St. Sigfrid of Sweden, Missionary Bishop

St. SigfridStatue of St. Sigfrid at the Vaxjo Cathedral, Växjö, Sweden

Today, February 15th, the universal Church honors St. Sigfrid of Sweden, a courageous and determined missionary bishop.

The place and date of this saint’s birth are undocumented.  Nevertheless, in or about the 11th century, Sigfrid, a priest of York and/or Glastonbury, England, was sent by King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway, to spread the Gospel to all of Norway.  Two other bishops, John and Grimkel, accompanied him to Norway and also to Sweden.  They worked under the protection of the archbishop of Bremen.  Sigfrid chose to make his headquarters at Vaxjo.  Olaf, the king of Sweden, was converted to Christianity by Sigfrid who also baptized him at Husaby in a spring, which place was the scene of various miracles.  Sigfrid worked many years as a bishop missionary, with his three nephews assisting him in this regard, Unaman, a priest, Sunaman, a deacon, and Vinaman, a subdeacon.

Sigfrid entrusted the care of his diocese to these three nephews, whilst he carried the Gospel to other provinces.  While he was gone, a troop which hated Christianity and also desired money, plundered and destroyed the church of Vaxjo and murdered Sigfrid’s three nephews, burying their bodies in a forest and placing their cut off heads in a box which sunk in a pond.  The heads were recovered and placed in a shrine.  The king desired to execute the evildoers, but Sigfrid, although greatly grieved and heartbroken, advocated to spare their lives.  Olaf ordered the murderers to pay a heavy fine, but Sigfrid would not accept their money or goods.  This he did in spite of the great hardship and economic difficulties he experienced in rebuilding the church.

Much like the first apostles of Jesus, Sigfrid had that same spirit, preaching the Gospel also in Denmark.  It is through saints like St. Sigfrid, that the Gospel lives and thrives.  Clearly, we can know Jesus through his apostles and/or disciples.

St. Sigfrid died in 1045 and was most probably canonized by Pope Adrian IV, an Englishman, who also brought the Faith to the North over one hundred years after St. Sigfrid.

This saint was a tough man, much like the persona of St. Peter, who brought the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ to Norway and Sweden, with zeal and discipline.  One can only imagine the difficult circumstances he experienced during his life as a missionary bishop.  Even though his nephews were brutally  murdered, he kept the love of Jesus for the murderers and went on to build another church for the people.  What comes to my mind is what a Jesuit priest said to me many years ago, one of my mentors: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  That is what St. Sigfrid did:  Jesus was tough – He was not a wimp, nor were his apostles or disciples.  Let us have that same strong determination, that same “toughness,” motivated by pure love of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we can accomplish much good for Our Lord and His people.

St. Sigfrid, pray for us!

With respect and love,

Joan

Sources:  Vatican website; Butler’s Lives of the Saints, edited by Michael Walsh

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0 responses to “St. Sigfrid of Sweden, Missionary Bishop

  1. Thank you, Joan, for another inspiring saint post!

     
  2. Thank you, Joan. This helps explain how the Norse people made the transition from brutal Vikings to the gentle people we know today. Also, it explains the cross on all their flags. Let’s pray that today’s generation finds the God of their parents.

     
  3. Joan, you never disappoint us. As one who is 25% Swedish, and 25% Norwegian–it is so interesting to learn of this Saint. How wonderful for you to remind us . . . “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!” In these troubled times, this is a though we all need to keep in the backs of our minds. Thank you so much for the time and effort you put into recounting the lives of the Saints for us.

     
  4. Thank you Aunti Lulu for your wonderful thoughts. So this saint has particular meaning to you, in light of your heritage. How wonderful!

     
  5. Daniel Sigfrid

    Thank you for the picture of St. Sigfrid. My family settled in northern Minnesota in the 1800’s. They came from Furuby, and Tengaby Sweden just a few miles south of Vaxjo Sweden where this statue is. As a Christian family this is very interesting and a blessing for us. Daniel Sigfrid.

     

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