Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Feast Day of Saint Gertrude the Great

Today is the feast day of Saint Gertrude the Great; we call her the Great to differentiate her from another Gertrude, Gertrude of Hackeborn.  The medieval time period was a time of many Gertrudes.

The Gertrude whom we celebrate today was born on the feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1256.  I celebrate her for the same reason that I celebrate Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen.  She's one of our earliest female writers in the Western tradition.  Unfortunately, we don't have much of her writing left.

Like those other female writers, Gertrude was able to write because she was part of a cloistered community, which meant she had the education to write, the time to write, and the support of her writing as a vocation.  There are many reasons why I'm grateful for the monastic tradition and the support of women's writing early on is a major one.

We know that she began writing for the benefit of her sisters in the Abbey.  I like to think of her as a blogger of her time.  She wrote for a small audience, but it was important to her, and she kept doing it.

Because she was present for her writing practice, she was graced with a series of visions.  We remember her for being part of an early group of mystics who focused on the sacred heart of Jesus.  I must confess that the sacred heart mysticism is not my favorite branch, but I do understand its appeal and importance.

Some scholars call her one of the most important 13th century mystics.  And some note that her spiritual exercises are still very accessible.  What she wrote for the small audience of her sisters can still be influential today.

She's associated with souls in Purgatory, but my prayer will think about a different kind of Purgatory.

Here's a prayer I wrote for today:

Creator God, today we celebrate the life of Saint Gertrude the Great.  Kindle our creative fires so that we may know that our work is important, even if we feel we're stuck in a creative purgatory.  Let us sense your beating heart that is so full of love for everything in your creation.  Help us to feel that same passion.  Grace us with the mystical visions that we need to make sense of the world.

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