There came a moment in St Gertrude of Helfta's prayer life when she gave herself totally to Our Lord, and she was moved to ask Him what he wanted her to do. Jesus replied, "Honor My Mother, who is seated at My side, and employ yourself in praising her." True to her efficient German nature, Gertrude wasted no time, and firstly she paid homage to Our Lady as "the abode full of delights", the woman who the Almighty had chosen for His dwelling. The praise she had just offered inspired Gertrude to proffer her own heart to Our Lady so that it could be adorned with the virtues it needed so as to please God to dwell within it, as it pleased Our Lord to make His dwelling in Our Lady. 

Without hesitation, the Virgin Mary moved towards Gertrude so she could root in her heart the flowers of virtue. Soon the rose of charity, the lily of chastity, the violet of humility and the flexibility of obedience were flowering in Gertrude's heart. Gertrude was impressed by Mary's tremendous efficiency. 

Secondly, Gertrude hailed Our Lady as "model of discipline", and celebrated her as one who had put her desires, judgment and affection in order more so than any other human person and for the way she served the Lord with such respect and reverence that her thoughts, words and deeds had never given Him any pain. Gertrude asked for the same grace for herself, that she might impose an order on herself that her thoughts, words and deeds might not painfully displease Our Lord. Yet again the Virgin Mary was swift in arranging for graces to be given that made up for Gertrude's defects so that she might serve Our Lord more perfectly.

The next day, when Gertrude was again in prayer, the Virgin Mary appeared to her, in the presence of the Trinity. Our Lady was as a white lily, with 3 petals. One petal stood up, and the other 2 were bent down. This was to signify that the Blessed Mother is the white lily of the Trinity because she held in herself more fully and more flawlessly than anyone all the virtues of the Holy Trinity. The petal that was up signified that God the Father is all-powerful and the two petals that bent down were for the wisdom and love of the Son and the Holy Spirit, which the Virgin Mary has the awesome privilege of approaching. She comes closer than any other human to the wisdom and love of her Son and her Spouse. 

The Virgin Mary revealed to Gertrude that if anyone honors her as the white lily of the Trinity and as the vermilion rose of Heaven, she will show how powerful she is before God the Father. "Vermilion" means brilliant, scarlet red, and Our Lady is justly associated with the bright white of purity and the red ardor of love. Moreover, if she is saluted with these two tributes, she will demonstrate how skillful she is in helping the salvation of men by the wisdom of the Son and with the love that fills her heart by the charity of the Holy Spirit. The Virgin Mary commented to Gertrude, "I will appear at the hour of death to those who salute me thus in such glory, that they will anticipate the very joys of Heaven." 

From that day forward, Gertrude often offered, "Hail, white lily of the ever-peaceful and glorious Trinity! Hail effulgent rose, the delight of Heaven, of whom the King of Heaven was born, and by whose milk He was nourished! Do thou feed our souls by the effusions of thy Divine influences."

There is something awe-inspiring in how Gertrude asked to be more like Our Lady so as to please Jesus all the more, but there is also something intimidating, because there is a bravery and self-belief required to indulge the idea that our hearts may be made more like the heart of Mary who was the most perfect human ever. There has to be trust on our part that this is possible, but Our Lady's perfection can intimidate because we feel we will never even approach it. 

Perhaps you are inspired to pray as Gertrude did. You may pray that your heart may be made like Our Lady's heart, that it flower with virtues so that Our Lord may dwell there, and you may ask Our Lady to intercede for you to be given graces that supply for your defects so you are less likely to offend Our Lord in your thoughts, words and deeds.

It is marvelous to know, courtesy of Gertrude, that Our Lady is the white lily of the Trinity and the vermilion rose of Heaven. These titles have an exquisite beauty. If you salute her thus, you will see that her intercession is wondrous, but what's more Our Lady will come to you at your hour of death, and give you a foretaste of the ecstasies of paradise. 

You may like to adopt Gertrude's prayer to Our Lady for your own purposes. Owing to the fact that Gertrude was assured by Our Lady that she would show how powerful she is in aiding people in their salvation, this may be of particular use to you if you are concerned about the salvation of loved ones. If you were to honor Our Lady as the lily of the Trinity and as the vermilion rose of Heaven and ask her powerful help in saving the souls of loved ones, you may see conversions blossom all around you. 

May is the month dedicated to the Virgin Mary and I am kickstarting the month with this post that informs us as to how Gertrude was moved to make herself more like Our Lady. 

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Classic painting of Our Lady executed by Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres.


  1. That is so beautiful! Thank you so much for posting this.

    1. Thank you, Angela, for your kind comment.

  2. This is amazing. Mom loves us all and we are thankful for her intercession

  3. Great post. And advice re how to pray for loved ones who are not close to God. Always looking for more of those prayers.
    For those very few living people who seem to have a regular mystical audience with Jesus, a great question to put to Him would be "What can I do to save particular sinners, like my brother/sister/friend/parent who are far from You?"
    Maybe your book on St Padre Pio will point to some of Pio's answers to that.
    In fact a short book on that subject would be very valuable - a collection of answers from different saints and mystics. St Catherine of Siena took on a physical pain for her father didn't she, but her father was probably headed for purgatory. What about those headed for worse.

    1. Dear Vincent,

      Thank you so much for your very thoughtful comment. Yes, you are onto something of seismic importance, of eternal importance, that there needs to be some kind of synthesis of all the very best the saints had to say on salvation.

      I've done my best to unearth everything Padre Pio had to say on the subject and try to make it accessible with lots of stories from his mystical life to illustrate his points. For one thing, Pio warned a lot about eyesight - he used to say - "the eye is the organ that leads us into the most sin".

      Yes, St Catherine of Siena's father was meant to go to Purgatory before she offered to suffer in his stead. During his life, her father had been a very forgiving man and this counted in his favor.

      I am very much looking forward to the faraway day when I'll put out the Padre Pio book. I'm really deep in the throes now, having spent much of the day translating an account in Italian that Pio's father gave of him as a little boy who prayed and witnessed miracles. I can see that a lot has been lost in translation, and when I have found all the extra bits that have thus far been lost, I will add them to my manuscript.

      God bless you always and thank you for your interest in my work,



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