History


Blessed Hemming was the bishop of Fennia or Österland – then the eastern province OF the republic of Finland.

Hemming was one of the uttermosts prominent individuals among the Catholic bishops of the medieval times in Scandinavia. St Bridget of Sweden described him as “A very courageous man – without fear of men – devoted, yes, ascetical pious; a contemplative but at the same time an active and hardworking man.


Seal of Bishop Hemming.

The Early years:
There are little known about his early years but he was born around 1290 in Pålsbo a small village in Bälinge parish north of the city of Uppsala. He came from a fortunate Swedish family and had close contacts with Swedish nobility. He attended the Cathedral school at Uppsala and continued his studies in Paris, where he first took a degree in Arts, then in Theology and in Law. In Paris he had the forthcoming pope Clemens VI as teacher.

There is a mention of a Hemming who was a kanik, a canon priest, in Åbo in 1329, and this is most probably him they are referring to. According to common belief was Hemming imprisoned by king Magnus Ladulås because of some harsh words about a Swedish duke… Later he was however said to side with the king again, saying that he “rather have Magnus as a ruler, no matter what has been, then having the German regiment.” However there is not to my knowledge any historical proof of this incidence.

Bishop of Åbo:
In 1339 he was chosen unanimously, with divina inspiriatione, to the bishop chair of Åbo. He fought against worldly interference in the churchly domains of Finland, which’s excellence he also was an advocate for. He was held in very high esteem by his contemporary. He made wise laws and built numerous churches. He was concerned with the proper celebrations of the church feast and the Scandinavian saints, but also with administration of church property and for releasing the poor from payment of stipends for dispensations or for funerals.

Hemming supervised vividly the church taxes and even contradicted a verdict from the king in benefit for the people of Nyland, a Finnish region. In 1340 he established the dean office of Åbo Cathedral. He made a grand donation of 40 very valuable books, mostly theological literature, to the Åbo Cathedral and in this way founded the first library in Finland.

By gifts and trade he also increased the wealth and the properties of the diocese which had been looted by the Russians in 1318. He founded both a Cathedral school in Åbo and a hospital. He was not particularly involved in the state affairs of Sweden/Finland but in 1343 he took part in the union between the Swedish king and the southern parts of Scandinavia (Blekinge, Småland and Skåne). In 1346, together with the archbishop of Uppsala, he also laid out the borders between the dioceses of Swedish Uppsala and Finnish Åbo. In 1352 he finished his work Statua, with rules for the responsibilities of the Finnish priests and with Finland’s first Church Ordinance.

Hemming and Bridget
Blessed Bishop Hemming of Åbo and Saint Bridget of Sweden,
from the tabernacle at a church in Finland:An angel is
placing the Bishop’s mitre on Blessed Hemming’s head and a
pilgrim is kneeling at his feet.

Friendship with St Bridget:
He had a strong friendship with St Bridget of Sweden and he went to France a second time between 1347 until 1349, this time on St Brigit’s initiative. She chose him to accompany her confessor, the Cistercian Prior Peter of Alvastra, in a mission to his former teacher, Pope Clement VI at Avignon to try to convince him to move back to Rome and to urge him to reform his own lasciviousness and to cease supporting the King of France. Hemming also paid visit to the Kings of England and France with another revelation from Bridget, in an effort to try to achieve peace between the nations. Neither of those matters succeeded but a deep friendship between him and St Bridget was established.

From the revelations of St Bridget we can read about a dinner with Hemming where Hemming thought it was peculiar that Bridget didn’t hesitated herself in enjoying the food when she was a woman gifted by the holy spirit. Bridget did not now anything about what Hemming had thought but in the evening before Vesper, she had a revelation wherein a voice spoke to her: “Look, your neighbor at the table has problems with your meal” Hemming recognized that the revelation was about him and he apologized and asked for Bridget’s forgiveness and prayers.

On the third day thereafter Virgin Mary shows her self to Bridget and says: “Tell the bishop that – although he always begins his sermons with praising me and that his judgment was not out of ill will but of love – his love still needs to be mitigated. Tell him that I want to be for him a mother, and present his spirit before God.”

His later years:
He seemed to have a great pathos on behalf of Finland and worked for that the region should be treated as an equal to the other regions of Sweden and at the king’s election on February the 15th in 1362, by the initiative of Hemming, representatives of Österland partook in the election of Håkan Magnussons as the new king after Magnus Ladulås: Österland, the eastern country was thereafter an integrated and equal part of Sweden, until the Greater and the Lesser Wrath in the 1800-century, when Russia occupied Finland.

Well over 80 years old, bishop Hemming had his heavenly birthday 1366, The 21st of May which is now celebrated as his memorial day throughout Scandinavia.


The shrine were the remains of Blessed Hemming were placed in 1514.

The canonization process:
Blessed Hemming was buried in his cathedral in Åbo, where miracles were reported at his tomb. In July 16th, 1497 pope Alexander VI gave permission for the beatification of Hemming and his relics were enshrined in 1514. He’s supposed canonization which was planned to the year 1530 was abandoned due to the reformation.

Hemming today:
During the reformation devote Catholics hid the relics in the walls of the Cathedral in Åbo. When they where found during a restoration in the twentieth century the sacred relics were confiscated by the Finnish state and are now locked in the cellar of a museum. They are not on display. The Catholic community is trying to get the relics back so they once again can be revered.

The Catholic community of Finland is also having discussions with the Vatican to revive the canonization process. However the old documents in the Vatican archives must be located, further discussions between the authorities of the Catholic community in Finland and the proper instances in Vatican must continue further. Such a Canonization would indeed be very important in bringing Finland back to Catholicism.

There was also great interest in the 2007 years Autuaan Hemmingin pyhiinvaellus, the Blessed Hemming’s pilgrimage among both local press in Finland as well as by Catholic priests and even among the Lutheran parishes we passed along the road. I have great hope that this pilgrimage will be an annual tradition until the sainthood of Blessed Hemming is officially recognized.

The blessed Hemming oilgrimage
Autuaan Hemmingin pyhiinvaellus: Modern pilgrims in the
footsteps of Blessed Bishop Hemming.

To further the canonisation of Blessed Hemming:
– Autuas Hemming, rukoile puolestamme
.
– Salige Hemming, bed för oss.
Blessed Hemming, pray for us.

This text was based on the Swedish nineteenth century encyclopedia Nordisk Familjebok, the revelations of St. Bridget and the wonderful book “Biskop Hemming av Åbo” from 1960, by B. Klockars. Maiju Lehmijoki has written this interesting article about St Birgitta of Sweden’s influence in Finland.

See more pictures from the Blessed Hemming Pilgrimage 2007.

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During the middle ages the devotion to Mary was deep and sincere in Scandinavia. Each prayer in the rosary was imagined to transform into a rose which was given by the heart to the blessed virgin mother.

 

I have previously written some entries on this blog about Swedish medieval church paintings picturing the mysteries.

The Rosary have appeared in different versions and with different length through the ages. Already in the eleventh century it was common to pray long sets of Ave Maria. Only the first half was prayed:

Ave María, grátia plena,
Dóminus tecum.
Benedícta tu in muliéribus,
et benedíctus fructus ventris tui,
Jesus.

Somewhere around the twelfth or thirteenth century it became common to pray the rosary in 150 decades, one for each psalm in the Psalter, (hence the name Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary). In some monasteries, the munk’s contemplated certain events in Mary’s life.

About 1410 St Dominic, Founder of the Order of Preachers, constructed a version with 50 secrets from the life of Jesus and Mary. In many ways we have the Dominicans to thank for spreading the practice of this prayer. For instance it was the Dominican Alain de la Roche who grouped 50 decades into three series.

In 1545 the second half of the prayer Ave Maria were added by the council of Trent:

Sancta María, Mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatóribus,
nunc et in hora mortis nostræ.

In 1569 Pope Pius V issued an apostolic letter the Consueverunt Romani – Call to Prayer – where he established the official, Church-authorized version of the Rosary which are still used today:

and so Dominic looked to that simple way of praying and beseeching God, accessible to all and wholly pious, which is called the Rosary, or Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which the same most Blessed Virgin is venerated by the angelic greeting repeated one hundred and fifty times, that is, according to the number of the Davidic Psalter, and by the Lord’s Prayer with each decade. Interposed with these prayers are certain meditations showing forth the entire life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, thus completing the method of prayer devised by the Fathers of the Holy Roman Church.
(Consueverunt Romani by Pius V – 17 September, 1569)

Today the Rosary are prayed in different versions. The Fatima apparition added a part which is commonly used by devote Catholics of today.

When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: ‘O Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy.’ “ (From the Fatima message, 1917)

 

As I have wrote about earlier John Paul II added the Luminious mysterious in the Apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae in 2002. and here’s an instruction on how to pray the rosary from the Vatican: The mysteries of the Rosary

 

 

I got the most of the facts from an article by the Swedish expert Florence Vilén. The article was published in a book called “En bok om Rosenkransen och dess mysterier” from Jungfru Maria Skriftserie by Vettertryck AB.

This is the fourth entry on medieval church paintings picturing scenes from the mysteries of the Rosary.

The early sixteen century pictures from Dannemora church below, pictures the three-fold mystery painted around The blessed mother of the rosary:

 

 

Our blessed mother is surrounded by three wreaths. In each wreath are five medallions and five decades of roses. Below are the five medallions, the five secrets of the joyful mysteries enlarged. At this Swedish site you can see more medallions from the great Rosary painting at Dannemora Church.

The Annunciation

Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.
(Luke 1:30)

 

 

 

The Visitation

For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
(Luke 1:48)

 

 

 

The Birth

For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.
(Luke 2:11)

 

 

 

The Presentation

Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection.
(Luke 2:34)

 

 

 

The Finding

How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father’s business?
(Luke 2:49 )

 

 

This is the third entry on medieval church paintings picturing scenes which can be used when praying the Rosary.

The Luminous Mysteries, the mystery of light, was added by his Holiness John Paul the second. He used parts of the gospel that is a divine fulfillment of the traditional rosary that further deepens our understanding of the gospel and our daily life of praying the rosary.

I believe, however, that to bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary it would be suitable to make an addition to the traditional pattern which, while left to the freedom of individuals and communities, could broaden it to include the mysteries of Christ’s public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion. In the course of those mysteries we contemplate important aspects of the person of Christ as the definitive revelation of God. Declared the beloved Son of the Father at the Baptism in the Jordan, Christ is the one who announces the coming of the Kingdom, bears witness to it in his works and proclaims its demands. It is during the years of his public ministry that the mystery of Christ is most evidently a mystery of light: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:5).
(John Paul II in the Apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae in 2002)

The added parts where all common spiritual images of the Middle Ages in Scandinavia.

 

 

 

The Baptism

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
(Matthew 3:17)

 

 

 

The Wedding

Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye.
(John 2:5)

 

 

 

The Proclamation

The time is accomplished, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel.
(Mark 1:15)

 

 

 

The Transfiguration

The shape of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and glittering.
(Luke 9:29)

 

 

 

The Eucharist

This is my body, which is given for you.
(Luke 22:19 )

Here is the second entry on medieval church paintings. The pictures are from different churches from Uppland and Västmanland in central Sweden. They are painted by Albertus Pictor (2, 4 & 5) in the late fifteenth century and some are from Dannemora kyrka (1 & 3), from about the same time.

The Ascension is usually pictured as a pair of feet disappearing in a cloud or out of the picture.

 

 

 

The Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord

I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God.
(John 20:17)

 

 

 

The Ascension of Our Lord

He departed from them, and was carried up to heaven.
(Luke 24:51)

 

 

 

The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

And I send the promise of my father upon you.
(Luke 24:49)

 

 

 

The Assumption of Mary into Heaven

Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?
(Canticles 6:9)

 

 

 

The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth

A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
(Apocalypse 12:1)

In the middle ages, in Scandinavia, there was a very strong devotion towards Mary. Many of the medieval church paintings depict scenes from the Rosary (as well as , of course, other scenes from the bible.

Here are five images that can be used when praying the sorrowful mysteries.

The first is a painting from the now burned down wooden church in Södra Råda in Sweden. (1490).
The second picture from Ösmo Kyrka in Sweden and is made by Albertus Pictor (1440-1507).
The third image is from Vrå Kirke in Denmark (1510).
The fourth is from Dannemora kyrka in Sweden (1520).
The fifth image is from Vitaby kyrka in Sweden (1300).

 

 

 

The Agony of Our Lord in the Garden

The Agony of Our Lord in the Garden

My Father, if this chalice may not pass away, but I must drink it, thy will be done.
(Matthew 26:42)

 

 

 

Our Lord is Scourged at the Pillar

Our Lord is Scourged at the Pillar

Then therefore, Pilate took Jesus, and scourged him.
(John 19:1)

 

 

 

Our Lord is Crowned with Thorns

Our Lord is Crowned with Thorns

And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand.
(Matthew 27:29)

 

 

 

Our Lord Carries the Cross to Calvary

Our Lord Carries the Cross to Calvary

And bearing his own cross, he went forth to that place which is called Calvary.
(John 19:17)

 

 

 

The Crucifixion of Our Lord

The Crucifixion of Our Lord

And Jesus again crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
(Mathew 27:50)

 

 

 

Between 1854 to 1863 Gerard Manley Hopkins was educated at the Highgate school. For a couple of months in 1861 – when Hopkins was sixteen -the English poet R.W. Dixon was an assistant master there and even though they did not really got acquainted at that time, Dixon made such an impact on Hopkins, that seventeen years later Gerard wrote a letter to Dixon in which he expressed his high regards towards his old master and especially for his writing.

In response Dixon wrote a letter which I think draws a colourful image upon Dixons perception of Gerard as a young boy.

I think that I remember you in the Highgate School. At least I remember a pale young boy, very light and active, with a very meditative & intellectual face, whose name, if I am not vastly mistaken, was yours. If I am not deceived by memory, that boy got a prize for English poetry. I may be deceived in this identification: but if you have time to write again, I should like to know. I little thought that my gift to Mr. Lobb, which I had quite forgotten, would bear such a fruit.

The gift Mr. Dixon is referring to was his book: Christ’s Company, published in 1861. A book Gerard referred to – in his previous letter to Dixon – as a part of my own mind. Dixons memory was not vastly mistaken. The pale young boy was indeed Gerard Hopkins. And GM wrote back: The correspondence between Dixon and Hopkins evolved to a deep friendship and lasted a decade, until the very end of Hopkins lifetime.

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