St Gertrude the Great

posted by: Joan Vine | on: Tuesday, 19 December 2017, 14:28

St Gertrude the Great

St Gertrude the Great

Gertrude was born in Saxony on January 6, 1256. Nothing is known about her parents except that they were probably well off. Gertrude was orphaned at the age of five and was placed in the Cistercian convent school at Rodalsdorf, under the direction of its abbess, Gertrude of Hackeborn.

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.

St Mechtilde, the younger sister of Abbess Gertrude, took care of the young Gertrude who soon developed a strong friendship which only grew deeper with the passage of time. She devoted herself to her studies and received a good all-round education. She was fluent in Latin and very familiar with Scripture and works from the Fathers of the Church.

Gertrude, who was known to be quite charming and able to win people over entered the Benedictine order and became a nun and some years later was elected Abbess. The following year she took charge of the convent at Helfta to which she moved with her nuns.

At the age of 25, she experienced the first of a series of visions which continued for the rest of her life and which change the course of her life. Her studies moved away from secular subjects and towards the study of Scripture and theology. Gertrude devoted herself intensely to personal prayer and meditation and began writing spiritual treatises for the benefit of her nuns. Gertrude was recognised as one of the great mystics of the 13th century. Together with her friend and teacher St Mechtilde, she practised a spirituality called “nuptial mysticism”, that is, she came to see herself as the bride of Christ.

Gertrude died at Helfta, Saxony on 17th November 1302 and according to folklore, Mary came and supported her as she lay on her deathbed and helped her soul to heaven.

By Alan Vine

 Posted: 19 Dec 2017 | There are 0 comments

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