Saint Gertrude

St. Gertrude the Great (1256-1302), also known as Gertrude of Helfta, was born on the feast of Epiphany in Thuringia (modern Germany). She was sent to be educated at the Benedictine monastery in Helfta at the age of four or five, possibly as an orphan or as a child dedicated to God by her parents. She proved to be an extremely bright and determined student who became engrossed in her secular studies, but was negligent of her prayer life. She remained in the monastery and made her profession as a nun. At the age of 26 she entered a time of spiritual crisis, after which she began to receive visions of Christ who chastised her for not leaving room for God in her academic pursuits. This caused Gertrude to abandon her secular studies in total devotion to Sacred Scripture and the works of the Church Fathers. These theological studies, along with continued visions and messages from Jesus, became the basis of her work as one of the great writers and mystics of the 13th century. St. Gertrude had a lasting impact on the Church in an age where academic and religious literature was dominated by men, and she is the only female saint to earn the title "The Great." She was one of the early saints who, along with her companion in the monastery, St. Mechtilde of Hackeborn, spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. St. Teresa of Avila chose St. Gertrude the Great, the patron saint of nuns, as her model and guide. Her feast day is November 16th.

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