Monday, November 16, 2009

Memorial of St Gertrude the Great

"Gertrude of Helfta was a highly intelligent woman. She was born on 6 January 1256 in the little town of Eisleben in Thuringia. At age 5, Gertrude went to the Cistercian monastery school of Helfta in Saxony, and since then has always been known as "Gertrude of Helfta". She dedicated herself to study, and it was not long before she surpassed all her companions.

She also discovered Christ in the monastery, and the beauty of living for him and with him in the intimacy of love. But the divine Teacher remained in the background of her life for some time while she used all her faculties to improve her education, becoming proficient in literature, philosophy, song and the refined art of miniature painting.

After several years, Gertrude moved from the monastery school to the novitiate, taking the veil and becoming a nun. For her Jesus was "Someone", but her studies were still her all. But she was not on the wrong track, for knowledge, when it goes hand in hand with humility, does not distance people from God. And he was waiting on her path.

Experiencing a 'new birth'

In 1280, she was 24 years old and a half-hearted and distracted nun. Towards the end of the year, she went through an inner crisis that lasted several weeks. She felt lonely, lost and depressed. Her human plans disintegrated like shattered idols. This might have been the end of everything, but instead, it was a new beginning.

On 27 January 1281, Gertrude saw Jesus in person in the form of a marvellous adolescent who said to her, "I have come to comfort you and bring you salvation". Remembering that day, she was to write: "Jesus, my Redeemer, you have lowered my indomitable head to your gentle yoke, preparing for me the medicine suited to my weakness". From that moment, she was solely concerned with living in full union with Jesus.

In her writings, she established the date of her newfound unity with Christ as 23 June 1281: all her life she must have seen that day as the day of her new birth, the birth of the true Gertrude in the image of Christ.

She abandoned the study of profane subjects and dedicated herself entirely to the study of Scripture, writings of the Church Fathers and theological treatises. She found extraordinary delight in reading the letters of Augustine, Gregory the Great, Bernard and Hugh of Saint-Victor.

From a scholar specialized in the humanities, she became a "theologian" filled with God and his fragrance. Her life was truly filled with the Lord alone.

But Gertrude did not want to be the only one to enjoy this supreme "Pleasure"; so she began to write short treatises for the Sisters in the monastery and those who approached her in which she explained the most difficult passages of Scripture, true spiritual treasures written in a clear and lively style.

The monastery parlour was also often filled with people in search of her words, comfort and guidance. She exercised a great influence on souls.

A confidant of Jesus

Since her conversion, she had become the confidant of Jesus, who revealed to her the infinite Love of his divine Heart and charged her to spread it among human beings with love for the suffering and for sinners. Gertrude's ecstasies with Jesus prompted her to write those ardent pages that would bring souls to him.

Humble, always happy and smiling, with a loving heart for all, she sparkled with trust, joy and peace, and led everyone to the Lord. To her soul, Jesus was like a spring day, vibrant with life and scented with flowers: Love par excellence, the one overwhelming Love. This is why she is known on the one hand as the "Teresa of Germany" and on the other, the "theologian of the Sacred Heart".

One day, Jesus said to Gertrude: "It would be good to make known to men and women how they would benefit from remembering that I, the Son of God and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, always stand before God for the salvation of the human race, and that should they commit some sin through their weakness, I offer my unblemished Heart to the Father for them".

She truly became one with Jesus and transmitted him to her brethren in the many works she has bequeathed to us, some of which have been lost.

In 1298 her health deteriorated but she transformed her sufferings into love, an offering with Jesus to the Father and a gift for humankind.

During her long and painful illness, she decided to recount the "adventure" of her conversion and to tell of the wonderful revelations with which Jesus had favoured her: "Until the age of 25, I was a blind and insane woman . . . but you, Jesus, deigned to grant me the priceless familiarity of your friendship by opening to me in every way that most noble casket of your divinity, which is your divine Heart, and offering me in great abundance all your treasures contained in it".
On 17 November 1301, at age 45, she rejoined her Bridegroom for ever. Interestingly, she is the only woman among the saints to be called "the Great": St Gertrude the Great.

-- Gertrude: The Only Female Saint to Be Called 'The Great'  by Paolo Rossi
© L'Osservatore Romano

St Gertrude the Great, pray for us!


Three lessons given by the Heart of Jesus to St Gertrude with regard to confiding abandonment

1. One time, when St. Gertrude was discouraged at prayer, Our Lord encouraged her to have great confidence in His Divine Heart, inviting her to present herself before Him, like Esther before Assuerus:

"What dost thou command, My sovereign?" The Saint answered: "I ask, O Lord, that Thy most amiable Will may be fully accomplished in me." Then Jesus, naming to her one after another the persons who had recommended themselves to her prayers, said: "What dost thou ask for this soul and for this, and for that other, who claim more especially thy prayers?" Gertrude answered: "I only ask, O Lord, that Thy Will may be perfectly accomplished in them. All my desire and my delight is to see Thee fully satisfied in me and in all Thy creatures." "My Heart," replied Jesus, "is so touched with that confiding abandonment of thy heart to My holy Will, that it will itself supply for whatever may have hitherto been wanting in thy life in this respect, and will henceforth love thee as if thy whole life had been perfectly conformed to My good Pleasure."

Let us follow her example and desire only the accomplishment of the Will of God in ourselves and in others; in our own affairs and in those of the Church; in our works of zeal and in all that we have at heart. Let us have this sweet and all-abiding confidence and in abandonment to Our Lord's Divine mercy as St. Gertrude received from the Heart of Jesus: that He Himself will supply all that has been wanting in us in this regard, "and accept all our past prayers as if they had been in perfect conformity with His holy Will; all our past actions as if they had been performed only to accomplish His desires; and all our past sufferings as if they had been accepted with perfect resignation."

2. One night, St. Gertrude was suffering more than usual from a fever; she was anxious about the course of this malady. Jesus appeared to her, carrying health in His right hand and sickness in His left, offering her both that she might choose that which she preferred. Gertrude leaned towards His loving Heart, in which she knew the plenitude of every good resided, and answered: "Lord, I choose nothing, I desire only the good pleasure of Thy Heart." Then Jesus, causing a fountain, as it were, of grace to spring from His Heart, made it flow into that of Gertrude, saying: "Since thou renouncest thy own will to abandon it entirely unto Mine, I pour into thee all the sweetness and all the joy of My Divine Heart.

Like this great Saint, us choose nothing, ask nothing, having all confidence in the all-wise, all-loving will of Our Lord Jesus. For He will choose what is best for us, and fill us with the sweet joy of His Heart; for there can be no greater happiness for a creature "than to give pleasure to His Creator, to be guided by His most amiable Will; and to confide all to His watchful Providence."

3. One year, on the Feast of the Circumcision, when asked for spiritual New Year's gifts for her community, Our Lord told her: "If anyone will generously renounce his own will to seek only My good Pleasure, My Divine Heart will illuminate him with a vivid light to know My wishes. I will show him in what he has failed with regard to his Rule, which is the expression of My Will; and will atone with him for all his shortcomings. Like a good master instructing a dearly loved child, I will let him lean on My Heart, will gently point out to him his faults, will kindly correct what he has done amiss, and supply what he has neglected. And if, as a heedless child, he pays no attention to some points, I will attend to them for him, and make up what he has passed over. The New Year's gift most conducive to My glory that I can bestow on these souls is the desire to Please Me in all things, and confiding abandonment to My Divine Heart. I will grant them, with the atonement for all their failures of the past year, light and strength to conform themselves henceforward entirely to My holy Will."

-- Love, Peace and Joy by Fr André Prévot


St Gertrude's prayer to her Guardian Angel

O most holy angel of God, appointed by God to be my guardian, I give you thanks for all the benefits which you have ever bestowed on me in body and in soul. I praise and glorify you that you condescended to assist me with such patient fidelity, and to defend me against all the assaults of my enemies. Blessed be the hour in which you were assigned me for my guardian, my defender and my patron. In acknowledgement and return for all your loving ministries to me, I offer you the infinitely precious and noble heart of Jesus, and firmly purpose to obey you henceforward, and most faithfully to serve my God. Amen.

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