Few saints are called ‘the Great’. Probably the best known are both Popes, Leo and Gregory. But the saint we celebrate on Monday also rejoices in the title – and is a woman. St. Gertrude the Great was born in 1256, in Eisleben, Saxony. She was educated at the local monastery school from about the age of 4. In 1266 she joined the monastic community. Her education was broad. She was very familiar with the Bible and the writings of the Fathers of the Church. She was fluent in Latin.
From the age of 25 onwards she experienced a series of visions that made her even more determined to be steeped in the scriptures and in the study of theology. Her own writing are a testament to her conviction that she was called to be the Bride of Christ. She died near her home town around 1302.
Gertrude is an important saint and one who deserves to be better known. She gives the lie to modern day critics who argue that women were oppressed and ignorant until the dawn of the twentieth century. She also gives the lie to the Protestant reformers who asserted that the Bible was kept hidden from people until they translated it. She shows us the best combination of faith and intellect, and also that the spiritual life can be deep and loving. May she pray for us.