St. Gertrude – The Holy Father’s Catechesis


VATICAN CITY, 6 OCT 2010 (VIS) – In his general audience, held this morning
in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope dedicated his catechesis to St. Gertrude,
“one of the most famous mystics and the only woman in Germany to receive the
title of ‘Great'”, which was given to her “for her great cultural and
evangelical importance. With her life and thought she made a uniquely
incisive contribution to Christian spirituality”, he said.

Born in the year 1256, at the age of five “she entered the convent, as
often happened at that time, for education and study. There she spent her
whole life”.

Gertrude “was an outstanding student. … She went on to dedicate herself
totally to God in monastic life and for twenty years nothing exceptional
happened: her principal activities were study and prayer”. Then, at the age
of twenty-five, “she had a vision of a young man who took her by the hand
and guided her to loosen the knot of thorns oppressing her soul. In that
hand, Gertrude recognised … the One Who saved us with His blood on the
cross: Jesus.

“From that moment her life of intimate communion with the Lord became more
intense”, the Holy Father added. She abandoned “the profane humanistic
sciences for theological studies, and in her monastic observance she moved
from a life she herself defined as ‘negligent’ to one of intense mystical
prayer, showing exceptional missionary ardour”.

Gertrude, Pope Benedict explained, “understood that she had been distant
from God, … that she had dedicated herself too avidly to liberal studies,
to human knowledge, disregarding the spiritual sciences and depriving
herself of the taste of true wisdom. Now she was being led to the mountain
of contemplation where she abandoned the old self to clothe herself in the

This German saint “dedicated herself to writing, to revealing the truth of
faith with clarity, simplicity, grace and conviction, serving the Church
with love and faithfulness, and becoming much appreciated by theologians and
men of piety”. Among her writings – of which few remain “because of the
events that led to the destruction of the convent of Helfta” – are the
“‘Herald of Divine Love’ or ‘The Revelations’, as well as the ‘Spiritual
Exercises’, a rare jewel of mystic spiritual literature”, said the Holy

“Gertrude added other prayers and penance to those imposed by the monastic
rule, with such devotion and faithful abandonment to God that she aroused in
those who met here the conviction of being in the presence of the Lord. And
in fact God Himself brought her to understand that He had called her to be
an instrument of His grace. Yet Gertrude felt unworthy of this immense
divine treasure, and confessed that she had not protected and cherished it”.
She died in 1301 or 1302.

In closing, Benedict XVI highlighted how the example of St. Gertrude
“shows us that the focal point of a happy and authentic life is friendship
with Jesus the Lord. This is learned through love for Sacred Scripture and
the liturgy, through profound faith and through love for Mary, so as to gain
increasing knowledge of God and, therefore, to know true happiness which is
the goal of our existence”.

Having concluded his catechesis, the Holy Father reminded the various
pilgrim groups present that October is the month dedicated to the Holy
Rosary, and that tomorrow marks the feast day of the Blessed Virgin of the

“The Rosary”, he said turning to address Polish pilgrims, “is a special
prayer of the Church and a spiritual weapon for each one of you. May
meditation on the lives of Jesus and Mary be a light for all of us on our
evangelical journey of spiritual renewal and conversion of heart”.

Related articles:

The Mediaeval Rosary
The Rosary a short introduction

About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
This entry was posted in Church History, Devotion, Saints, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to St. Gertrude – The Holy Father’s Catechesis

  1. mmvc says:

    Someone regularly leaves little prayer cards with the St Gertrude prayer for the Holy Souls at the back of our church.

    “Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory.”

    Thanks for this post; it’s good to have learnt a little more about St Gertrude.


  2. toadspittle says:

    “…the profane humanistic sciences… “

    Now, what would they be? Medicine? Chemistry? Biology? Mathematics? Art? Music?

    “…that she had dedicated herself too avidly to liberal studies,
    to human knowledge, disregarding the spiritual sciences and depriving
    herself of the taste of true wisdom.”

    One thing I have to say for the Pope – he tells it like he sees it, and the hell with ‘progress.’
    At least we know where we are.
    We should bear that in mind when we switch on the electric light, rather than trying to strike a spark with a flint, to ignite a bunch of twigs, so we can see to let the cat in these dark mornings – or when we receive anesthesia, rather than a shot of rum, before having our appendixes out…
    (or, in his case, be driven around in a nice cozy Popemobile, rather than be lugged about on the shoulders of a gang of lurching and swearing superannuated cuckoo-clock makers..)

    Still, it takes all sorts, dunnit?


  3. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad, I fear you get too carried away with the word “profane”, if I am not mistaken. I am sure that the word which, after all, is only in translation, bears the meaning of “secular” or “non-spiritual”, “non-theological”. It is not intended as a perjorative or as a term to provoke toad.

    Science has flourished in historically Christian cultures adn these cultures have lead the way in this in the last 600 years. There’s an excellent Toad.


  4. golden chersonnese says:

    On this theme of women saints of the Church (0f whom there is no shortage), could I draw the attention of readers to the canonisation of the very first Australian saint? This is a very special thrill for all of us on this side of the world.

    Blessed Mary MacKillop of the Cross will be sainted on 17 October in Rome by Pope Benedict. Her portrait can be seen here:

    She was born of Scottish immigrant parents in Newtown, Melbourne (now called Fitzroy) in 1842, barely six or seven years of the founding of that city by British settlers, although currently a city of more than 4 million souls:

    The eldest child of eight offspring to Catholic highlanders Alexander MacKillop and Flora MacDonald, her father actually studied for the priesthood at Scots College in Rome for several years.

    To support her family she undertook work as a governess and teacher for the chldren of various families in the Australian colonies. During one of these in the rural regions of South Australia she saw the yawning need for the education of poor children in the town of Penola. This led to her founding in 1867, with the English Father Julian Tenison Woods, of the Sisters of St Joseph (the Josephites or “Joeys”, as known in Australia), who increased in number surprisingly fast in the Australian colonies. She was thus only 25 years of age when she established her congregation! Makes the rest of us look bone idle, doesn’t it?

    Liberal Catholics have rejoiced in the strange fact that Blessed Mary MacKillop was excommunicated by the Bishop of Adelaide, Bishop Sheil in 1870. Even the secular media have claimed very recently that it was because she reported a sexually abusive priest! This was refuted today by the chief MacKillop scholar, Father Paul Gardiner SJ

    Rather is it clear that the Bishop excommunicated her for what he perceived to be disobedience over whether her congregation was to be a diocesan institute or a religious congregation with universal papal approval.

    Anyhow, let me shut up. Please view the website for Blessed Mary Mackillop of the Cross, developed by her sisters. She is yet another post-reformation saint of both Britain and Australia, it must be said:


  5. Gertrude says:

    The Liberal Arts in Mediaeval times Toad were music, geometry and motion of the heavenly spheres (astronomy), and were taught in the form of a trivium and quadrivium. Revelation from the quadrivium would have required education in the first principles of logic and dialectic. (Here endeth the 1st lesson).
    They would certainly not have been considered particularly liberal in the modern sense, but you will see that young women were infinitely better educated in these times!
    Gertrude, who is acknowledged as a great academic, persued her ‘religious’ vocation as opposed to academia, and it is in this context I think that the Holy Father says ‘she tended too avidly to liberal studies’.
    The Church, as I am sure you know has (perhaps more so in modern times) embraced scientific research, and accomodated such. I can amost hear you saying ‘what about Galileo’!


  6. mmvc says:

    Golden, that is very interesting indeed and deserves to be a feature post on the blog. I have a vague recollection of references to Bl. Mary MacKillop during the WYD events in Sydney. I think the Sisters of her congregation were expressing hopes for her canonisation to the Holy Father at the time.

    Any chance of a guest post from you for the 17th October or thereabouts?


  7. mmvc says:

    Here are details of the second miracle required for Blessed Mary MacKillop’s canonisation:


  8. toadspittle says:

    What I particularly like about CP&S, is that everyone (everyone else, at least) is not only knowledgeable and learned, but also nice.
    Thank you Gertrude.

    Not like on some other blogs, which will be nameless. (such as Damian’s.)

    (And I was relieved to find that Morris Dancing, Tap-Dancing, and Computer Programming were not on the list of naughty, ancient, mediaeval, liberal arts.)

    True, Golden C, I do tend to get carried away by the word ‘profane.’ More figuratively than physically nowadays.
    Probably fail the medical for the physical, anyway.


  9. toadspittle says:

    golden chersonnese:

    Just took a butcher’s at the Blesses Mackillop! Cor! Strike me pink!
    Haven’t seen eyebrows like that since Ava Gardner went to her reward!

    And here’s me thinking Joeys were Roos! Blimey! You could knock me down with an Emu feather. No probbo!

    Wouldn’t need a Bondi tram!

    (What a lot of ‘screamers’ – hack name for exclamation marks!)


  10. golden chersonnese says:

    Maryla, I only wish I had the expertise to write on the great Scottish-Australian lass. I think that I am like most people and am only a follower of this great woman’s life-response to the Gospel.

    What an amazing thing that the daughter of poor Scottish immigrants to a remote incipient British colony could rise to such charity and sanctity simply in response to the Word of God. Who can doubt God’s grace and providence?

    You know that her sisters work now in Australia, New Zealand, East Timor, Ireland, Peru and Brazil?

    Please follow her canonisation on 17 October at:

    There will be a direct web telecast.

    I apologise to Gertrude if I have referred too much to Blessed Mary MacKillop on her post on St Gertrude.

    I can only hope that St Gertrude would find her life imitated somewhat in the likes of Blessed Mary MacKillop.


  11. Gertrude says:

    No apologies required GC. I too have found the information on Blessed Mary MacKillop very interesting. I admit to not knowing much about her, so the links are useful and informative.


  12. golden chersonnese says:

    Thank you, Gertrude.

    It’s another great day for Scotland too.


  13. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad, you’re a tad norty at times (and where is rabit nowadays?)


  14. omvendt says:

    “What I particularly like about CP&S, is that everyone (everyone else, at least) is not only knowledgeable and learned, but also nice.”

    Cheers, Tōad! 🙂


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