Today’s Saints: St. Gertrude the Great and St. Margaret of Scotland
St. Gertrude was born in Eisleben, Germany in 1256. As a five-year-old, she was received into the monastery of the Cistercian nuns in Helfta. She was an intellectually gifted student with a gentle disposition who applied herself to her studies, concentrating on literature and philosophy.
At the age of 26, Gertrude had the first of many visions of Jesus which brought about a deep interior conversion, drawing her into the innermost recesses of His Sacred Heart. Her heart symbolically united in a vision to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, she was a precursor of the later devotion to the Sacred Heart. She also advocated frequent reception of the Eucharist and devotion to St Joseph.
Similar to other mystics, such as St. Teresa of Avila, the Passion of Christ was her favorite devotion and when she meditated on it, or on the blessed Eucharist, she was often unable to control the torrents of tears which flowed from her eyes. She frequently went into ecstasy when she meditated or focused on the great love of Christ and united her heart with His.
On one occasion, Jesus, appeared to Gertrude in a vision and pointed out to her the wound in his side, out of which flowed a stream of crystal-clear water. The heart of Christ seemed to her to be suspended like a lamp in her own heart. She heard it throbbing with His unconditional, redemptive love for both saint and sinner.
In her short book of “Divine Insinuations, or Communications and Sentiments of Love,” she proposed exercises for the renewal of baptismal vows, by which the soul completely renounces the world and herself, consecrates herself to the pure love of God, abandoning herself entirely to His holy will.
When in a vision the Lord asked Gertrude whether she would prefer health or sickness, she responded, “Divine Lord, give me whatever pleases You. Do not consider my wishes at all. I know that what You choose to send is the best for me.”
Gertrude was an extraordinarily charitable person toward all those she encountered and her love for others manifested itself in tender sympathy towards the souls in purgatory. An extremely humble person, she prayed that her many spiritual gifts not be manifested outwardly to others and her request was granted. Gertrude was blessed with the gift of prophecy as well as the gift of miracles. A prolific writer, she authored five books on spirituality. However, only three of them are still in existence.
Gertrude died on November 17th, 1301 or 1302 of natural causes. She is the patron saint of nuns, travelers, and the West Indies.
Prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, fountain of eternal life, Your Heart is a glowing furnace of Love. You are my refuge and my sanctuary. O my adorable and loving Savior, consume my heart with the burning fire with which Yours is aflamed. Pour down on my soul those graces which flow from Your love. Let my heart be united with Yours. Let my will be conformed to Yours in all things. May Your Will be the rule of all my desires and actions. Amen.
~ Saint Gertrude the Great
Prayer of Saint Gertrude the Great
Dictated by Our Lord, to release 1000 souls from purgatory each time it is said.
Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son Jesus Christ, in union with the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, said throughout the world today, for all the holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the Universal Church, those in my own home, and within my family.
St. Margaret of Scotland
St. Margaret of Scotland was not a Scot, but was born about 1045 in Hungary of Anglo-Saxon and Hungarian parents. Her family was in exile at that time due to the Danish invasion of England. Margaret’s grandfather was King Edmund Ironside of England and her father was Edward the Exile, the heir to the throne of Scotland.
Margaret was the oldest of three children born to Edward and Agatha. She was educated by her mother and was well grounded in the scriptures and liturgy. She was about 12 when the family returned to England and was educated under the influence of the Benedictines. She learned French, ecclesiastical embroidery, and began to read works of theology: St. Augustine and St. John Cassian greatly influenced her spiritual development.
While fleeing the invading army of William the Conqueror in 1066, her family’s ship wrecked on the Scottish coast. They were assisted by King Malcolm III Canmore of Scotland, whom Margaret married in 1070.
The King was deeply devoted to his beautiful, intelligent, and devout wife: she introduced him to a new way of life and a new spirituality. Although he was unable to read, he would handle her books and examine them. If she was fond of a particular book, he would look at it with interest and kiss the pages. While she did not succeed in teaching him to read or stop making war, she did teach him to pray sincerely and frequently.
Margaret prayed often for her husband and added fasting and almsgiving to her prayers, that they might “easily ascend to heaven”. Once when he followed her into the garden, he found her praying for him and “her loving spirit set him on fire”.
She was very generous in giving alms to the poor, who flocked around her whenever she appeared in public. When she gave away all that she had, the courtiers would give what they had, even their own cloaks. She would sometimes even give away the King’s gold.
The couple had a loving and fruitful marriage. Margaret bore the King eight children, six sons and two daughters. She loved them dearly and raised them well, supervising their education herself. The youngest boy became St. David. Both her husband and her son, Edward, were killed in battle. Yet she prayed: “I thank You, Almighty God, for sending me so great a sorrow to purify me from my sins.”
Margaret died in Edinburgh on November 16, 1093. She is remembered for the happiness of her marriage, for her devotion to prayer and learning, and especially for her generosity to the poor. In 1250, Margaret was canonized by Pope Innocent IV.
She is the patron saint of mothers, large families, learning, queens, Scotland, the death of children, and widows.