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Gertrude Van Der Oosten, Venerable

Dutch Discalced Carmelite; d. 1358

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Gertrude van der Oosten, VENERABLE, Beguine; b. at Voorburch, Holland; d. at Delft, January 6, 1358. She was born of peasant parents, and was remarkable from childhood for her piety and prudence. Later, in order to gain a livelihood, she entered into service at Delft, where she likewise devoted herself to practices of piety and charity. Her surname of “van Oosten”, or “of the East”, is due to her custom of singing a hymn which began: “Het daghet in den Oosten”, i.e., “Day breaketh in the East”, the composition of which is attributed to herself. She lived devoutly in the world, spending much time in exercises of piety and works of charity, and finally determined to abandon all human ties and give herself to the service of God. With this intent she begged, and with difficulty obtained, entrance into the Beguinage of Delft. Here, though not a religious, nor bound by vows, she profited by the ample opportunities afforded for the exercise of her zeal and charity, as well as by the atmosphere of prayer and seclusion, to attain to a very high degree of virtue and contemplation. Gertrude evinced great devotion to the mysteries of the Incarnation, especially to the Sacred Passion, on which account she merited to receive on her body the impression of the sacred stigmata, from which the blood flowed freely seven times a day at each of the canonical hours. Distressed and alarmed at the multitude that flocked to witness such a wonder, she begged that the favor might be withdrawn, and her prayer was so far granted that the blood ceased to flow, but the marks of the sacred stigmata remained. At the same time the great spiritual consolation she had enjoyed was succeeded by dryness and desolation. Gertrude was favored with the gift of prophecy, having knowledge, at the actual time, of what took place at a distance as well as of what was to happen in the future.

At length, after many years passed among the Beguines in great fervor, austerity, and devotion, the time of her death approached. She had been wont to speak with great delight of this day, to meditate on it devoutly, and even to make it a subject of her frequent songs. She died on the feast of the Epiphany and was buried in the church of St. Hippolytus, Delft, the Beguines having neither a church nor a cemetery of their own at the time. Her name has never been inscribed in the Roman Martyrology, though she is commemorated in various others, and her cultus is merely a local one. Her private dwelling is still preserved with veneration, and the cross before which she received the stigmata is annually exposed on the anniversary of her death.

GERTRUDE CASANOVA


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