St. Gertrude the Great

This text is via the Roman Breviary, “Divino Afflatu” version which was abridged in 1955, further abridged in 1962, and abolished in 1970, being replaced by the “Liturgia Horarum”


Good St. Gertrude

“Gertrude was born of a noble family at Eisleben, in Saxony, (about the year of our Lord 1264.) At five years of age she offered her virginity and herself to Jesus Christ, in the Benedictine nunnery at Rodalsdorf. From that time forth she was utterly estranged from earthly things, ever striving for things higher, and began to lead a kind of heavenly life.

“To learning in human letters she added knowledge of the things of God. In the thought thereof she earnestly desired, and soon reached, the perfection of a Christian soul. Of Christ, and of the things in His life, she spoke oftentimes with movings of spirit. The glory of God was the one end of all her thoughts, and to that her every longing and her every act were given.

“Though God had crowned her with so many and so noble gifts both of nature and of grace, her belief regarding herself was so humble that she was used to number as among the greatest of the wonders of His goodness that He had always in His mercy borne with one who was so utterly unworthy.

Elected as Abbess

“In the thirtieth year of her age she was elected Abbess of Rodalsdorf, where she had professed herself in the religious life, and afterwards of Heldelfs. This office she bore for forty years in love, wisdom, and zeal for strict observance, so that the house seemed like an ideal example of a sisterhood of perfect nuns. To each one she was a mother and a teacher, and yet would be as the least of all, being in sooth in all lowliness among them as she that served.

“That she might be more utterly God’s only, she tormented her body with sleeplessness, hunger, and other afflictions, but withal ever true to herself, stood forth a pattern of innocency, gentleness, and long-suffering. The salvation of her neighbours was her constant earnest endeavour, and her godly toil bore abundant fruit. The love of God oftentimes threw her into trances, and she was given the grace of the deepest contemplation, even to union of spirit with God.

The Mystical Life

“Christ Himself, to show what such a bride was to Him, revealed that He had in the heart of Gertrude a pleasant dwelling-place. The Virgin Mother of God she ever sought with deep reverence as a mother and warden whom she had received from Jesus Himself, and from her she had many benefits.

“Toward the most Divine Sacrament of the Eucharist, and the sufferings of the Lord, her soul was moved with love and gratitude, so that she sometimes wept abundantly. She helped with daily gifts and prayers the souls of the just condemned to the purifying fire.

“She wrote much for the fostering of godliness. She was glorified also by revelations from God, and by the gift of prophecy. Her last illness was rather the wasting of a home-sickness to be with God than a decay of the flesh, and she left this life (to live the undying life in Him, upon the 17th day of November,) in the year of our Lord 1292. God made her bright with miracles both during her life and after her death.”

Purgatory Prayer

This seriously needs researching.  It’s via Fr. Richard Heilman’s blog, who got it from Dallas Area Catholic’s blog, who got it via the good fellow over at  Unam Sanctam Catholicam, who got it from this blog which is no longer in existence, who got it via The Vatican:

the Acta Sede #31, screenshotted here:

screen shot for Gertrude

screen shot for Gertrude

and the Acta Sede #32, screenshotted here.screen shot for Gertrude

The sources are listed, it’s just a matter of translating them.  Which is easy enough to do, I just haven’t fully fleshed it out yet.

The claim is that upon the praying of the St. Gertrude Prayer, 1,000 souls will be released from purgatory.  However:

One thing I discovered is that this promise appears nowhere in Saint Gertrude’s writings. It is generally accepted that she received personal revelations, but her accepted writings do not contain the promise. I searched the entire book “The Life and Revelations of Saint Gertrude the Great” and it is nowhere to be found. This is problematic that the Saints own writings that are considered authoritative concerning her revelations do not testify to this promise of the release of 1,000 souls from purgatory.

The next issue is the general condemnation by the Church of such promises. In the 19th century, there was somewhat of an epidemic in the Church concerning holy cards being released with false promises and indulgences. The Holy See, under the authority of Pope Leo XIII, issued a series of proclamations to try and suppress the problem so that the Faithful might not be lead astray by believing in false promises and indulgences not approved by the Church. These proclamations were posted in an old set of documents called the Acta Sanctae Sedis (Acts of the Holy See), which was a monthly publication containing actions of the Pope and the Roman Congregations. The originals of the documents are posted on the Vatican’s website at this link. They are all in Latin. If you open the link to ASS 31, and scroll to page 727, looking at the paragraph starting with “ad hanc,” you can see a general overview of the problem with these prayer cards and the Vatican’s attempting to weed them out. Then more directly, open ASS 32, scroll to page 243, and look specifically at Rule 8. This proclamation says that any pamphlets or leaflets containing promises to release one or more souls from purgatory are to be rejected by the Faithful, and any indulgences attached to them should be presumed invalid. And so, not only do Saint Gertrude’s writings not contain this promise, but there is a general condemnation for prayer cards with promises to release one or more souls from purgatory.

And a summation of the arguments against the claims associated with the prayer:

And so the evidence that I have found can be summarized as follows:

  1. Saint Gertrude’s writings contain nothing about a promise to release 1,000 souls from purgatory each time the prayer is said
  2. There was an epidemic of prayer cards containing false promises and indulgences
  3. The Church has summarily condemned prayer cards containing a promise to release one or more souls from purgatory
  4. The supposed approval by M. Cardinal is dated that exact same day as the approval by Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira of the book Read Me or Rue it, a book by Fr. O’Malley containing the prayer but not the promise
  5. Such an easy way to release 1,000 souls seems inconsistent with the Church’s understanding of purgatory, given that ordinarily to release one soul requires a plenary indulgence which is very difficult to get, and given all the means the Church employs to help the dead such as special masses or indulgences applicable only to the dead.

Holy St. Gertrude, ora pro nobis.



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