There is so much to read from the women mystics—and I have not had the time to read comprehensively for the sake of DDF posts this month. So I turned to some others, who have already done a lot of the heavy lifting in this area. Here’s a great summary by Ronda De Sola Chervin, editor and compiler of Prayers of the Women Mystics (Servant Publications, 1992):
It is characteristic of women to live primarily for love. How sad, then, if a woman does not find a way to adore God with love and to experience his love in return with heartfelt joy! Many Catholic women fear the sweet sentimentality of the beautiful writings of women mystics of the type of St. Gertrude. However, if we release ourselves and get in touch with our own yearning for love, we can let our souls be carried by the music of intimate prayer. Then our hearts will soften and our lips sing a new song unto the Lord. (45)
One of our DDF readers asked if we could include something from St. Gertrude the Great, so here’s an excerpt Chervin presents in her chapter on Gertrude:
O Thou living God, the inflow of Thy burning love draweth back into Thy bosom all beings which have ever flowed forth from Thee: but all my life, alas! is lost, withered, and brought to naught. Come, O God of my life, let my life grow green again in Thee, put forth new flowers, and regain the strength to bear its due fruit. O my Beloved, by the exalted innocence and flawless sanctity of Thy life, wash away all the foulness of my corrupt life, that my life may no longer be with me, but by the force of Thy burning love may be wholly transported into Thee. Then in the hour of my death I shall rejoice, O my true Life! to find myself in Thee. . . . Thou alone art the refuge of my soul. Come, grant that I may grow faint with love for Thee, die of desire for Thee, praise Thee with jubilation, and be for all eternity enkindled with the blazing fire of Thy charity. Amen. (47–48)
Like St. Hildegard of Bingen, Gertrude entered religious life at an early age; she was still just a girl when she joined the Benedictine monastery of St. Mary at Helfta, where she was educated and spent the rest of her life, eventually taking on a leadership position. She began having visions at age 26, wrote Life and Revelations and Spiritual Exercises of St. Gertrude, and died, surrounded by her community, at age 45.
O Heart, fountain of sweetness! . . . Give me to drink unworthy as I am, of the wine of Thy comfort; in Thy divine charity raise up the ruins of my spirit, and out of Thy superabundance of charity atone for all the beggary and neediness of my soul. (Chervin, 48)