Today in our Order we mark the memorial of a Norbertine canoness; Blessed Bronislava. Bronislava was born in 1230 to an important Polish family. Her grandfather had founded the Premonstratensian monastery at Zwierzyniec near Cracow where Bronislava’s aunt Gertrude had entered, later becoming prioress at Imbramowice. Bronislava was also a cousin of the Dominican Saint Hyacinth. Bronislava entered the convent at Zwierzyniec at the age of sixteen where she was soon afterward elected prioress. The hallmarks of her spiritual life were her devotions to the Passion of Our Lord and His Holy Cross. When plague came to Poland she quickly set about aiding the ailing and comforting the dying. During the political turmoil that engulfed Poland the convent of Zwierzyniec had to be abandoned on several occasions, situated as it was outside the rampart of Cracow and thus vulnerable to attack. On these occasions the canonesses were forced to seek shelter from the marauding hordes in other religious houses or in the depths of the forests.
The worse attack came in 1241 with the invasion of the Tartars. Bronislava with some of her sisters were praying, with arms outstretched in the form of a cross, when they received the news that the savage Tartars were advancing rapidly towards Cracow. the convent was in imminent danger of destruction. Bronislava took up a crucifix, pressed it to her heart and said to her sisters, “Do not fear anything – the cross will save us.” She then led the sisters to the subterranean passages beneath the convent where they successfully remained hidden from the invaders. The convent buildings, however, were not spared, and collapsed in flames, trapping the sisters underground. It is said that when Bronislava knocked three times with her crucifix on a rock wall of the dark prison, a passage to freedom opened for the sisters. After the destruction of the convent, many of the sisters took refuge in monasteries which had been spared. Bronislava remained in the ruins of the old convent with a handful of sisters, building little huts to sleep in and passing the days caring for the poor, the sick, and the countless victims of the Tartar invasion.
Bronislava died in 1259, soon after the passing of St. Hyacinth. Ever since then her cult has flourished amongst the people of Cracow and her shrine is the site of many pilgrimages. In all eras of Cracow’s history the people have always sought her aid in times of trouble. On August 23 1839 Pope Gregory confirmed her immemorial cult and many hundreds continue to pray for her canonisation.
Almighty, eternal God,
you call what is weak in this world,
in order to shame what is strong.
Help us, through the intercession of Blessed Bronislava,
in spite of our weakness,
to work toward the building up of your kingdom.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Blessed Bronislava, pray for us.
Saint Norbert, pray for us.
To read the message of the Abbot General on the 750th anniversary of Bronislava’s death click here.
For the website of the canonesses in Imbramowice click here.
Litany of Blessed Bronislava
Blessed Bronislava, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, Spouse of Jesus Christ, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, Faithful Servant of Mary Immaculate, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, Illustrious Ornament of St. Norbert Monastery, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, Guardian of the Zwierzyniecki Convent, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, A guide of sanctity, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, Temple of living faith, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, Fountain of faith and hope, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, A torch of God’s love, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, Perfection of humility and obedience, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, A mirror of human dignity, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, Example of voluntary poverty, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, Penitent of the world’s sins, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, Teacher of endurance, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, Health of the sick, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, Mother of orphans and the lonely, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, Apostle of reconciliation and fraternity, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, Friend of men of goodwill, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, Protectoress of Cracow, pray for us
Blessed Bronislava, Patroness of the Polish Nation, pray for us
Pray for us, Blessed Bronislva
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray,
Lord Jesus Christ who didst say “whomsoever wishes to follow me, let him take up his cross and follow me”, we beseech You that trusting in You, and through the imitation of the example of Blessed Bronislava we may humbly reconcile ourselves to Your Most Holy Will and thus gain eternal happiness. This we ask in Your name, who liveth and reigneth with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.