Marian Saints Series
The lives of St. Mechtilde and St. Gertrude the Great seem to have been one long series of visions and conversations with Our Lord and His Mother, Whom they loved and served in the Cistercian convent of Helfta, in central Germany, during the second half of the thirteenth century. At the express command of Christ Himself, despite all the humble objections of the two Saints, their beautiful revelations were carefully recorded in two precious books, The Book of Special Grace of St. Mechtilde, and The Herald of Divine Love of St. Gertrude, in order that "in the far future," as Jesus said to the latter, "these writings may be a pledge of My Divine bounty... through them I will benefit innumerable souls." In last year's issue we published the short account on the life of St. Gertrude the Great; this issue is dedicated to St. Mechtilde.
St. Mechtilde of Helfta
(c. 1240 - 1298)
St. Mechtilde instructing the novice, St. Gertrude.
St. Mechtilde was born about the year 1240, a countess and a cousin of the German Emperor. But at the age of seven she entered a convent school and henceforth lived only for the King of Kings. She soon became an unusually learned nun, capable of writing elegantly in Latin, and she had such a lovely voice that she was made choir mistress of her convent and became known as the "Nightingale of Christ." But above all, she excelled in pure, ardent, soaring devotion to her beloved Saviour and His glorious Mother.
One day she begged Our Lord to teach her how to greet the Blessed Virgin, and He then gave her this touching tribute to the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
On another occasion, when the Mother of God herself appeared to St. Mechtilde, the Saint asked her how she could honor her, and Mary replied:
One Saturday, during a Mass in Our Lady's honor, Mechtilde exclaimed: "O most gracious Queen of Heaven, I would love to greet thee with the most pleasing salutation which has ever been addressed to thee!"
At once Mary appeared to her with these words written on her Immaculate Heart in letters of gold: "HAIL MARY, FULL OF GRACE! THE LORD IS WITH THEE!" And she said to the Saint: "No creature has ever said anything that was more pleasing to me, nor will anyone ever be able to find or say to me anything that pleases me more."
One day when Saint Mechtilde was reproaching herself for not having loved the Blessed Virgin Mary enough, Jesus appeared to her and said:
Once when St. Mechtilde had committed some slight fault, Our Lady showed herself to the Saint with a stern face and threatened her with a "golden whip", lest the nun repeat her fault. However, the Saint was given to understand that the gold of the whip symbolized Mary's kindness and love. In this connection also, Mechtilde once heard Jesus say to Mary: "Remember; My beloved Mother; that for thy sake I am indulgent to sinners, and I regard my elect (Mechtilde) as if she had served thee all her life with devotion." Whereupon Mary lovingly gave herself entirely to the Saint, for Jesus' sake.
During Mass on the Feast of the Assumption, Saint Mechtilde had the following vision: she beheld the Blessed Virgin Mary extending her mantle as if to receive beneath its shelter all those who fled to her patronage. Then the holy Angels brought and presented to her, as fair young virgins to their mother, all who had prepared themselves very fervently for this Feast, meanwhile protecting them from evil spirits and inciting them to good deeds. Then there appeared a number of little animals, representing sinners who devoutly pray to Mary; and she received them with great charity and covered them too with her mantle. At the Elevation, Our Divine Lord Himself blessed all who assisted at Holy Mass with special devotion toward His Mother in her glorious Assumption, so that they were strengthened in their good desires.
When St. Mechtilde was dying, she prayed very earnestly to Mary for the nuns of her Community, and the Blessed Virgin took the Saint's hand in hers, indicating that she accepted from her the charge of the convent. Then Our Lord placed on Mechtilde a necklace of marvelous beauty, sparkling like gems, representing the glory of eternity in His Heavenly Kingdom.
Her Feastday is celebrated on November 19th.
(based on an account by Raphael Brown)
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