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Be careful with claims associated with the Saint Gertrude prayer November 7, 2014

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, Four Last Things, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, Holy suffering, Interior Life, Saints, sanctity, Tradition, Virtue.

Commenter Noah M is a blogger I respect a great deal.  He blogs at Unam Sanctum Catholicam, has Alleluia Audio Books with many great resources, and in general is very measured and wise.   He left a comment in a post I did earlier in the week on the Saint Gertrude prayer.  The point of the post was only somewhat the prayer and the associated common claim that it will release 1000 souls from Purgatory each time it is said.  I always liked the prayer and am always eager to do whatever I can to aid the holy but suffering souls in Purgatory, but it had struck me as a bit odd, perhaps, that one could release 1000 souls just by saying this prayer, when obtaining a plenary indulgence involves many conditions and is probably not achieved nearly so often as we all would like to think.

The comment included a link to this site that discusses the claims of the prayer.  The most important part, to me, was Pope Leo XIII’s formal condemnation of the attachment of such extravagant promises to these kinds of prayers, something that apparently got a bit out of hand in the late 19th century when popular piety was much stronger than it is today.

I don’t want to pop anyone’s balloon but I do think the comments in this post Noah linked are worth careful consideration.  I know my good readers all have strong devotion to the Church Suffering and want to aid them as much as possible, but it is possible that the claims of the Saint Gertrude prayer could encourage some folks to direct their efforts in ways that are maybe less efficacious than they think.  For instance, some might be persuaded to offer the Saint Gertrude prayer 40 times instead of visiting a cemetery during the Octave of All Saints (which, I hope you have been doing!).

Since I have developed such an immense respect for Pope Leo XIII, it was his opinions that I found the most moving.  Text from the blog link provided by Noah below:

One thing I discovered is that this promise appears nowhere in Saint Gertrude’s writings. It is generally accepted that she received personal revelations, but her accepted writings do not contain the promise. I searched the entire book “The Life and Revelations of Saint Gertrude the Great” and it is nowhere to be found. This is problematic that the Saints own writings that are considered authoritative concerning her revelations do not testify to this promise of the release of 1,000 souls from purgatory.

The next issue is the general condemnation by the Church of such promises. In the 19th century, there was somewhat of an epidemic in the Church concerning holy cards being released with false promises and indulgences. The Holy See, under the authority of Pope Leo XIII, issued a series of proclamations to try and suppress the problem so that the Faithful might not be lead astray by believing in false promises and indulgences not approved by the Church. These proclamations were posted in an old set of documents called the Acta Sanctae Sedis (Acts of the Holy See), which was a monthly publication containing actions of the Pope and the Roman Congregations. The originals of the documents are posted on the Vatican’s website at this link. They are all in Latin. If you open the link to ASS 31, and scroll to page 727, looking at the paragraph starting with “ad hanc,” you can see a general overview of the problem with these prayer cards and the Vatican’s attempting to weed them out. Then more directly, open ASS 32, scroll to page 243, and look specifically at Rule 8. This proclamation says that any pamphlets or leaflets containing promises to release one or more souls from purgatory are to be rejected by the Faithful, and any indulgences attached to them should be presumed invalid. And so, not only do Saint Gertrude’s writings not contain this promise, but there is a general condemnation for prayer cards with promises to release one or more souls from purgatory.

And a summation of the arguments against the claims associated with the prayer:

And so the evidence that I have found can be summarized as follows:

  1. Saint Gertrude’s writings contain nothing about a promise to release 1,000 souls from purgatory each time the prayer is said
  2. There was an epidemic of prayer cards containing false promises and indulgences
  3. The Church has summarily condemned prayer cards containing a promise to release one or more souls from purgatory
  4. The supposed approval by M. Cardinal is dated that exact same day as the approval by Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira of the book Read Me or Rue it, a book by Fr. O’Malley containing the prayer but not the promise
  5. Such an easy way to release 1,000 souls seems inconsistent with the Church’s understanding of purgatory, given that ordinarily to release one soul requires a plenary indulgence which is very difficult to get, and given all the means the Church employs to help the dead such as special masses or indulgences applicable only to the dead

———-End Quote———–

Again if you have a great devotion to this prayer by all means use it but know that the claims associated with it may not be valid.  I don’t want anyone to feel discouraged from prayer by this post, but I think this information is too important to leave in the comments.


1. TG - November 7, 2014

Thanks for clarifying this. I say this prayer every day but I never really thought I was freeing 1000 souls. The promises of the St. Bridget prayers have also been condemned. They appear in my Pieta prayer book but there is a note in there about it. Do you know what the Church says about the promises of the Rosary and devotion to the Sacred Heart?

2. Lynne - November 7, 2014

Yes, I trust Noah too and while I’m sad that that prayer may not be as efficacious as I would like, I will find another way to help the Holy Souls in Purgatory, something I can do year-round… Anyways, thanks for helping spread the Truth. We’re not a bunch of superstitious folks…

3. Pat Scott - November 8, 2014

I am glad you put this up. I was always doubtful about the “release of 1,000 souls” too. As you said–that extravagant promise WAS NOT in her book. Additionally the 15 St. Bridget Prayers have “15 Promises” attached to them—unauthorized promises. The prayers ALONE are beautiful and do not need any promises added. It is a way to meditate on the Passion of Our Lord.
Once THE UNKNOWN PROMISE ADDER sticks claims on a prayer–it is a major difficulty to get them corrected.

4. Bill D. - November 11, 2014

Thanks! That was educational. Glad you posted this. It helps.
BTW, I am typing this on a desktop PC named ‘Gertrude’. I didn’t give it that name years ago, but was always impressed that a 6-processor, 2.9 GHz, 16 GB machine could receive your powerful blogs.

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