Two summers ago, I was in Alabama with some friends. On Sunday, we went to mass at a local Catholic Church. After the closing prayer, Father asked the congregation if we wanted to do something great. I thought to myself, “We just attended mass and received the Eucharist. What could be more ‘great’ than that?” The congregation half-heartedly replied, “Yes,” with a look of confusion. I’m glad I was not the only one befuddled. Father had raised my curiosity, however, so I decided to humor his request. The priest then proceeded to tell the story of St. Gertrude the Great and a vision she had of our Lord way back in the 1200’s.
St. Gertrude had a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to Christ present in the Eucharist. She was graced with many visions of Jesus throughout her life. Once, she was praying with great fervor for the souls in purgatory. Jesus appeared to her, and gave Gertrude a special prayer that he recommended for those holy souls not yet in heaven. He promised to free 1,000 souls from purgatory each time that the prayer is said. (See catholictradition.org/Gertrude for the full story.)
The large church in Alabama was packed that Sunday. After Father led the parishioners in reciting the St. Gertrude prayer once, he did some quick multiplication and estimation in his head. He “wowed” us with the number of souls that had just been released, according to Christ’s promise. He asked us if we wanted to recite it one more time, to implore God to release thousands more. The crowd roared with excitement! We recited the prayer again. As you can imagine, everyone left the sanctuary feeling so good that morning, trusting in the Lord’s incredible promise to St. Gertrude the Great.
Since this experience, I’ve taught my children and my students this prayer. We recite it often for our loved ones who have died. We also pray for the millions of good people who have died who have no loved ones to intercede for them – many of them our fellow Christians. It’s truly a prayer that everyone should know and perpetuate. Let’s face it; most of us will probably wind up in purgatory one day. We will long for prayers for a swift ascent into God’s glorious kingdom. What a better way to assure those prayers than to teach THIS special prayer to our children, and share it with everyone we know.
“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.”