Friday, November 16, 2018

Saint Gertrude the Great of Helfta (1256-1301); Saint Margaret of Scotland (1045-1093)

Readings of the Day
RB: Ch 38 The Weekly Reader
For Solemnity of St Gertrude: Sg 8:1-4 or 6-7; Resp Ps 23; Ep 3:14-19; Jn 15:1-8
For Ferial Day: 2 Jn 4-9; Resp Ps 119; Lk 17:26-37

Set me as a seal on your heart; as a seal on your arm.

Happy Feast Day! We are so blessed to celebrate two great saints today: St Margaret of Scotland and St Gertrude the Great of Helfta. May God be praised! Even though I have a special devotion to the latter, both saints are forces to be reckoned with; holy women to pray to and ask for intercession. 

Margaret was married, a queen, and the mother of eight children! She was a busy woman. According to one source, Margaret 'reformed the royal court, founded monasteries, and supported major reforms of Church life.' Margaret is 'remembered for the happiness of her marriage, for her devotion to prayer and learning, and especially for her generosity to the poor' (M. Kochanski, Universalis Publishing Ltd, London).

Gertrude entered the great Abbey at Helfta, Germany, as a young girl of four. Or rather, she was dropped off there as was customary of the time period. According to her biographer, Gertrude 'even at this tender age, already possessed the wisdom of a mature person. She was so amiable, clever, and eloquent, and so docile that she was admired by all who her heard her' (The Herald of Divine Love, I, 1). The account continues: 'As soon as she was admitted to the school, she showed such quickness and intelligence that she soon far surpassed in learning and knowledge all the children of her own age and all her other companions as well. Gladly and eagerly she gave herself to the study of liberal arts' (I, 1). It seems Gertrude was well on her way. Gertrude went on quite happily until her twenty-sixth year on what she called her 'day of salvation' (II, 1); when Gertrude realized she 'was far from God, in the land of unlikeness' (I, 1). Her biographer continues: 'Through [Gertrude's] excessive attachment to secular studies up to that time she had neglected to adapt the high point of her mind to the light of spiritual understanding. By attaching herself with such avid enjoyment to the pursuit of human wisdom, she was depriving herself of the sweet taste of true wisdom.' Gertrude got busy then: 'Hence her love of learning now became desire for knowledge of God … In those days she could never tire of the sweet pleasure she found in the contemplation of God and in the study of Scripture' (I,1). Gertrude was deeply connected to Jesus throughout the rest of her life, receiving many favors from Him. In Gertrude's words: 'Among these favors there are two which I will mention in particular. They are the seal put on my heart (Ws 9:10) with those brilliant jewels which are your salvific wounds, and the wound of love with which you so manifestly and efficaciously transfixed my heart … In addition to all these favors, you granted me the priceless gift of your familiar friendship, giving me various ways, to my indescribable delight, the noblest treasure of the divinity, your divine heart, now bestowing it freely, now as a sign of our mutual familiarity, exchanging it with mine' (II, 23). 

Very powerful women. Very different lives. Both seeking God. May they intercede for us.

My God, you are all truth, clearer than all light, yet hidden deeper in our heart than any secret.
(Gertrude the Great, Herald of Divine Love, II, 1)

I found that the depths of your love were not exhausted.
(II, 4)

I implore you of your goodness to transfix my heart with the arrow of your love!
(II, 5)

The invisible things of God are manifested to the intelligence by the exterior things of creation.
(II, 8)

I glorify and magnify the wisdom and goodness of your infinite power.
(II, 9)

I may have perfect confidence in your love, Giver of gifts, from whom all good things proceed, without whom nothing is reliable, nothing good!
(II, 20)

NB. Today's photo is of a painting of St Gertrude the Great that hangs in the Mt Angel Abbey Church. 

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