Saint Gertrude of Helfta, known as the Great was born in 1256 in Eisleben, Germany, at the age of 5 she was entrusted to the nuns of Helfta and spent the rest of her life with them.
Gertrude finds in the abbey, the great Matilde of Magdeburg, a teacher of spirituality. After a profound spiritual crisis, in 1280, Gertrude was able to overcome her state of inner lukewarmness in her, and had the first vision of her in which she found herself facing a hedge of thorns. The Lord lifted her up and laid her down on her side. «Since then I began to follow the perfume of your balms and I learned in a short time that the yoke of your love is mild and light». Her youthful passions like literature, music and singing are put aside by her. She left the secular writers to look more deeply into the Bible and the works of the Church Fathers, especially Saint Augustine. We know her progress in the life of the spirit thanks to her work, 'Revelations', which includes five books, of which only the second, the 'Legatus', is written by her hand. The others about her are written after her death by a sister, starting from her notes and stories. Her doctrine is Christocentric. Living constantly in the presence of God, she always sees Jesus, God made man, the Savior with a broken heart and she lives in the willingness to suffer what is still lacking in the passion of Christ. The vision of her is then followed by other exceptional phenomena such as ecstasy and stigmata. And in addition to her, her illnesses come to torment her, which instead of weakening her, stimulates her to do more and more.
Gertrude would like to live in solitude, but she can't always: people start looking for her. She is very active in the contact with people and in her commitment to disseminate the cult for the humanity of Jesus Christ, translated into the image of the Sacred Heart. She welcomes many disoriented people and tries to help them. One day, during the feast of Saint John the Evangelist, she saw herself as she rested her head on Jesus' side and heard his Sacred Heart beat. She then asked the apostle if during the Last Supper he had heard those beats and why he had not spoken of them in the Gospel: John replied that this revelation was reserved for future generations to make the world rediscover the fire of the love of Jesus. He had a special protection from Our Lady, gifts of which Gertrude felt unworthy: "I have so little taken advantage of your graces that I cannot resolve to believe that they were bestowed on me alone, since your divine Wisdom cannot be frustrated by anyone ".
The value of suffering offered to God, preparation for death and piety for the souls in Purgatory are some of the recurring themes in the saint's work.
She produced a very powerful prayer:
"Eternal Father, I offer you the Most Precious Blood of your Divine Son Jesus, in union with all the Masses celebrated today throughout the world, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for all the souls of the whole world, for the sinners of the Catholic Church, for those of my home and my family "
Prayer with which Jesus promised her to free 1000 souls from Purgatory every time she was recited with her heart.
We can say that she was a forerunner of Teresa of Avila and Margherita Maria Alacoque. She began the cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: she felt Jesus present in her heart in the form of a mystical child.
In fact, Gertrude is often depicted with a burning heart visible on her chest, with the image of Jesus (usually a child) at the center of her.
She died in 1301