About the Birgittines


St. Birgitta of Sweden (1303-1373) was commissioned by Christ to found the Order of the Most Holy Blessed. The first monastery was to be established in Vadstena. It was to be a double monastery which consisted of 60 sisters who had thirteen priests, four deacons and eight lay brothers, all under the direction of an abbess who represented the Blessed Virgin in the midst of the 72 disciples and the twelve apostles with Paul, altogether 85 people.

The Vadstena sisters and friars were to act as in heaven: to revitalize the church: not by preaching but by praying, by receiving pilgrims and living a hidden life like the one Our Blessed Virgin had lived in her house of Nazareth. In 1384 the monastery at Vadstena was consecrated and soon there came many foundations including also in Rosmalen, the monastery Marienwater which Milla van Campen founded. It became a thriving community with a large scriptorium. Because of the Reformation, the sisters had to die out while the friars had to leave.

The friars later died out completely. Around 1713, the few sisters also had to leave Mariënwater and the superior Theodora Alexia de Haen bought a dilapidated former convent in Uden. It was refurbished and rebuilt. The convent was called Maria Refugie. Later danger threatened again: the French who came to plunder our convent and several times the sisters had to take refuge in places in the Netherlands but later returned but no new members were allowed to be accepted.

Nevertheless, this was done secretly and when it was released again to accept members, 17 girls made their profession! Maria Refugie Abbey had an enormous prosperity so that two monasteries could be founded: in the 19th century in Weert and in the 20th century in Vadstena (website: www.birgittaskloster.se) where the original monastery no longer existed because of Lutheranism which prohibited the Catholic Faith. Of the Order founded by St. Birgitta, which had about 64 monasteries, only we and the monastery in Vadstena still exist, having survived the storms of reform, plague and secularization.