Spirituality for Today – March 2012 – Volume 16, Issue 8

Saint of the Month
St. Gertrude of Nivelles, March, 17

An image of Saint Gertrude of NivellesSaint Gertrude of Nivelles

Gertrude was born around 626 in Brabant, which is now part of Belgium and the Netherlands. Her father, Pepin I, was a duke in the region and assisted several kings. Both he and his wife, Itta, were dedicated to the Church, and at an early age, Gertrude showed the same religious commitment. When Gertrude was ten, a local noble wanted her to marry his son. Gertrude said she would never marry, since she planned to devote her life to Christ.

When Pepin died in 640, Itta founded a monastery in Nivelles, and Gertrude joined her in monastic life. Itta served as abbess for seven years, then turned the leadership over to Gertrude, who won the respect of her nuns and impressed visitors to Nivelles with her kindness.

Two of Gertrude's visitors were brothers named Foillan and Ultan. They were Irish monks who later achieved sainthood. Gertrude and Itta gave the monks land in nearby Folle, where the brothers built a monastery. The two monks remained close to Gertrude, and Foillan stayed at Nivelles to instruct the nuns there.

In 652, Itta died, and Gertrude began to spend more time in solitude, praying and studying the Bible. She also used her inheritance to build churches, monasteries and hospices. In 659, as Gertrude's health suffered, she asked Ultan what was in store for her. He told her that she would die the next day, March 17, during Mass —and she did. Almost immediately, Gertrude was venerated as a saint. Years later, nuns from Nivelles helped Gertrude's sister, Begga, start a monastery in Ardenee. Begga also went on to become a saint.

Dear God, whether helping others or committing herself to prayer,
Gertrude always showed devotion to You.
She set an example for all who have faith in You to follow.
I ask that You fill me with the spirit of love that touched Your holy saint,
And help me remember that we are all travelers on a path
to Your heavenly kingdom.


From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives