Thursday, November 16, 2023

St Gertrude the Great on Praying for the Dead

It is very fitting that the feast of St Gertrude the Great should begin the second half of the month of November, during which the Church encourages to pray more fervently for the dead as we near end of the liturgical year. As the Divine Office notes, she was especially devoted to prayer for the souls in purgatory: “With daily acts of assistance and with prayers, she helped the souls of the just given over to the purifying flames.” From this comes also the famous prayer for the dead attributed to her: “Eternal Father, I offer you the Most Precious Blood of your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, for those in my own home and in my family. Amen.”

St Gertrude, 1763, by the Mexican painter Miguel Cabrera (1695-1768). Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
Here are some excerpts from the collected accounts of the many visions vouchsafed to St Gertude, which are especially pertinent to praying for the dead.

Another religious died soon after, who from her infancy had been specially devoted to the Mother of God. After she had received the last Sacraments, and when she appeared almost dead, she gave singular edification to the religious by the affection and compunction with which she kissed the wounds of a crucifix which was presented to her, addressing it in the tenderest words. After pouring forth the most ardent and fervent prayers for pardon of her sins, for the protection of her Spouse in her last moments, and for the assistance of the Blessed Virgin, the Angels, and Saints, her strength failed, and she passed, as in a quiet sleep, to her eternal reward. As the community were reciting the usual prayers for the repose of her soul, our Lord appeared to a religious with the deceased in His arms, saying to her affectionately, “Do you know Me, My child?” Then she who was favored with this vision prayed that our Lord would specially reward that soul for her humble and efficacious charity in having served her on many occasions, and for having been especially earnest in doing service to those religious who were most holy and devoted to God, in order that she might share in their merits and graces. Our Lord therefore presented His deified Heart to her, saying, “Drink freely from Me a reward for all which thou didst when on earth for My elect.”
On the following day, at Mass, the soul appeared as if seated in our Lord’s bosom, and His Blessed Mother appeared to give joy to this soul by a communication of her merits. This was specially the case while the community recited the Psalter for her, with the Ave Maria; so that at each word, the Mother of our Lord appeared to make presents to this soul, who received them to increase her merit before God. …
At the Mass, when they sung at the offertory Hostias ac preces, our Lord elevated His right hand, and shed forth from it a marvelous light, which illuminated the whole heaven, but especially this soul, which was in the bosom of our Lord. Then the Saints approached, each according to their rank, and placed their merits as an offering on the breast of Jesus, to supply for the deficiencies of this soul. The religious knew that they acted thus because, when that soul was on earth, she had been accustomed to pray that the Saints would give this assistance to the souls of the deceased. The Saints then testified to their affection for her by endeavoring to increase her happiness, and the virgins embraced her specially, as having in common with them the excellent grace of virginity.
ON one occasion, while Mass was celebrating for a poor woman who had died lately, St. Gertrude recited five Pater nosters in honor of our Lord’s Five Wounds for the repose of her soul; and, moved by divine inspiration, she offered all her good works for the increase of the beatitude of this person. When she had made this offering, she immediately beheld the soul in heaven, in the place destined for her; and the throne prepared for her was elevated as far above the place where she had been, as the highest throne of the seraphim is above that of the lowest angel. The Saint then asked our Lord how this soul had been worthy to obtain such advantage from her prayers, and He replied: “She has merited this grace in three ways: first, because she always had a sincere will and perfect desire of serving Me in religion, if it had been possible; secondly, because she especially loved all religious and all good people; thirdly, because she was always ready to honour Me by performing any service she could for them.” He added: “By the sublime rank to which she is elevated, you may judge how agreeable these practices are to Me.”
ON Rogation Wednesday, at the elevation of the Host, she besought our Lord for the souls of the faithful in purgatory, that He would free them from their pains by virtue of His admirable Ascension; and she beheld our Lord descending into purgatory with a golden rod in His Hand, which had as many hooks as there had been prayers for their souls, by which He appeared to draw them into a place of repose. She understood by this, that whenever anyone prays generally, from a motive of charity, for the souls in purgatory, the greater part of those who, during their lives, have exercised themselves in works of charity, are released.

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