The saint for March 17
St. Gertrude of Nivelles
 
Optional Memorial
Local Calendar, Roman

Born 626, Landen, Belgium
Died March 17 Nivelles, Belgium
Gertrude is a Pre Congregation Saint

Gertrude was born into a saintly family;both of her parents are acclaimed as blesseds, and her sister is Saint Begga. Her pious family no doubt helped to influence her early love of God, and she felt the call of a religious vocation from an early age. Her family's wealth and station would have afforded her a noble marriage, but Gertrude's heart was set on God alone.

When her father Pepin died in 639, her holy mother Itta determined to use some of her lands and funds to buid a double monastery at Nivelle. Both she and her daughter entered, Her mother served as abbess until she judged her daughter sufficiently mature to assume this office, which she did at about age twenty in 646. She served in this role quite well with her mother's advice and assistance for about ten years. During her years as abbess she was known widely for both her holiness and her hospitality to travelers and pilgrims. She made a gift of land to enable the construction of the monastery of Fosses and aided other monks in evangelization efforts.

Most of all, Gertrude longed for God, and was known for her time spent in prayer, her visionary experiences (Once, while she was as prayer before the tabernacle, a globe of fire appeared upon her head which was witnessed by all the sisters of the abbey.), her knowledge of sacred scripture and for the extreme austerities which she practiced. These mortifications weakened her health to the extent that she decided to step down as abbess in 656, at the age of 30. She spent the last three years of her life in study and prayer.

St. Gertrude seems to have known of her impending death, as she inquired of a holy monk which exact hour it would be. She was told that she would die peacefully and enter into heavenly glory at the exact time that Mass was being offered that day. And so it was. She was almost immediately venerated as a saint.

Because of her great renown for hospitality, travelers used to drink a "St. Gertrude's Cup" before setting out on a journey, and she is often depicted with a pilgrim's staff. St. Gertrude is also associated with the newly deceased; the low country legend has it that souls spend their first night in the afterlife in her care. In art she is often depicted with mice running up her staff, which may symbolize souls; the exact association has been lost. Because of this depiction, she is regarded as a patron saint of cats as well.

Patronessof Travelers, Cats, Gardeners, the Recently Deceased
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