I want to share with you the way St. Gertrude the Great has made me happy, surprisingly happy.
When I speak with people I usually hear myself. Satan has some pretty amazing yet predictable ways in which he trips us up. Of course, each one of us is unique, our relationship to God and our spiritual journey our own, yet there are some common tricks that ensare a lot of us and when you know about them, they are easy to spot. They are the ways of the Evil One hiding in plain sight.
St. Gertrude the Great has helped me find a biggie.
First, who is St. Gertrude?
St. Gertrude the Great was born on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1256 in Eisleben, Germany. At the age of five, she began to attend a Cistercian monastery school in Saxony called Helfta, which is why she is also known as St. Gertrude of Helfta. She was described as a lovable, quick-witted child by the nuns of Helfta. During her academic studies, St. Gertrude stood out for her intelligence and became accomplished in philosophy, literature, singing, and miniature painting.
St. Gertrude entered the Benedictine order at Helfta and continued to devote herself to her studies. In her writings, St. Gertrude recalls that she neglected her spiritual calling for the first several years in the monastery because she was so engrossed in intellectual pursuits. However, around the age of twenty-four, she began to find the daily routines of her community monotonous and experienced a lack of meaning in her accomplishments, as well as feelings of anxiety and depression.
In the year 1281, St. Gertrude had her first vision of Jesus, in which he called her to conversion and told her, “I have come to comfort you and bring you salvation.” By God’s grace, she dramatically reoriented her priorities and immersed herself in Scripture, the writings of the Church Fathers, and theology. The rest of her life is the story of the priceless treasures the Sacred Heart of Jesus poured into her soul.
And that is where I discovered her secret.
When I experience moments of conversion, definite calls from God or even gifts from him, I immediately think about what I need to learn, to change, to improve because I have been so negligent up to this point. As I speak to others, I hear the same. God’s gifts precipitate a movement backwards.
I described it like this: It would be as if your spouse came home carrying flowers and an expensive gift. The bearer of flowers and love would call out, “My dear, look what I’ve brought you. I love you so much.” And the beloved would turn the other direction and start talking about the dirty spot on the wall that she didn’t clean and the dishes that weren’t done. And her husband would say, “Dear, I don’t care about those things. I love you. Let’s spend the night together.” And instead of receiving the gift, instead of turning to him in awe over his loving kindness, she spoke to him only about where she had failed. If the loved one doesn’t open herself with a smile, but stays enclosed in herself, the unifying act of love can’t take place. Isn’t this the perfect trick of the Evil One? We think we are practicing the virtue of humility. Repentance. Self-knowledge.
Oh how God’s heart must tire at the hesitancy with which we consider the gifts he extends to us with such hope for our love freely given in return.
Gertrude said a resounding YES at Jesus’ approach to her. She got interested in what he was giving. She asked him questions. She asked him if he liked her prayer. She offered him his own merits to glorify God and to repair the negligences in her life. It was a Marian yes that did not focus on herself, but solely on aligning herself with all that God was doing in her regard for the sake of his glory.
So say it.
Say “YES!” when you have an inspiration. Shout “YES!” when you are moved to conversion. Whisper “YES!” when Jesus comes to you in prayer. Always YES. YES. YES to the Lover who is coming to bring you salvation. Let your heart leap FORWARD.
If you have found this helpful, our full mini-retreat on St. Gertrude and St. Margaret Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus next week is all about this YES. Conferences and video meditations, exercises and prayer come together to help you live with the love and ecstatic intention of Gertrude. Stop looking backward and instead leap into the Heart of the Savior. We’re offering it at two different times and you can even make it privately at your own leisure. I hope we’ll see you. The first two Tabernacle of the Heart retreats were so blessed and we believe that this one will be even better.
Thanks for joining me on the journey!