St. Ingrid of Sweden- September 2

Ingrid caught my eye because she’s sort of related to St. Bridget of Sweden, she was a widow and started a convent, and there was some hesitation in canonizing her. She is also purported to be a mystic, which always just fascinates me. Ordinary people participating in extraordinary things– this is what God invites us to participate in, that’s what life in Christ is. I love it.

So anyway, Ingrid was born in Sweden in the 13th century to a Swedish nobleman. One of her brothers was a knight in the Teutonic Order. Her niece Kristina was the first wife of Birger Persson, who in his second marriage became father of St. Bridget of Sweden. It is said that Ingrid was an inspiration to Bridget! Ingrid came from interesting stock, for sure.

Ingrid did marry a nobleman, but he died, leaving her a widow. Then, she and her sister Kristina (not to be confused with her niece) joined a group of women under the spiritual direction of a Dominican priest, Petrus of Dacia. In one of his letters, he wrote of a spiritual daughter’s ascetic lifestyle and mystic revelations; this is widely believed to be in reference to Ingrid.

The women decided to make their spiritual life formal and so Ingrid helped to found the first Dominican cloister in Sweden and was the first Dominican nun there. As a Dominican, Ingrid made many pilgrimages, especially to Rome, Jerusalem, and Santiago de Compostela. After her sister died, Ingrid applied for formal recognition of her convent. That was finally granted a year before her death.

When she died in 1282, Ingrid’s remains instantly became the objects of veneration and her cloister then hosted many pilgrims. However, she was not yet formally recognized as a saint. It wasn’t until her relative, Bridget of Sweden, was canonized in 1391 that Ingrid’s cause was opened. It’s unclear if formal canonization ever occurred, but her sainthood is universally agreed upon.

After the Swedish Reformation, in 1645, Ingrid’s skull was stolen from the church of its resting place. The robber thought it was the skull of St. Bridget of Sweden! After being passed around for a while, it ended up, in 1959, exhibited in an abbey in The Netherlands, again thought to be the skull of St. Bridget.

There seems to be a sort of fog surrounding St. Ingrid and her life and that can make us doubt the veracity of claims for her. I don’t really see that as a stumbling block, though. Though we may not know her clearly, we do know that she was holy. She spent her life in pursuit of God and this had a profound effect on those around her, including her relative who eventually became a saint, too. Most of our lives are obscured in some way or another, even while we are living. What this reminds me is that “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). Nothing about Ingrid is diminished because we don’t know her fully, just as God is not diminished because we cannot see Him clearly or fully yet.

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