Prayer of St. Gertrude

I posted this in Ask an Apologist too…

I’m sure many of you have heard about the prayer of St. Gertrude the Great that alledgedly releases 1000 souls from purgatory each time it is prayed.

Now, I have done some research, and apparently about 150,000 people die each day.

If there were no prayer of St. Gertrude then purgatory is clearly as big a “problem” as the Church makes it out to be. Thousands of new plenary indulgences should be offered to purgatory each day. Thousands of Masses should be offered to help them, even if a lot of people go to hell and some go straight to heaven.

And this is generally the attitude the Church and various contemplative Orders take: an unceasing offering towards purgatory which must fill so fast. 50 million people die a year! Over 3 billion in an average lifetime!

But if this prayer of St. Gertrude really releases a thousand souls, then purgatory becomes only a minor concern…as it only needs be prayed about 150 times a day in the whole world.

So, what I would like to discuss is if this prayer supposed to always release 1000 souls absolutely, or if that more of a conditional and ideal maximum?

Does it release 1000 souls unconditionally, or does it only release a maximum of 1000 souls if 1000 souls are on the verge of being released anyway?

I tend to think that it does not release 1000 souls absolutely, but only as a conditional maximum. That God has simply given this prayer the glorious priveledge of being the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” and releases souls that are almost ready to be released and only need one more prayer.

But I do not think that it could release anyone who still has a lot more purgatorial purifying to go through. I still think that purgatory needs thousands of Masses and prayers and indulgences each day, and not merely 150 Gertrude prayers…which I believe only works on souls just about to be released.

I do not superstitiously believe the prayer “magically” releases 1000 souls whenever it is prayed regardless of how much debt they owe, but rather that God uses this priveledged prayer as a humble but glorious instrument to be the “final penny paid” to release those souls just about finished.

In Matthew 5:26 Christ says “Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”

I believe God has reserved with this prayer the special priveledge of being used as the “last penny” for AT MOST 1000 souls…but that if the souls remaining in purgatory owe more than a “penny” it won’t release them…though it may contribute a “penny” towards their debt even though that isn’t enough to release them.

What do you all think?

I feel the need to comment… a friend and I have been arguing with protestants over this prayer on another forum.

That was the first time I’d heard of the prayer.

From what I hear, there is another translation of the prayer that doesn’t say 1000, but “many.”

Perhaps this will help some.

Don’t reduce it to mathematics… that sort of thing rarely works in theology. God is not mechanical.

I believe that the prayer when said by St Gertrude could release a hord of souls. but not the same prayer by anyone unless they were just as saintly as her.

It may well be the prayer applied only to her!

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit