Gertrude the Great (1256–1302) was a German nun who is recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, but was never formally canonized. I don't know if it's related, but apparently her views on the veneration of Mary were outside the norm compared to her contemporaries:

Of special interest at a time when devotion to Mary was so strong is Gertrude's concern that veneration was being given to Mary that properly belonged to Jesus Christ, who, possessing maternal as well as masculine characteristics, left no need for a feminine expression of deity. (Everett Ferguson, Church History, I)

Ferguson goes on to say that Gertrude still highly regarded Mary, and was concerned that Mary found her devotion to Christ displeasing.

Much more could probably be said about Gertrude's mariology. But Ferguson's brief summary makes me wonder: does Catholicism today consider Gertrude's mariology in line with its teachings, or not? And if not, is there reason to believe that this divergence prevented her from being formally canonized?

Note that I'm not limiting my question specifically to whether anything contained in Ferguson's summary would be problematic. I'm asking about Gertrude's mariology more broadly.

  • You can check out her autobiography It's hard to find a "critique" of her in hagiographies. I'd think she's in the same camp as St. Hildegarde, a little out there, but an authentic Catholic.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 14:19

1 Answer 1


Fergusson doesn't appear to understand Catholic mariology. Mary is not a "feminine expression of deity"; she is not a feminine aspect of God; she is not God, as Protestants often blasphemously allege Catholics believe.

Although St. Gertrude the Great was not canonized, that doesn't mean this holy Benedictine is not a saint. Her feast was celebrated in the universal Church on 16 November in the 1960 calendar (previously it was on Nov. 15, but that is now for St. Albert the Great), and her name is in the Roman Martyrology (cf. pt. 1, ch. 10 of Life and Revelations of Saint Gertrude the Great).

Perhaps you're referring to ibid. pt. 3, ch. 19:

How the praises offered to the Saints may be referred to God.

AS ST. GERTRUDE was accustomed to refer all that was sweet and agreeable to her Beloved when she heard or read the praise of the Blessed Virgin or of the Saints, and was more than usually moved thereby, she raised her heart to God, so that she thought more of Him than of the Saint whose memory was honored; and as she heard a sermon on the Feast of the Annunciation, in which the Blessed Virgin was spoken of exclusively, and no mention was made of the Incarnation of the Son of God, she was so grieved, that as she passed the altar of the Blessed Virgin, returning from the sermon, she did not salute her with her usual devotion, but rather offered her salutation to Jesus, the blessed Fruit of her womb. But afterward she feared she had displeased this august queen, until Our Lord consoled her by these loving words: “Fear not, Gertrude, My beloved; for although you have referred the honor and praise which you usually render to My dear Mother exclusively to Me, it will not be the less agreeable to her.”

This summarizes very well the Catholic doctrine of the relationship between latria (worship due to God alone) and hyperdulia (the highest form of veneration of the saints, due to the Queen of Saints alone). Dulia (δοῦλος = servant) is meant to direct us to God, so of course the Blessed Virgin would not be displeased that St. Gertrude "offered her salutation to Jesus". Christ told us who our mother is (Jn. 19:27: "Behold thy mother") and commands us honor our father and mother (4th commandment). If a child says "I love you" to her father, and not simultaneously to her mother, does that mean she doesn't love her mother?

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