ST. GERTRUDE THE GREAT
St. Gertrude was the herald of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She is the diadem, the queen flower of the Benedictine Order, the most beautiful lily among the holy virgins who flourished during the middle ages.
Our Divine Savior repeatedly disclosed to her His Divine Heart, the furnace of love, as though for her sake He could not await the time decreed by His eternal wisdom for the revelations of His Heart. Our Lord said of her:
"She is My dove who has no guile in her, she is My chosen lily which I love to bear in My hands, she is My rose whose fragrance is full of sweetness, because of her patience in every adversity and the thanksgiving which she continually offers Me…" "I have borne her in My arms from her infancy., I have preserved her in her baptismal purity and innocence, and she has given herself to Me entirely and forever. I, in return, have given Myself entirely to her. You can find Me in no place where I delight more, or which is more suitable for Me, than in the Sacrament of the Altar, and after that, in the heart and soul of Gertrude, My beloved. I have united My Heart so closely to Gertrude’s soul by the ties of My mercy, that she has become one spirit with Me."
THE PERFECT SPOUSE OF CHRIST
Gertrude’s soul had no other will, no other thought, no other life, than Christ. Gertrude’s heart sought God alone, and found Him everywhere. To please Jesus in all things was the one aim of her life. Jesus was her all – her constant thought day and night. Yet she did not neglect her exterior duties. It was in a happy manner in which she combined active labor with interior union. "Behold," said our Savior, "such is the life which Gertrude, My beloved, leads before My face. She walks ever in My presence, never losing sight of Me for an instant. She has but one desire: to know the good pleasure of My Heart."
She had her favorites among the beatified friends of God, and frequently the saints came to converse with her. A special attraction drew her toward Saint John, the disciple of love, to whom she bore so striking a resemblance.
ST. GERTRUDE’S UNLIMITED CONFIDENCE
St. Gertrude understood that in God’s mercy and love, is one of the secrets to obtain sanctity. And that confidence is the key which opens the treasures of the infinite mercy of God. "All that I have received I owe to my confidence in the gratuitous bounty of God". He frequently complained to the beloved of His Heart of man’s lack of confidence. Our Lord said, "Gertrude is so firmly established in My Providence that there is nothing which she does not hope for from the plentitude of My grace. Therefore, I will never refuse her anything." Alas! We creatures have too little knowledge of God’s kindness, love, and mercy! Our distrust arises because we compare God with ourselves. Oh, that all hearts would realize that Jesus is all love, all mercy! He has treasures of grace for all, but few come to bear them away by means of their confidence:
"Anyone who flees to My protection with firm confidence, belongs to those of whom I can say: ‘One is My dove, My chosen one out of thousands, who has pierced My Heart with one glance of her eyes. And this confidence wounds My Heart so deeply that if I were unable to relieve such a soul, it would cause My Heart a sadness which all the joys of heaven could not assuage…The confidence that I truly have the power, the wisdom and the goodness to aid a soul faithfully in all her miseries, is the arrow which pierces My Heart, and does such violence to My love that I can never abandon her."
ST. GERTRUDE’S SPECIAL GRACES
One of the great graces Gertrude received was the impression of Our Lord’s Sacred Wounds upon her heart. It was through ardent desire and constant prayer that she received this marvelous grace. "O Lord Jesus Christ…, grant that I may aspire towards Thee with my whole heart, with yearning desire and with thirsting soul, seeking only Thy sweetness and Thy delights, so that my whole mind and all that is within me may ardently sigh to Thee, who are our true Beatitude. O most merciful Lord, engrave Thy Wounds upon my heart."
Another grace received was while she was in church. "After I received the Sacrament of Life, I saw a ray of light, like an arrow, dart forth from the Sacred Wound in Thy right Side, on the Crucifix…It advanced toward me and pierced my heart. Then Thou didst say to me: ‘ May the full tide of thy affection rise to Me, so that all thy pleasure, thy hope, thy joy, thy grief, thy fear, and every other feeling may be sustained by My love!’"
There was also an interchange of hearts between Our Lord and St. Gertrude. She says, "Thou has granted me Thy secret friendship, by opening to me the sacred ark of Thy Deified Heart in so many different ways as to be the source of all my happiness. Sometimes as a special mark of our mutual friendship, Thou didst exchange It for mine!" This interchange of hearts conceals operations of grace beyond our understanding, and after this, the holy virgin felt her Divine Spouse live and love within her.
God not only granted inexpressible graces to St. Gertrude herself, but He also promised great graces to all who, after her death, should venerate her.
St. Gertrude received from the Eternal Truth Himself many promises. One time Our Lord promised her that no one who had venerated her would depart this life without having first received the grace of making his life pleasing to God, and that, he would enjoy the comfort of a special friendship with God.
Once our Divine Savior, opening His lips and inhaling, said to His beloved spouse: "Just as I have now drawn in My breath, so shall I in truth draw to Myself all who incline toward thee with love and devotion for My sake, and I shall grant them the grace to make progress in virtue from day to day."
He also promised her that if anyone should praise and thank Him for the graces lavished on her, and ask for a favor, He would, in that love with which He had pre-elected her from eternity, assuredly grant the plea, provided it were for the eternal welfare of the suppliant. (It is remarkable, however, that St. Gertrude does not seem to interest herself greatly in obtaining mere temporal and earthly favors for her clients. Her intercession is particularly powerful for needs of the soul).
In addition, St. Gertrude received the promise that if anyone performs a good work in her honor,…he should obtain as his merit whatever is performed in honor of the saint. No sinner who had loved and venerated her should die suddenly!
ST. GERTRUDE AND THE SACRED HEART
The secrets of the Divine Heart of Jesus have been called the "treasure" which is reserved for latter times. But with regard to His spouse it seems our Divine Savior could not await the time decreed by His infinite wisdom for the revelation of His Sacred Heart to the world at large.
Once on the feast of St. John, the beloved disciple, St. Gertrude exerted herself to praise the disciple whom Jesus loved above the rest of His apostles, and lo, Our Savior appeared to her, accompanied by this dear saint. St. John spoke to Gertrude most kindly, "Come, come, beloved spouse of my Master, let us repose together on the sweetest bosom of Our Lord, in which all the treasures of beatitude lie hidden!" St. John stood to the left, and St. Gertrude to the right of our Savior. They reposed on the sanctuary of His Heart, and were ravished with inexpressible delights at Its beating.
On the same feast, four centuries later, in 1673 , Our Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary. He showed her His Divine Heart enveloped by flames of love and said: "My Heart is so full of love for men that It can no longer contain the flames of Its burning love. I must discover to men the treasures of My Heart and save them from perdition."
ST. GERTRUDE AND HOLY COMMUNION
The "Bread from heaven" was the nourishment of this virginal spouse of Christ. Gertrude knew well who was hidden under this precious Food, for often her purified gaze was permitted to penetrate the veil, and she beheld her Divine Bridgegroom in a state of extreme love and mercy, inclining toward the children of men. What must have been the burning ardor with which she approached the Banquet of Love!
Our Savior often instructed St. Gertrude regarding the advantages of frequent Communion. He told her that He longs for all the faithful to approach Him. His Heart is open even to the weakest and most imperfect, if their venial sins are more a consequence of human frailty than of perverse will. He complains if they absent themselves from this Banquet of Love because they do not see the tenderness of His paternal Heart.
"He who communicates from habit does not taste the sweetness of the Eucharist; while he who prepares his heart for Its reception by exercises of piety and devotion, tastes of this sweetness in proportion to his good disposition. In fine, he who approaches Me with fear and reverence is less eagerly welcomed than he who comes to Me from a motive of pure love."
Our Savior revealed to St. Gertrude the love of His Divine Heart in the Holy Eucharist: "My delights are to be with the children of men. To satisfy My love, I have instituted this Sacrament. I have obliged Myself to remain therein even to the end of the world, and I wish It to be frequently received. I have done My utmost to manifest the tenderness of My Heart in the Blessed Eucharist. When, impelled by the vehemence of My love, I enter a soul by Communion, I fill it with graces, and all the inhabitants of heaven and earth, and all the souls in purgatory experience at the same moment some new effect of My bounty."
Once after St. Gertrude had heard a long and rigorous sermon upon God’s holiness and justice and the great fear with which one should approach the Sacraments, Jesus said to her: "It is not My justice, but My goodness and tenderness, which I strive to manifest in the Eucharist."
ST. GERTRUDE AND THE PASSION OF CHRIST
The saints have always united great veneration for Our Lord’s Passion to the worship of the Holy Eucharist. No devotion was dearer to St. Gertrude than devotion to the sufferings of our Redeemer. She bore the Sacred Wounds of Our Lord in a mystical manner in her own heart. She understood how to read in the Wounds of Jesus, not only the greatness of His sufferings, but also the intensity of His love. Our Lord Himself urged St. Gertrude to the fervent contemplation of His Passion by making known to her that she should venerate constantly the love of His Sacred Heart on the Cross.
LOOKING AT THE CRUCIFIX
Gertrude’s eyes ever sought her Crucifix, that sorrowful momento of her Saviour’s love. At night it never left her hands. She consecrated the whole of every Friday to meditation on the Passion. Jesus once said to her: "It is very agreeable to Me to see thee thus honoring the Crucifix. It is always an effect of Divine grace when men’s eyes meet the Image on the Cross, and never once do they rest upon It, but their soul is benefited. The oftener they do this here on earth with reverence and love, the greater will be their reward in heaven."
One day as Gertrude affectionately held her Crucifix and kissed it, Our Lord said: "Every time one kisses the Crucifix or looks at it with devotion, the eye of God’s mercy is fixed upon his soul. He should then listen within himself to these words of tenderness from Me: ‘Behold how I, for love of thee, hang on the Cross – naked, despised, My whole Body wounded, all My limbs distended. And still My Heart is enkindled with such glowing love for thee that if it were beneficial for thy salvation and thou couldst not be saved in any other way, I would for thee alone endure all that I suffered for the whole world!
"Meditation on My Passion possesses a value in My eyes infinitely surpassing any other. Even a short meditation upon My Passion is of more value than long and multiplied acts of piety which have no direct reference to My sufferings and death…" However, meditation on His sufferings is the most pleasing to Our Lord when we imitate the humility and patience He practiced during His Passion.
UNITING OUR SUFFERINGS WITH THOSE OF CHRIST
Our Savior frequently impressed upon St. Gertrude the exceeding value our sufferings acquire when united to those of His life and Passion. "Whoever in his trials and adversities unites himself with My sufferings, and strives to imitate My patience and resignation, will truly repose on My Heart and participate in all the merits of My life." Gratitude for suffering is a precious jewel for our heavenly crown. Man should always firmly believe that God sends just that trial which is most beneficial for him.
ST. GERTRUDE AND THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Probably no saint has understood better than St. Gertrude the power and necessity of Mary’s assistance in the sanctification of souls. Gertrude’s devotion to the Mother of God was of a most tender nature. Jesus once said to Gertrude: "I give thee My own Mother as thy protectress. I confide thee to her care…It is through her I will dispense My graces to thee. Have recourse to her in all thy necessities and thou wilt surely find strength and consolation." She also learned from the Blessed Virgin that when anyone piously greets her with these words: "O radiant Lily of the ever-peaceful Trinity! O resplendent Rose of heavenly charm!", Mary bestows favors upon him according to her power, through the Holy Trinity. "And to him who greets me thus, I will appear at his death in the bloom of such beauty that he shall enjoy a fortaste of heavenly comfort and sweetness."
ST. GERTRUDE AND THE POOR SOULS
St. Gertrude entertained a deep compassion for the souls in purgatory. At Holy Communion she besought our loving Savior with tender, fervent petitions to be merciful to these dear sufferers. There she heard Jesus say: "At Holy Communion I will permit thee to draw forth all to whom the fragrance of thy prayers penetrates." Our Lord often delivered more souls than she dared ask for, "My love urges Me to release the poor souls, for I long inexpressibly to have near Me those for whom I paid so great a price."
"HERALD OF DIVINE LOVE"
God’s object in imparting to St. Gertrude so many wonderful revelations was to manifest His infinite love for man. "It is the love of My Heart which has inspired thy writings", when He said to her to write the revelations she had received. "I wish these revelations to be, for later ages, the evidence of My love to draw souls to My Heart…This book of revelations is to be called Herald of Divine Love, for in it the sweetness of My Divine love will in some measure be tasted." "To each one who reads this book for My honor, with the right faith and humble devotion, with grateful sentiments and a desire of being edified, I grant remission of venial sins, the grace of spiritual consolation, and the ability to receive still greater favors."
GLORIOUS DEATH OF ST. GERTRUDE
St. Gertrude’s heart had become a glowing furnace of love for her heavenly Bridegroom. She longed with unspeakable longing for His summons to the heavenly joys. Her life, it is true, had been one of the most intimate union with Jesus. The sight of His beauty in His appearances to her, and the caresses of His love had so ravished her soul that she awaited, with holy impatience, the day when He would take her to His Heart and unite her to Himself forever."
How often she sighed for death in the words of the psalmist: "As the hart panteth after the fountains of water, so my soul panteth after Thee, O God! My soul hath thirsted after the strong, living God; when shall I come to appear before the face of God?" Yet her ardent desires were unheeded by Jesus. But the longer He delayed, the stronger grew her intense desire to be with Christ her Spouse. Jesus consoled her by responding: "At the hour of thy death I Myself will appear to thee with all the joys and charms of My Divinity and Humanity."
Gertrude had received from her Divine Bridegroom the promise that she should die of Divine love: that the ardor of love for Him would truly consume her life. Often Gertrude had swooned away under the overwhelming power of her vehement love, and now its intensity was inflicting upon her that glorious death, even death from excess of love!
After sufferings and almost lifelong infirmities, she now neared her death. Jesus appeared to her, His Divine Countenance radiant with joy. At his right hand was his holy Mother, and at His left the beloved disciple, St. John. Our Lord was attended by an immense multitude of angels, virgins and other saints. He approached the bed of the dying saint, showing such marks of tenderness and affection as were more sufficient to sweeten the bitterness of death.
The happy moment of Gertrude’s release had come. Our Lord addressed her: "Behold, now thou art to be united to Me and to become My own forever, by the sweet embrace which I will give to thy soul. I will present thee to My eternal Father by the close embrace of My Heart. At that instant, Gertrude’s holy soul, escaping from its earthly tabernacle, rose toward Jesus and penetrated the sanctuary of His sweetest Heart. Who can picture the welcome and the caresses she received from her Divine Spouse! Excess of Divine love had, indeed, consumed her life. The golden arrow foreshown to her by Jesus had wounded her soul; it had pierced her heart through and through, and her angelic spirit had taken flight to the place she had chosen for her repose in life and death – the Heart of Jesus. There Gertrude shall rest for all eternity. There, so closely united to her Beloved, she obtains precious gifts for her devoted clients from that inexhaustible Treasure of grace.