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March 17

Saint of the day:

Saint Gertrude of Nivelles

Patron Saint of cats, mental illness, travelers, gardeners, and against mice

Saint Gertrude of Nivelles’ Story

Younger daughter of Saint Pepin of Landen and Saint Ida of Nivelles; sister of Saint Begga of Ardenne. Devoted to her faith from an early age, she turned down a noble marriage to pursue the religious life. Following the death of Pepin in 639, and on the advice of Saint Amand of Maastricht, Ida built a double monastery at Nivelles where both she and her daughter retired. Gertrude became abbess about age 20.

Known for her hospitality to pilgrims and the aid given to Irish missionary monks. Gertrude gave land to Saint Foillan, on which he built the monastery at Fosses, Belgium. She helped Saint Ultan in his evangelization. In 656, Gertrude resigned her office in favor of her niece, Saint Wilfetrudis of Nivelles, and spent the rest of her days studying Scripture and doing penance. Mystic and visionary. Died at the significant age of 33, the age of Our Lord at His death.

The cultus of Saint Gertrude spread widely in the Low Countries, neighboring regions, and England, and folklore attached to her name. As late as 1822, offerings of gold and silver mice were left at her shrine in Cologne, Germany; mice represented souls in Purgatory, to whom she had a great devotion. Patron of gardeners because fine weather on her feast day meant it was time to begin spring planting. Her patronage of travelers comes from her hospitality to pilgrims. She is invoked as a patroness of those who had recently died, who were popularly supposed to experience a three-day journey to the next world; they spent the first night under the care of Gertrude, and the second under Michael the Archangel.

There is a legend that one day she sent some of her subjects to a distant country, promising that no misfortune would befall them on the journey; when they were on the ocean, a large sea-monster threatened to capsize their ship, but disappeared upon the invocation of Saint Gertrude. In memory of this occurence travelers during the Middle ages drank the so-called “Sinte Geerts Minne” or “Gertrudenminte” before setting out on their journey.

Gertrude was abbess of a double monastery, founded by her mother, Itta, at Nivelles, Belgium. Though known for her hospitality and generosity to travelers and pilgrims, she left the management of her monastery to a few trusted nuns and monks, in order that she might gain more time for study, meditation and prayer. A mystic and visionary, she was venerated as a saint immediately after her death on March 17, 659, at age of 33, and a church later was erected in her honor. A large following venerating Saint Gertrude spread widely throughout Belgium and its neighboring countries where quite a bit of folklore accumulated. She is recognized as a patroness of travelers, including those who have recently died. In art, Gertrude is often depicted with mice (some say symbolizing the souls in purgatory) running up her pastoral staff. She is still invoked against rodents and it is said that water from her well and cakes baked in her convent ovens will keep them away. Her power over rodents apparently accounts for her traditional patronage of cats. Gertrude is considered one of the patron saints of gardeners because fine weather on her feast day means it is time to begin spring planting







Collegiate Church of Saint Gertrude, Nivelles

 Nivelles, Walloon Brabant, Wallonia, Belgium, which was built in the 11th century.





Carbonade Flamande:

Carbonnade is a traditional Belgian stew made with beef and dark beer. Often referred to as carbonade flamande or stoverij, it features simple ingredients, but results in a rich and hearty dish. Although beef is the main ingredient in carbonnade, the crucial element for the dish is traditional Belgian dark beer.


It gives the dish certain sour and earthy flavors that perfectly complement the sweet onions and tender beef. Thyme, garlic, and bay leaves are added for extra flavor, while slices of mustard bread are sometimes added in order to thicken the sauce.

Carbonnade is usually served with mashed potatoes, traditional Belgian fries, bread, or vegetables on the side. It is recommended to pair the dish with a glass of full-bodied Belgian beer.


  • 2 tablespoons plain flour

  • 1kg beef chuck steak, cut into 3cm cubes

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 500g small white onions, halved if large

  • 250g button mushrooms

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 tablespoon mustard

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

  • 400ml beer (lager)

  • 300ml beef stock or boiling water

  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves, torn


  1. Heat the oven to 150°C.

  2. In a large bowl, season the flour with salt and pepper, then coat beef lightly in the flour mixture.

  3. Heat half the butter and oil in a large frypan over high heat and brown meat all over, in batches, removing to a plate when browned.

  4. Add remaining butter and oil to pan, reduce heat to medium-low, then cook onions and mushrooms for 10 minutes or until soft. Add tomato paste, bay leaves, mustard, sugar and salt and pepper, and stir to combine.

  5. Gradually add the beer, stirring constantly, then stock or boiling water. Return beef to pan, bring to the boil, then transfer to an ovenproof casserole.

  6. Cover and bake in oven, stirring occasionally, for 2 1/2 hours or until meat is tender. Scatter with parsley and serve with roast potatoes.




It is sometimes easy to connect things to saints and making these connections to our saints open's a door for dialogue. Today we reflect on the amazing art of Louis Wain who adored cats and he was someone who struggled with mental health. Saint Gertrude of Nivelles is the Patron Saint of cats, mental illness, travelers, gardeners, and against mice...a pretty perfect fit for Louis William Wain who was an English artist best known for his drawings of cats, who later in life, was confined to mental institutions due to schizophrenia.




Having Empathy

Over time one can see the development of schizophrenia through the eyes of Louis Wain.

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