St. Gertrude the Great
St. Gertrude the Great, or St. Gertrude of Helfta, was born on January 6, 1256 in Germany. She eventually chose to follow the Lord by pursuing a vocation as a Benedictine Nun. Her deep relationship with the Lord in prayer led to her being hailed as a mystic. She was also regarded as a great theologian.
Although little is known about Gertrude's childhood, it is widely accepted that at just four-years-old, she was enrolled in the Cistercian monastery school of Helfta in Saxony, under the governance of Abbess Gertrude of Hackerborn.
The Cistercian movement was an effort to bring the Benedictine religious community back to a stricter and more faithful adherence to the original "Rule" or way of life encouraged by St Benedict. Some sources speculate that Gertrude's parents offered their child as an oblate, a lay person especially dedicated to God or to God's service, while others believe she may have entered the monastery school as an orphan.
St. Mechtilde, the younger sister of the Abbess Gertrude, took care of young Gertrude. Gertrude and Mechtilde had a strong bond that only grew deeper with time, allowing Mechtilde to have a great influence over Gertrude.
Gertrude, known for being charming and able to win people over, entered the Benedictine Order at Helfta and became a nun. She devoted herself to her studies, and received an education in many different subjects. Gertrude was both fluent in Latin and very familiar with scripture and works from the Fathers of the Church, including Augustine.
In 1281, 25-year-old Gertrude experienced her first series of visions that would continue until the day she passed away. Her visions altered her life and she saw this moment as her new birth. Her priorities turned away from secular teachings and focuses more on studying Scripture and theology. Her life became full with this awakening and she was an enthusiastic student, writing for the spiritual benefit of others.
Gertrude once had a vision on the feast of John the Evangelist, described in Gertrude's writings. As she rested her head near Jesus' wound on his side, she could hear the beating of his heart. She asked St. John if he, too, felt the beating of Jesus' Divine Heart on the night of the Last Supper. He told her he was saving this revelation for a time when the world needed it to rekindle its love.
She went on to become one of the great mystics of the 13th century. Along with St. Mechtilde, she practiced what is known as "nuptial mysticism," seeing herself as the bride of Christ. She embraced charity for both rich and poor, she was a simple woman with a deep solidarity with those not yet ready for the beatific vision, who are still being purified in the state of repose known as purgatory.
Gertrude assisted at the deathbeds and mourned for the loss of both Abbess Gertrude of Hackeborn in 1291 and her dearly loved St. Mechtilde in 1298. Gertrude's health began to deteriorate, but she continued to only show her love for the Lord.
"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 November 17, 1301, Gertrude passed away a virgin and joined her Bridegroom forever.
Throughout her life, Gertrude produced numerous writings, although only a few still exists today. One of her longest surviving works is Legatus Memorialis Abundantiae Divinae Pietatis (The Herald of Divine Love). Her other standing works include, her collection of Spiritual Exercises and Preces Gertrudianae (Gertrudian Prayers).
The Herald of Divine Love is composed of five different books. Book two is the core of the work, and was written solely by Gertrude. It is a notable piece of writing, because it includes detailed descriptions of Gertrude's visions and a veneration of Christ's heart. The other four books are believed to have been composed by other nuns.
Although Gertrude was never formally canonized, Rome approved a liturgical office of prayer and readings in her honor. To separate her from Abbess Gertrude of Hackeborn, Pope Benedict XIV gave her the title, "the Great," making her the only woman saint to be called, "the Great."
St. Gertrude the Great is the Patroness of the West Indies and she is often invoked for souls in purgatory. Her feast day is celebrated on November 16.
Saint Feast Days by Month
John the Baptist was a contemporary of Christ who was known for evangelization and his baptizing of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist was born through the intercession of God to Zachariah and ... continue readingMore Saint of the Day
Few details are known of St. Christina but she lived during the third century and was the daughter of a rich and powerful magistrate believed to have been named Urbain. He was deep in the practices of heathenism and had a number of golden idols, which he distributed ... continue readingMore Female Saints
Saint Michael the Archangel isn't a saint, but rather he is an angel, and the leader of all angels and of the army of God. This is what the title "Archangel" means, that he is above all the others in rank. St. Michael has four main responsibilities or offices, as we ... continue reading
St. Gabriel is an angel who serves as a messenger for God to certain people. He is one of the three archangels. Gabriel is mentioned in both the Old and the New Testaments of the Bible. First, in the Old Testament, Gabriel appears to the prophet Daniel to explain his ... continue reading
Bishop of Ruspe, Tunisia, and a friend of St. Augustine. Born Fabius Claudius Gordianus Fulgentius of Carthage, he was a Roman of senatorial rank. His mother, widowed, opposed Fulgentius' religious career, but he became a monk. He became abbot with Felix but had to ... continue reading
Fulton John Sheen (born Peter John Sheen, May 8, 1895 - December 9, 1979) was an American archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church known for his preaching and especially his work on television and radio. His cause for canonization for sainthood was officially opened in ... continue reading
By CNA/EWTN News
In June 1978 the Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, went to the Vatican to meet with the Bishop of Rome, Paul VI. At that meeting, the Pope encouraged his fellow bishop to help the Salvadoran people "on the basis of a great love." Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - ... continue readingMore Christian Saints & Heroes
More Christian Saints & Heroes
by Catholic Online
- St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher: Catholic Martyrs
- The Catholic Church's Role with Refugees in the U.S.
- Daily Reading for Monday, June 25th, 2018 HD Video
- St. John the Baptist: Saint of the Day for Sunday, June 24, 2018
- Daily Readings for Sunday, June 24, 2018
- Daily Reading for Tuesday, June 26th, 2018 HD Video
- Pope Francis: Take in refugees, invest in poor countries
- Pope Francis has a plan to help refugees, and halt the tide of immigration HD
- Living the Catholic Way: The Church HD
- Living Words with Deacon Kieth Fournier - The Apostle Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians HD
- Living Words with Deacon Keith Fournier - The Apostle Paul's words to the Galatians HD
Learn about Catholic world
Inform - Inspire - Ignite
Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained
Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need
Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online
Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye
Today's bible reading
Products and services we offer
Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books
The California Network
Inspiring streaming service
Learn the Catholic way
Teacher lesson plans & resources
Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education