Saint Gertrude of Hefta: A Herald of Divine Love

The Church celebrates the optional memorial of St. Gertrude, one of the greatest mystics of all times. She received magnificent revelations, in particular about the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Newsroom (02/07/2022 1:00 PM, Gaudium Press) St. Gertrude was a German Cistercian nun, born in 1256 and died in 1301. Her family origins are unknown.

When she was five years old, she was entrusted to the monastery of Helfta, which followed the Benedictine rule. There, she received education in all the arts – classical letters, embroidery, singing, and miniature – under the guidance of the abbess St. Gertrude of Hackeborn, sister of St. Matilda.

At 16, she took her vows, and her early years were mere routine and spiritual lukewarmness. That was until she turned 25, when, after reciting the Compline, she had her first vision of the adolescent Christ, who promised to fill her inner emptiness.

From then on, she became an essentially contemplative soul, accentuating her devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Eucharist, conforming her deep piety to successive mystical experiences.

She gave up secular studies to dedicate herself to theological ones. She began to have frequent visions of the Heart of Jesus and became a teacher and spiritual counselor to all who came to her.

Her life became a perennial hymn of love to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Give me your heart

On one occasion, the Lord Jesus appeared to her and said: “My beloved, give me your heart.”

She offered it with joy: and It seemed to her that the Lord had placed it in His Divine Heart as a channel reaching down to the earth. Through this channel, He generously poured out the emanations of His immense goodness and said to her:

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“Look, from now on, I will be pleased to use your heart as a channel through which I will pour from the torrent of my mellifluous Heart overflowing effluvia of Divine consolation upon all those who are willing to receive this infusion of grace liberally and ask you for it with humility and trust.” [1]

She felt the beats of the Heart of Jesus

She [speaking of herself in the third person out of humility] says:

“The Lord drew her to himself so that her heart rested on the Divine Heart. After she had savored a sweet moment of repose, she felt the Heart of Jesus beating in two admirable and superb sweet ways.

“The Lord told her: ‘Each heartbeat is for the salvation of men (…) The first is for the salvation of sinners and the second for the righteous. And just as the beating of the human heart is not interrupted by sight, nor hearing, nor manual labor; in the same way, the government of heaven, of the earth, and the entire universe will not be able, until the end of the world, to suspend for an instant, nor delay, nor prevent this sweet beating of my Divine Heart.”

Herald of Divine Love

In 1289, Jesus ordered her to write about her life. She wrote the Memorial of the Abundance of the Divine Mercy in the manner of St. Augustine’s Confessions.

During the last period of her life, her sisters from the monastery wrote down the accounts of her visions, adding to what she had already written, producing the complete book of the Herald of Divine Love or Messenger of Divine Mercy, in Latin Legatus divinæ pietatis.

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Gertrude also wrote the Spiritual Exercises, a prayer book Benedict XVI called “a rare jewel of mystic spiritual literature.”[3]

[1] Saint Gertrude of Helfta. Legatus divinæ pietatis. L.III, c.66

[2] Saint Gertrude.  The Herald of Divine Love. Mame et Fils editores, Paris, vol. 1, p. 268.

[3] BENEDICT XVI. General Audience, 6/10/2010

Compiled by Ena Alfaro



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