single one in my honor. They would rather give a hundred pieces of gold for the sake of the world than a single penny for me. They would rather work a hundred times for the sake of their own profit and that of the world than once in my honor. They press down on me with this heavy burden, so that it is as though I am dead in their hearts.

Second, they pierce me as with a sharp blade that penetrates the vital organs each time the priest goes up to the altar in the knowledge that he has sinned and repented but is firmly resolved to sin again, once he has carried out his office. He thinks to himself: ‘I do indeed repent of my sin, but I will not give up the woman with whom I have sinned so as not to be able to sin any longer.’ These pierce me as with the sharpest of blades.

Third, it is as though they smother the spirit when they think to themselves thus: ‘It is good and delightful to be in the world, it is good to indulge lusts and I cannot contain myself. I will do what I like in my youth. When I grow old, I will abstain and mend my ways.’ And through this wicked thought they smother the spirit of life. But how does this happen? Well, the heart in them grows so cold and tepid toward me and toward every virtue that it can never be warmed up or rise again to my love. Just like ice does not catch fire, even if it is held to the flame, but only melts, so too, even if I give them my grace and they hear words of admonishment, they do not rise up to the way of life, but only grow barren and slack in respect to every virtue. And so they betray me in that they pretend to be simple without being so, and are depressed and upset about giving me glory, instead of enjoying it, and also in that they intend to sin and go on sinning until the end.

They also conceal me, so to speak, and put me in a hidden place, whenever they think to themselves thus: ‘I know I have sinned. But if I refrain from the sacrifice, I will be put to shame and everyone’s going to condemn me.’ So they impudently go up to the altar and place me before them and handle me, true God and man. I am as it were in a hidden place with them, since no one knows or realizes how corrupt and shameless they are. I, God, lie there in front of them as it were in concealment, since, even if the priest is the worst of sinners and pronounces the words “This is my body,” he still consecrates my true body, and I, true God and man, lie there before him. When he puts me to his mouth, however, I am no longer present to him in the grace of my divine and human natures – only the form and flavor of bread remain for him – not because I am not really and truly present for the wicked as much as for the good due to the institution of the sacrament, but because good and wicked do not receive it with similar effect.

Look, these priests are not my priests but really my betrayers! They also sell and betray me like Judas. I look at the pagans and the Jews, but I do not see anyone worse than these priests, since they have fallen into the sin of Lucifer. Now let me tell you their sentence and whom they resemble. Their sentence is condemnation. David condemned those who were disobedient to God, not out of anger or bad will or impatience, but out of divine justice, because he was a righteous prophet and king. I, too, who am greater than David, condemn these priests, not out of anger or bad will but out of justice. Accursed be everything they take from the earth for their own profit, for they do not praise their God and Creator who gave them these things. Accursed be the food and drink that enters their mouths and fattens their bodies to become food for worms and destines their souls for hell. Accursed be their bodies that will rise again in hell to be burned without end. Accursed be the years of their useless lives. Accursed be their first hour in hell that never will end. Accursed be their eyes that saw the light of heaven. Accursed be their ears that heard my words and remained indifferent. Accursed be their sense of taste by which they tasted my gifts. Accursed be their sense of touch by which they handled me. Accursed be their sense of smell by which they smelled delightful things and neglected me, the most delightful of all.

Now, how exactly are they accursed? Well, their vision is accursed because they will not see the vision of God in himself but only the shadows and punishments of hell. Their ears are accursed, because they will not hear my words but only the clamor and horrors of hell. Their sense of taste is accursed, because they will not taste my eternal goods and joy but only eternal bitterness. Their sense of touch is accursed, because they will not get to touch me but only perpetual fire. Their sense of smell is accursed, because they will not smell that sweet smell of my kingdom that surpasses every scent, but will only have the stench of hell that is more bitter than bile and worse than sulphur. May they be accursed by earth and sky and every brute creature. These obey and glorify God, whereas they have shunned him. Therefore, I swear by the truth, I who am the Truth that if they die like this with such a disposition, neither my love nor my virtue will ever encompass them. Instead, they will be forever damned.

About how, in the presence of the heavenly host and of the bride, the divine nature speaks to the human nature against the Christians, just as God spoke to Moses against the people, and about damnable priests who love the world and despise Christ and about their condemnation and damnation.

The great host was seen in heaven and God said to it: “Behold, for the sake of this bride of mine present here, I am speaking to you, my friends, who are here listening, you who know, understand, and see all things in me. In the manner of someone speaking to himself, my divine nature will speak to my human nature. Moses was with the Lord on the mountain forty days and nights. When the people saw that he was gone a long time, they took gold and cast it in the fire and fashioned a calf out of it, calling it their god. Then God said to Moses: ‘The people have sinned. I will wipe them out, just like writing is erased from a book.’ Moses answered: ‘Do not, my Lord! Remember how you led them up from the Red Sea and worked wonders for them. If you wipe them out, where is your promise then? Do not do this, I beg you, since then your enemies will say: The God of Israel is evil, he led the people up from the sea and killed them in the desert.’ And God was appeased by these words.

I am Moses, figuratively speaking. My divine nature speaks to my human one just as it did to Moses, saying: ‘Look what your people have done, look how they have despised me! All the Christians will be killed and their faith wiped out.’ My human nature answers: ‘Do not, Lord. Remember how I led the people through the sea by my blood when I was bruised from the sole of my foot to the crown of my head! I promised them eternal life. Have mercy on them for the sake of my passion!’ When the divine nature heard this, it appeased him, and he said: ‘Thy will be done, for all judgment has been given thee!’ See what love, my friends! But now in your presence, my spiritual friends, my angels and saints, and in the presence of my corporeal friends who are in the world yet not in the world except in body, I complain that my people are gathering firewood and kindling a fire and throwing gold into it from which a calf emerges for them to adore as a god. Like a calf it stand s on four feet and has a head, a throat, and a tail. When Moses lingered on the mountain, the people said: ‘We do not know what may have become of him.’ And they were sorry that he had led them out of captivity, and they said: ‘Let us look for another god to go before us!’

This is how these damnable priests are treating me now. They say: ‘Why are we living a more austere life than others? What is our reward? We would be better off taking it easy and living in lust. Let us, then, love the world we are certain about! After all, we are uncertain about his promise.’  So they gather firewood, I mean, they apply all their senses to loving the world. They light a fire when their entire desire is for the world. They burn as their lust grows hot in their mind and results in an act. Later they throw in gold, which means that all the love and respect they should show to me, they show to get the world’s respect. Then the calf emerges, I mean, the complete love of the world, with its four feet of sloth, impatience, superfluous mirth, and greediness. These priests who should be mine are slothful in honoring me, impatient in suffering, excessive in mirth, and never content with what they get. This calf also has a head and throat, I mean, a total desire for gluttony that can never be quenched, not even were the whole sea to flow into it. The calf’s tail is their malice, for they do not let anyone keep his property, not if they can help it.

By their immoral example and their scorn, they hurt and pervert everyone who serves me. Such is the love for the calf that is in their hearts, and in such they rejoice and delight. They think about me in the same way as those others did about Moses: ‘He is gone a long time,’ they say. ‘His words appear meaningless and working for him is a burden. Let us have our will, let our strength and pleasure be our god!’ They are not even content to stop at this and forget me entirely, but, instead, they treat me like an idol. The gentiles used to worship wood and stones and dead people. Among others, an idol by the name of Beelzebub was worshipped. His priests used to offer him incense and genuflections and shouts of praise.  Anything in their sacrificial offering that was useless was dropped on the ground, and the birds and flies ate it. But the priests used to keep whatever was useable for themselves.  Then they locked the door on their idol and personally kept the key, so that nobody could get in. This is how priests are treating me in the present time. They offer me incense, I mean, they speak and preach pretty words to the people to gain respect for themselves and temporal profit, but not out of love of me. And just as you cannot lay hold of the aroma of incense, but you can feel it and see it, in the same way their words do not attain any effect on souls so as to take root and be kept in their hearts, but their words are just heard and only seem to please for a while.

They offer up prayers, but not at all to my liking. Like people with shouts of praise on their lips but silence in their hearts, they stand next to me, as it were, with prayers on their lips while in their hearts they wander around the world. However, if they were speaking with a person of rank, they would keep their minds on what they say, so as not to make any mistakes that could be remarked upon by others. In my presence, however, the priests are like men in a daze who say one thing with their lips and have another in their hearts. The person hearing their words cannot be certain about them. They bend their knees to me, that is, they promise me humility and obedience. But, really, they are about as humble as Lucifer. They obey their own desires, not me.

They also lock me in and personally keep the key. They open up on me and offer praise when they say: ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!’ But then they lock me in by carrying out their own will, while mine becomes like that of an imprisoned and powerless man because it can neither be seen nor heard. They personally keep the key in the sense that by their example they also lead astray others who want to do my will. And, if they could, they would even like to prevent my will from getting out and being accomplished, except when it accords with their own will. They keep for themselves anything in the sacrificial offering that is necessary and useful to them, and they demand all their rights and privileges. However, they seem to regard as useless people’s bodies that fall to the ground and die and for which they are obliged to offer the most important sacrifice, but leave them for the flies, I mean, the worms.

They do not care or bother about those people’s rights or about the salvation of souls. What was it that was said to Moses? ‘Kill those who made this idol!’ Some were killed but not all. Thus, my words will now come and slay them, some in body and soul by means of eternal damnation, others unto life so that they be converted and live, still others through a swift death as being priests who are altogether odious to me. What shall I liken them to? They are in fact like the fruit of the briar, which is beautiful and red on the outside, but inside is full of impurity and prickles. Likewise, these men come to me as though red with charity, and they seem to be pure to the people, but inside they are all full of filth. If this fruit is placed in the soil, other briar-bushes spring up from it. Likewise, these men hide their sin and malice in their heart as in the soil, and they become so rooted in evil that they do not even blush to go out in public and boast about their sin. Hence other people not only find it an occasion of sin but also get seriously wounded in their souls, thinking thus to themselves: ‘If priests do this, it is all the more licit for us.’ As it is, they resemble not only the fruit, but also the prickles in the sense that they disdain to be moved by correction and admonition; they think no one is wiser than they themselves and that they can do as they please. Therefore I swear by my divine and human natures, in the hearing of all the angels, that I shall break through the door they have shut on my will. My will shall be fulfilled and their will shall be annihilated and locked in endless punishment. Wherefore, as it was said of old, “I shall begin my judgment with my clergy and from my altar.”

Christ’s words to the bride about how Christ is figuratively likened to Moses leading the people out of Egypt, and about how the damnable priests, whom he has chosen in place of the prophets as his closest friends, now cry: “Depart from us!”

The Son spoke: “Earlier I likened myself figuratively to Moses. When he was leading the people, the water stood like a wall to right and left. I am indeed Moses, figuratively speaking. I led the Christian people, that is, I opened heaven for them and showed them the way. But now I have chosen other friends for myself, more special and intimate than the prophets, namely, my priests, who not only hear and see my words, when they see me myself, but even touch me with their hands, which none of the prophets or angels could do. These priests, whom I have chosen as friends in place of the prophets, cry out to me, not with desire and love as the prophets did, but they cry out with two opposing voices. For they do not cry out as did the prophets: ‘Come, Lord, for you are good!’ Instead they cry out: ‘Depart from us, for your words are bitter and your works heavy and they are a scandal to us!’ Just listen to what these damnable priests say! I stand before them like the meekest of sheep, and they get wool from me for their clothing and milk for their refreshment, and yet they loathe me for loving them so.

I stand before them like a visitor saying: ‘Friend, supply the basic needs that I lack, and you will receive the greatest reward from God!’ But in return for my sheep-like simplicity they drive me away as if I were a wolf lying in wait for the master’s sheep. Instead of hospitality they affront me like a traitor unworthy of hospitality and refuse to take me in. But what will the rejected visitor do? Should he bring out arms against the householder who drives him away? By no means. That would not be just, since the owner can give or deny his property to whomever he wants. What, then, will the visitor do? He should certainly say to the one rejecting him: ‘Friend, since you do not want to take me in, I will go to another who will take pity on me.’ And, going to another person, he hears from him: ‘You are welcome, sir, all that I have is yours. May you be the lord now! I will be your servant and guest.’ Those are the kind of lodgings I like to stay in, where I hear such a voice. I am like the visitor rejected by men. Although I can enter any place whatsoever by virtue of my power, still, under the dictates of justice, I only enter where people receive me with a good will as their true Lord, not as a guest, and surrender their own will into my hands.”

Phillip Campbell, “St. Bridget: Punishment of Lustful, Immoral Priests, Unam Sanctam Catholicam, Aug. 9, 2018. Available online at