Benedictine saints & blesseds: November 2012 Archives
The Church celebrates two Benedictine friends in several days: Saints Mechtilde and Gertrude. By today's standards of canonizations, neither were formally canonized by the Church; until recently Hildegard enjoyed a canonization status only observed in Benedictine communities. Her liturgical observance is recognized more universally today. Pope Benedict XVI spoke eloquently of Saint Mechtilde of Hackeborn at a 2010 Wednesday Office. The Pope gives a superb insight into the person of Saint Mechtilde that is extraordinarily helpful.
Saint Mechtilde (1240-1298), the sister of Gertrude of Hackeborn (not Gertrude the Great [celebrated on Nov. 16], thought there is great confusion about this relation) attended the monastery school where her sister was a nun and after graduation she entered monastic life. Like Gertrude the Great Saint Mechtilde was known as a serious and gifted student and teacher. Someone described her having a "voice of a songbird." Her wonderful personality was an asset for her Benedictine community and it likely led to her being a 40 year abbess. As it turns out, Gertrude the Great was a student of Mechtilde's. Both of whom had a profound love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Privacy issues today weren't known in the 13th century. Mechtilde's spiritual experiences were recorded by Gertrude. Though unnerved by the perceived violation of boundaries, the Lord assured her that it was OK. In time Gertrude's work was the basis of Mechtilde's "Book of Special Grace" or later known as "Revelations of Saint Mechtilde," a book that is oriented to the liturgical year and focussed on Christology and Trinitarian theology. The Pope tells us that Mechtilde's starting point is the sacred Liturgy and her mystical experiences relate us back to the liturgical experience through the lens of the biblical narrative. Saint Mechtilde ought to be one of the heavenly patrons of liturgical studies.
In several places you'll read that Dante used Saint Mechtilde for his Donna Matelda of his volume of the Purgatorio, Canto XXVII. Whether is true is not yet known. That Dante's Donna Matelda and Saint Mechtilde are mystics, one wonders if the saint is fictionalized.
One a few saints with the title "the Great" Saint Gertrude (1256-1301/2) is clearly a woman with a mission. Given by her parents to the Benedictine monastery at Hefta (some say it was a Cistercian house), a monastery known for its learning and saint-making, Gertrude excelled in her studies. One day, around the age 24, she realized that the excellence she had in secular learning was not what she needed, in fact, she considered this way of living vain, and therefore she was called to do by the Lord: to live singularly for Him. Was it earthy wisdom that saved, or heavenly wisdom? She began to change her modus operandi and followed the advice of the Apostle to be totally concerned with heavenly wisdom.
Before it was a popular devotion, Saint Gertrude was known for her devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Eucharist.
Saint Gertrude's extant writing includes "The Herald of Divine Love," The Life and Revelations," and the "Spiritual Exercises."
May Saint Gertrude's greatness inspire us to live more intensely for a deeper communion with the Lord, in this life so as to be with Him in the next.
"My heart has said of you, I have sought your presence Lord.
It is your face, O Lord, that I seek."
Today is the liturgical observance of Benedictine All Saints. Let's pray for all those monks, nuns, sisters and oblates who lived a life of holiness and perseverance in the monastic life.
Not to be a "Debby-downer" BUT, it is not likely that many Benedictine monasteries in the USA will observe today as a feast of all holy monks and nuns. Sadly, many of the monastic superiors have given-in to painting life in their in the monastery with the color beige: there's no vitality of tradition.
Historically, according to a note in an Office book, "Up to the end of the sixteenth century, there was no general feast of this name for the whole Order, since the "Order of St. Benedict", in the modern sense, was unknown. In individual monasteries, as Monte Cassino, Cluny, Fontenelle, etc., a feast of all the saints proper to the monastery was observed, on different dates; only by the revision of the monastic Breviary by Paul V, in 1612, a general feast of All Holy Monks of the Order was instituted, on the above date."
Let us pray,
Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that the example of the holy Monks [and Nuns} may stir us to a better life: that so we may imitate the actions of those whose solemnity we celebrate.