Today is the Feast Day of St. Gertrude the Great, a 13th century Benedictine nun and tireless intellectual. Kerry Trotter takes a look at what it means to be great in the saintly sense, and how this particular example can be so helpful to the very vulnerable.
A couple of weeks ago, some among us on the Word on Fire staff gathered for our weekly content meeting. We bandied about blog post suggestions, perused movie openings, and flipped through the Ordo in search of November feast days.
It was there something curious emerged.
November 10: St. Leo the Great
November 15: St. Albert the Great
November 16: St. Gertrude the (you guessed it) Great.
I asked Father Steve in a most earnest-but-admittedly-sounding-a-little-like-a-wiseacre way, “What makes them so great? Aren’t they already saints?”
Father Steve’s answer surprised me: “What makes them great? Well, nothing in particular.”
To clarify, Father Steve wasn’t asserting that these saints weren’t great (lowercase “G”), but the tag of Great (capital “G”) wasn’t a formal Church title, as “saint” or “blessed” would be. Great (capital “G”) was and is determined by the scope of one’s work.
Even still, wasn’t the work of all saints great? Dusting off my very dusty journalism degree, and to the disappointment of professors everywhere, I hit up Wikipedia for answers. I needed to craft a blog around this, and I wasn’t finding anything definitive on which to hang a really brilliant point.
What I did find was this: often in ye olden days, folks were informally assigned epithets to distinguish themselves, especially in the ranks of the clergy and religious where men and women shared a handful of names. John the Wise. Peter the Short. Kerry the Procrastinator. Those who were decided to be great, that was a fantastic compliment from their peers and a testament to their influence. What was it that Matthew wrote? “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” Still, a cohesive blog post this did not make...