November 15, 2017

St. Gertrude the Great, German Mystic and Theologian


November 16th is the optional memorial of Saint Gertrude the Great. A 12th century Benedictine nun of the monastery of Helfta, in Saxony, she is regarded as one of the great mystics of the Middle Ages. Our Savior favored her with visions. Her book Revelations is her marvelous account of them. St. Gertrude introduced the devotion to the Sacred Heart which, four centuries later, Saint Margaret Mary spread throughout the Church. She died at the beginning of the 13th century.

One of the most lovable German saints from medieval times, Gertrude, through her writings, will remain for all ages a guide to the interior life. She was born in 1256 at Eisleben and at the age of five taken to the convent at Rossdorf, where Gertrude of Hackeborn was abbess. Similarity in name has caused confusion between the two Gertrudes. St. Gertrude the Great never functioned as superior.

In spite of much ill-health, Gertrude used her exceptional natural talents well, such as her fluency in Latin. In 1281, when she was twenty-five years old, Our Lord began to appear to her and to disclose to her the secrets of mystical union. Obeying a divine wish, she recorded the graces bestowed upon her. Her most important work, Legatus Divinae Pietatis, "The Herald of Divine Love," is marked by theological profundity, sublime poetry, and great clarity. Reading it stimulates love of God. Abbot Blosius is said to have read it piously twelve times each year.

St. Gertrude died in 1302, more consumed by the fire of God's love than by fever. She is especially remembered for her devotion to the poor souls in Purgatory and her prayer on behalf of the Church Suffering (see below) O God, who prepared a delightful dwelling for yourself in the heart of the Virgin St. Gertrude, graciously bring light, through her intercession, to the darkness of our hearts, that we may joyfully experience you at work within us. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Prayer to Release Souls from Purgatory

Our Lord told St. Gertrude the Great, that the following prayer would release 1,000 souls from Purgatory each time it is said. The prayer was extended to include living sinners which would alleviate the indebtedness accrued to them:

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the Universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen. [Poor souls, upon attaining heaven, pray that I may also experience holy beatitude at the close of my earthly life.]

Adapted excerpt from The Church's Year of Grace, Father Pius Parsch.

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