St Gertrude the Great

Virgin (entered heaven in 1302)

Dear Greta,

The tone of your last note gave you away.  Your joy at getting an interview for the public relations position at Campbell, Brodlick, and Weiker, Inc. was uncontrollable.  Great salary prospects (remarkable, actually – makes me a bit suspicious, to tell the truth), New York City digs, and lots and lots of travel would be your lot if you land the job, so you say.  Well, it doesn’t surprise me that they want to interview you; you have a rare combination of gifts and talents and I am sure this will not be the only chi chi company that tries to win you over.  It does surprise me, however, that you are so elated at this development.  My dear young lady, have you forgotten altogether that lasting happiness and fulfillment in life has absolutely nothing to do with reputable corporations, bulging bank accounts, and a cosmopolitan traveling schedule?  Your peace and joy will be found only in serving your King, whether on the 40th floor of a high rise or in its basement dish room.  My my… if I didn’t know better I would think that you had been seduced by secular glitz.  Perhaps you need to reflect a bit on today’s saint, to regain a healthy perspective on things.

Remember, Gertrude appeared at St Mechtilde’s convent in northern Germany when she was only five years old.  (It was common practice in those days to send girls to convents at a young age; dowries were often hard to come by, and convents offered the best – and, in some cases, the only – education for girls.)  After showing notable intellectual prowess, she decided to take the habit herself, and as far as we know she never left that humble little convent for her entire life.  Prayer, liturgy, work, and the simple joys and crosses of community life were her mission field, but they more than sufficed.  When she was about 26 our Lord appeared to her for the first time, inviting her to place all her trust in him so that he could show her the delights of his love.  Thus began a spiritual espousal that filled her soul with growing love for the next quarter century.  Like you, she had immense natural talent and an excellent education, but she found that serving her beloved Christ in the obscurity of the convent was excitement enough to ravish her soul.  Though the impact of her writings (“The Revelations of St Gertrude”) continues to be felt today (it was with her and with her teacher St Mechtilde that the Church first began its devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus), it is highly instructive that we know hardly anything about her life other than what we can glean from those writings.  Highly instructive, my dear niece, because it shows that what really matters for the Christian is not fame, wealth, and prestige, but fidelity to our God-given mission, no matter how big a starting salary you’re offered by Messrs. Campbell, Brodlick, and Weiker.


Uncle Eddy

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