The Patron Saint of
Cats and Mental Health
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
~ Hebrews 6:10
Saint Gertrude of Nivelles was a seventh-century nun, a girl from an aristocratic Frankish family who fought her way to the cloister against several attempts of forced marriage. She founded the monastery of Nivelles (Belgium). She is the patron saint of travelers, gardeners, and cats, and against mice (or rats) and mental illness.
One might notice immediately a logic behind the patron saint of cats being also the patron saint against mice. May we extend the connection — are gardening and travelling beneficial to mental health? Well — yes. She, or God — or at least the Vatican — is trying to tell us something, and it might pay to take heed, even for the most adamant Protestant.
I have always thought it a shame that the saints got tossed out with the general opposition to all things Catholic during the Reformation. They were (almost) uniformly models of Christian life and beacons throughout the ages, for all of us. Here is a woman who gave up the good life and worked so hard for piety and the easing of poverty for children that she died young.
Our Christian faith cannot be kept in the shadows while we live as if it didn't exist, or as if it were just one of many influences in our life. We can't pull it out of the closet with our Sunday suit or dress, and then put it back in the closet until next Sunday. Christ asks — demands, really — that we make a choice: this world or the next. Which do we serve in our everyday life, and which will we depend upon to take care of us when we die?
So we can do it incrementally; better than not doing it. Let's all add one act of obedience to Christ this week, to our routine. A prayer, a reading, a way to proclaim our faith, an act of charity. And I'm talking about a habit, not a one-time deal.
On the other hand, myself, I might be too busy in the garden and planning my next trip. Well, I suppose I have time for all three.
Lord, let me this week remember the many thousands of pious people that have lived before me, and help me to emulate them in service to you. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer