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March 17th is not just St Patrick’s Day it is also the feast day for another Celtic saint, Gertrude of Nivelles. Interestingly, Gertrude asked an Irish monk on March 16 when she would die and he said tomorrow. She knew that was St. Patrick’s feast day and she was elated. The monk told her that St. Patrick and the angels would be greeting her.
St. Gertrude of Nivelles is best known as the Patron saint of cats. Now, that intrigues me as I love animals of all kinds, yet I have two cats who share their life with me or should I say they let me serve them. Yet, interestingly, no one knows why Gertrude is the Patron Saint of Cats, as there is nothing written about her with felines. The only guess for this designation is that there are some medieval depictions of her surrounded by mice. It was not even until the 1980’s that St. Gertrude became the Patron saint of cats.
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So, let’s take a look at what we know about this saint who is not as well-known as some other female saints. St. Gertrude of Nivelles was born into aristocracy in Belgium in about 626AD. She was the daughter of Pepin of Landen, the mayor of the Austrasia palace (whose descendants through his daughter Begga’s marriage to Ansegisel later became the founders of the Carolingian Empire) and his wife Itta of Metz. There must have been strong-willed genes in that family as Gertrude herself was strong-minded from childhood.
One day when Gertrude was ten years old, King Dagobert I, King of Austrasia, king of all the Franks, and king of Neustria and Burgundy came to have dinner with her family. A young man who was the son of the Duke of Austrasia was at a dinner party...
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