St. Mechtild of Hackeborn
Mechtild, also known as Mechtildis was apparently of noble birth. since she was born at the castle of Helfta near Eisleben, Germany about the year 1240. At the age of seven she visited her older sister, Gertrude of Hackeborn(not to be confused with St. Gertrude the Great whom we met on the 14th) at the Monastery of Rodarsdorf. Mechtild obtained her parents consent to attend the cloister school at her sister's monastery, another common practice of the royalty of the middle ages.
Mechtild continued on at the monastery after her schooling. She was described as a very gifted and amiable young woman, charming, intelligent and with the voice of a song bird. In 1258 Gertrude moved the monastery to Helfta and Mechtild joined her and was appointed choirmistress as well as being in charge of the cloister school. It was in this position that St. Gertrude the Great(Nov. 14th) came under her care.
Mechtild had also been experiencing a very intimate mystical union with Christ in her prayer. It wasn't until she was about fifty that she discovered that St. Gertrude had been writing down all that Mechtild had told her of her experiences. Mechtild was very upset about this, but was reassured by the Lord and later edited these writings which have come to be known as the "Book of Special Grace", also known as the, "Revelations of St. Mechtildis."
This book follows the Liturgical Year, and is Christocentric and Trinitarian. It's special emphasis is on the Heart of Christ, as is St. Gertrude's writings. One can see the soundness of Mechtild's theological education as well as the joyfulness of her spirit. She died on November 19, 1298 at the age of 58.
Mechtild like Gertrude the Great have never been formally canonized by the Church. But, Mechtild's feast is permitted to be celebrated in numerous Benedictine Houses throughout the world. There are some who say she is the model for Dante's "Donna Matelda" in the "Purgatorio" songs 27 and 28. Her writings, like those of her student St. Gertrude have been a great source of nourishment for those immersed in contemplative prayer.
© 1998 The Monastery of Christ in the Desert