Today, November 16th is the Feast of Saint Gertrude of Helfta — commonly known as Gertrude the Great.
She is the only female saint to be called “the Great.”
As mentioned previously, the month of November is dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory.
It’s essential to pray for them because they suffer greatly and can’t pray for themselves!
Below is a prayer for the Souls in Purgatory.
The original text of the prayer is attributed to St. Gertrude. It was later extended to include living sinners.
There is a common misconception about this prayer, which I want to clear up before sharing the text.
Father John Zuhlsdorf explains:
Sometimes I get questions about certain practices or prayers. Someone might find a slip of paper saying, “Pray this and X will happen.” Some will ask me about prayers that receive X number of days off of Purgatory.
There is a prayer associated with today’s saint, St. Gertrude “the Great” about which a claim is made that it will release from Purgatory 1000 souls.
St. Gertrude was a 13th c. Benedictine, saint and mystic. She received private revelations. She is often called “the Great”. She was an early promoter of veneration of Sacred Heart with a powerful concern for the souls in Purgatory.
That’s a lovely prayer. It is attributed to St. Gertrude the Great.
Nowhere in the writings that have come down to us did Gertrude make the claim about 1000 souls.
For the last couple centuries the Church has tried to weed out specious claims that have attached themselves to certain pious practices. This is precisely one of those claims. For this reason the Church abolished the “Toties Quoties” indulgences, etc. (practices by which one could gain any number of plenary indulgences in a day) …
Number of souls or of days? No. But the prayers can still be good!
Pope Leo XIII tried to suppress a virtual superstition of the nearly “magical” effects of the simple recitation of prayers to free various numbers of souls from Purgatory. You can find his acts in Acta Sanctae Sedis, which was the instrument of promulgation of documents of the Holy See. It’s name eventually changed to Acta Apostolicae Sedis, which is what it is called now. In ASS 31 (1898-99) and ASS 32 (1899-1900). At AAS 32 on p. 243 on Rule 8 we find a condemnation of cards or pages that promise that many souls will be released from Purgatory due to the recitation of a prayer.
The Church gets to establish what indulgences are effective and can be used. The current general grants are found in the Handbook of Indulgences. Everyone should have a copy to reference.
Even though the prayer isn’t officially indulgenced and doesn’t promise the release of 1000 souls, it’s still a great prayer!
We’re told that the Lord showed St. Gertrude a vast number of souls being released from Purgatory into heaven as a result of the prayer, which St. Gertrude said frequently throughout the day.
I encourage you to pray it, especially during the month of November.
Prayer of Saint Gertrude
Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.