LIFE OF ST. GERTRUDE THE GREAT

November 16 is the feast day of St. Gertrude the Great, the patron of our parish.

St. Gertrude lived from 1256 till 1302.  Little is known about her background other than she came to the Benedictine Monastery in Helfta, in Saxony, now part of Germany, in 1261.  She received her education there, and by reports given, she was both very attractive and highly intelligent.

Saint Gertrude the Great

At the age of 25, St. Gertrude had a profound spiritual experience that served to change the direction of her life.  Prior to this time she had been receiving a general education, but afterwards, she would focus her efforts on exploring the Bible, the writings of the great Fathers of the Church, centering her life on the love of God.

St. Gertrude became a mystic, a person who had deep and powerful experiences of the presence and the love of God.  These experiences came to her through her times of formal prayer with her fellow sisters, and more frequently during her participation in the Mass. 

The main theme of her mystical experiences of God was the Love of Christ.  The Heart of Christ symbolizes this. St. Gertrude was aware of her failings and sins, but she was more mindful of the Love of God embracing her even in spite of her shortfalls.

St. Gertrude was blessed with deep and personal experiences of the Love of God.  This is the gift of a mystic, to know the Love of God intimately.  Otherwise, she lived an ordinary life as a Benedictine Sister in a monastery.  She did not seem a remarkable person to outward appearances.  Her writings though tell us of her extraordinary experiences of God’s Love, a love that is available to all.

St. Gertrude died in 1302 after years of ill health.