You might think of March 17 as St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s also the feast day of a lesser-known saint: Gertrude of Nivelles, patron saint of cats and gardeners too!
Gertrude of Nivelles was born around 626 in present-day Belgium into a well-connected noble family. When her father died, Gertrude and her mother, Itta, moved to Nivelles, south of Brussels, to set up a monastery, where she became an abbess.
She became known for her devotion to charitable works, and for taking care of orphans and her love for cats. The cats she kept at the monastery worked as a very diligent rodent patrol.
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The connection between Gertrude and rodents became solidified as the veneration of her spread throughout northern Europe, and little silver or gold statues of mice were left at her shrines.
By then, she had become the saint one asked to intercede in the case of a rodent infestation; it was said that the water from her abbey’s well would chase away rats and mice.
In the past few decades, faithful Catholics and cat lovers have made the leap from associating Gertrude with warding off mice to associating her with cats. There are now many icons and paintings of her with a cat.
So, if you are a believer and a cat person, maybe you would like to get a medal of St. Gertrude to hang around your cat’s neck!