St Gertrude the Great (1256 — 1302), a Benedictine nun and mystic, is most closely associated with the beginning of devotion to the Sacred Heart. She was born on 6 January 1256 in the little town of Eisleben in Thuringia. At age 5, Gertrude went to the Cistercian monastery school of Helfta in Saxony.
In 1280, she was 24 years old, a half-hearted and distracted nun. Towards the end of the year, she went through an inner emotional and spiritual crisis that lasted several weeks. She felt lonely. lost and depressed.
On 27 January, 1281, Gertrude saw Jesus in person in the form of a marvellous adolescent who said to her, “I have come to comfort you and bring you salvation”. She was overwhelmed and her life changed through what would be described later as a mystical conversion.
“In a happy hour, at the beginning of twilight, thou O God of truth, more radiant than any light, yet deeper than any secret thing, determined to dissolve the obscurity of my darkness.”
Remembering that day, she was to write: “Jesus, my Redeemer, you have lowered my indomitable head to your gentle yoke, preparing for me the medicine suited to my weakness”. From that moment, she was solely concerned with living in full union with Jesus.
Following this conversion of heart, she became the confidant of Jesus, who revealed to her the infinite Love of his Divine Heart and charged her to spread it among human beings with love for the suffering and for sinners. Gertrude’s ecstasies with Jesus prompted her to write those ardent pages that would bring souls to him.
Humble, always happy and smiling, with a loving heart for all, she sparkled with trust, joy and peace, and led everyone to the Lord. To her soul, Jesus was like a spring day, vibrant with life and scented with flowers: Love par excellence, the one overwhelming Love. This is why she is known on the one hand as the “Teresa of Germany” and on the other, the “theologian of the Sacred Heart”.
One day, Jesus said to Gertrude: “It would be good to make known to men and women how they would benefit from remembering that I, the Son of God and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, always stand before God for the salvation of the human race, and that should they commit some sin through their weakness. I offer my unblemished Heart to the Father for them”.
In 1298 her health deteriorated but she transformed her sufferings into love, an offering with Jesus to the Father and a gift for humankind.
During her long and painful illness, she decided to recount the “adventure” of her conversion and to tell of the wonderful revelations with which Jesus had favoured her: “Until the age of 25, I was a blind and insane woman… but you, Jesus, deigned to grant me the priceless familiarity of your friendship by opening to me in every way that most noble casket of your divinity, which is your divine Heart, and offering me in great abundance all your treasures contained in it”.
On 17 November 1301, at age 45 she died. Her prayer is still used by many.
Prayer to the Sacred Heart
Hail! O Sacred Heart of Jesus, living and quickening source of eternal life, infinite treasure of the Divinity, and burning furnace of divine love. Thou art my refuge and my sanctuary, O my amiable Savior. Consume my heart with that burning fire with which Thine is ever inflamed. Pour down on my soul those graces which flow from Thy love, and let my heart be so united with Thine, that our wills may be one, and mine in all things, be conformed to Thine. May Thy divine will be equally the standard and rule of all my desires and of all my actions. Amen.