November 16th - St. Gertrude the Great
- From: "Hildi" <hildigard8@xxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 16 Nov 2005 11:22:17 -0600
November 16th - St. Gertrude the Great
Few men have merited the title, "the Great"; fewer women. I know of only one
nun so honored, St. Gertrude of Helfta, a mystic whose spiritual writings
have remained influential up to the present.
Nothing is known of this German woman's family background. When five years
old, she was entrusted to the sisters of Helfta Abbey to be educated. From a
very young age she gave evidence of her brilliance and quickly outstripped
her companions. In her teen years she asked to join the community.
Therefore, she probably spent her whole life from childhood on within the
Her love for secular studies made the common life wearisome, pride and
vanity ate away at her soul and she soon became an unhappy young woman until
Christ appeared to her. The day was branded in her memory, it was in her
26th year, when as she says "in a happy hour, at the beginning of twilight,
thou O God of truth, more radiant than any light, yet deeper than any secret
thing, determined to dissolve the obscurity of my darkness." From then on
her biographer tells us "she became a theologian instead of a grammarian."
She did not give up her intellectual ardor but now, all her labors were for
her sisters, to cure what she termed "the wound of ignorance". Her many
gifts and mystical graces did not prevent her from giving herself
wholeheartedly to the common life with its joys and sorrows. In fact many of
her special graces came to her as she took part in the ordinary routine of
convent life. She felt keenly for those whose burdens involved them in
distracting duties, for example those responsible for meeting the debts of
She prayed that they might have more time to pray and fewer distractions.
The Lord's answered "It does not matter to me whether you perform spiritual
exercises or manual labor, provided only that your will is directed to me
with a right intention. If I took pleasure only in your spiritual exercises,
I should certainly have reformed human nature after Adam's fall so that it
would not need food, clothing or the other things that man must find or make
with such effort."
Many of her writings are lost, but fortunately she left to the world an
abundance of spiritual joy in her book The Herald of Divine Love, in which
she tells of the visions granted her by our divine Lord. She wrote this
excellent, small book because she was told that nothing was given to her for
her own sake only. Her Exercises is an excellent treatise on the renewal of
baptismal vows, spiritual conversion, religious vows, love, praise,
gratitude to God, reparation, and preparation for death.
She began to record her supernatural and mystical experiences in what
eventually became her Book of Extraordinary Grace (Revelation of Saint
Gertrude), together with Mechtilde's mystical experiences Liber Specialis
Gratiae, which Gertrude recorded. Most of the book was actually written by
others based on Gertrude's notes. She also wrote with or for Saint Mechtilde
a series of prayers that became very popular, and through her writings
helped spread devotion to the Sacred Heart (though it was not so called
until revealed to St. Margaret Mary Alocoque).
Gertrude is inseparably associated with the devotion to the Sacred Heart.
The pierced heart of Jesus embodied for her the Divine Love, an
inexhaustible fountain of redemptive life. Her visions and insights in
connection with the Heart of Jesus are very enlightening. In one such
intellectual vision, she perceived the unceasing love of Christ for us in
two pulsations of his Heart - one accomplished the conversion of sinners,
the other the sanctification of the just. Just as our own faithful heart
keeps right on whether we advert to it or not, these pulsations will endure
till the end of time despite the vicissitudes of history.
Our Lord wishes people to pray for the souls in purgatory. He once showed
Gertrude a table of gold on which were many costly pearls. The pearls were
prayers for the holy souls. At the same time the saint had a vision of souls
freed from suffering and ascending in the form of bright sparks to heaven.
In one Vision, Our Lord tells Gertrude that he longs for someone to ask Him
to release souls from purgatory, just as a king who imprisons a friend for
justice's sake hopes that someone will beg for mercy for his friend. Jesus
"I accept with highest pleasure what is offered to Me for the poor souls,
for I long inexpressibly to have near Me those for whom I paid so great a
price. By the prayers of thy loving soul, I am induced to free a prisoner
from purgatory as often as thou dost move thy tongue to utter a word of
In another vision she was given the Prayer which Our Lord told her would
release 1000 Souls from Purgatory every time it is said with love and
devotion. "Eternal Father, I offer You the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine
Son, Jesus Christ, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today,
for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, those in the
Universal Church, in my home, and in my family."
To her was granted the privilege of seeing our Lord's Sacred Heart. The
graces flowing from it appeared like a stream of purest water flowing over
the whole world. In many of the visions of the Sacred Heart, we find St.
John the Beloved Disciple present. He who leaned back against Jesus' chest
at the Last Supper. On his own feast day, St. John appeared and placed
Gertrude near the wounded side of the Savior, where she could hear the
pulsations of the Sacred Heart. "Why is it, O beloved of God", she asked
him, "that you who rested on His bosom at the Last Supper have said nothing
of what you experienced then? St. John told her "It was my task to present
to the first age of the Church the doctrine of the Word made flesh which no
human intellect can ever fully comprehend. The eloquence of that sweet
beating of His Heart is reserved for the last age in order that the world
grown cold and torpid may be set on fire with the love of God."
These visions continued until the end of her life. Jesus said to her at the
last: "Come, my chosen one, and I will place in you My throne."
Saint Gertrude was "the Great" because of her single-hearted love for the
Sacred Heart of Jesus and the souls in purgatory. Though she was never
formally canonized, Pope Clement XII in 1677 directed that her feast be
observed throughout the Church. It is interesting to note that Saint Teresa
of Avila had a great devotion to Gertrude.
This version taken from:
With the exception of formal hatred against God, which constitutes the
deadliest of all sins and of which the creature is rarely culpable -- unless
he be in Hell -- the gravest of all sins are those against faith. The
reason is evident. Faith is the foundation of the supernatural order, and
sin is sin insofar as it attacks this supernatural order at one or another
point; hence that is the greatest sin which attacks this order at its very
foundations... Hence, heretical doctrines -- and works inspired by them --
constitute the greatest of all sins, with the exception of formal hatred of
God, of which only the demons in Hell and the damned are capable.
Liberalism, then, which is heresy, and all the works of Liberalisn, which
are heretical works, are the gravest sins known in the code of the
(Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany, Liberalism is a Sin, Rockford IL: TAN, p. 19;
emphasis in the original. This work, at the time of its publication in
1899, was given the highest praise and endorsement by the Holy Office.)
19 Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. 20 Teaching them to observe
all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all
days, even to the consummation of the world . (Matthew 28:19-20)
In Africa, the holy martyrs Rufinus, Mark, Valerius, and their companions.
On the same day, the holy martyrs Elpidius, Marcellus, Eustochius, and their
associates. Elpidius, who was of senatorial rank, confessed the faith with
great firmness before Julian the Apostate. He, with his companions, was
first tied to wild horses and dragged by them; then he was cast into the
fire and thus completed a glorious martyrdom.
At Lyons in Gaul, the birthday of St. Eucherius, bishop and confessor. He
was a man of admirable faith and learning. Although he enjoyed the most
noble senatorial rank, he exchanged it for the religious life and the
religious habit. He had himself walled up in a cave where for a long period
of time he served Christ by prayer and fasting. Then, because of a
revelation made by an angel (to the faithful), he was solemnly made Bishop
At Padua, St. Fidentius, bishop.
At Canterbury in England, St. Edmund, archbishop and confessor. He was
driven into exile for defending the rights of his church, and he died a most
holy death at Provins, a town near Sens. He was inscribed in the canon of
saints by Pope Innocent IV.
On the same day, the death of St. Othmar, abbot.
Prayer to the Sacred Heart
May all the words that I speak be dipped in the Blood of Thy Sacred Heart, O
Jesus, that they may be so many arrows to pierce the hearts of all who hear
them with love for Thee. - Amen.
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