All those who have studied Saint Gertrud’s work find in it an essentially liturgical inspiration. The theological experience which surfaces in it has its source in the celebration of the Mystery of faith. Gertrud makes us enter a mysticism of the Temple rather than of the cell, a mysticism of the day rather than of the night, a mysticism of the sacramental manifestation rather than of the abstract intellect. If her language happens to make the body responsible for the darkness of this life, more often we notice in it a positive evaluation of the senses and of the sensitivity in which the body has a major place. It is in the bodily expression of the liturgical signs that her Herald expresses the heartfelt communion of the actors.


With a closer look, we notice that among all liturgical celebrations, the Eucharist is undoubtedly the one which attracted Saint Gertrud the most. She did not only find in it the way to quench her ardent desire to see the host, but she also waited impatiently for the days in which “the delights of the royal table” would be available to her. She requested frequent communion, she assiduously prepared for it, and discerned its effects beyond compare. With a very sure ecclesial sensitivity, she understood that her mission was most efficient when she fully took part in the Eucharist, “the font and the summit of all evangelization”[2]. That is what we shall try to show in the following conferences.





When the 4th Council of the Lateran (1215), for the first time in the history of the Church, promulgated the universal law to confess once a year and to receive communion at least at Easter[3], it acknowledged the progressive decline of communion as recorded by synods and councils since the 4th century, without being able to prevent it. To judge by the remaining biographies, in that long period of time, we do not meet many eucharistic souls who made the Eucharistic the center of their lives, the point of convergence of their expectations, and the principle of their holiness. A contemporary of Saint Bernard summed up the situation in a few words: “Daily communion is the privilege of the priest. Others are admitted to communion only on certain feasts” (c.1250). What does this mean? Apart from the monasteries where communion remains quite frequent, the faithful have almost lost the habit of receiving communion more than three times a year, at Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, as was promulgated by the Council of Agde (506) for those who wanted "to be considered as Christians." "However limited it was, this measure was still going beyond the good will of the Christian people. Actually, to the three prescribed communions, the annual communion was substituted" (c.1253).


This situation is not without any cause. The Fathers of the Church had already reacted against "the insipid Christian spirit, mainly due to the major entrance of pagans into the Church, after the conversion of Emperor Constantine. The moral level dropped visibly, and mediocrity tended to replace the fervor kept alive by persecutions" (c.1243-1244). From the 6th century on, the very life of the Church was threatened, from without and within, because of growing political and economic difficulties (c.1254). Apart from the reign of Carolus Magnus (king of the Franks: 768-814; Roman Emperor: 800-814), in which there were for a time order and peace, the western Christian world was shaken in many ways: first by invasions ("Arian" barbarians in Africa and in Spain, and Lombards in Italy), then by the requirements of the emperors of Byzantium who joined monophysitism, and who "often tragically upset the pontifical elections, and disorganized religious life" (c.1255). To this we must add "the ancient Germanic paganism, inclined to cruelty and debauchery..., Norman and Hungarian invasions..., the feudal erosion, with all its rivalries, hatred and struggles.... Simony and lust depraved the clergy itself" (c.1255).


Before these "rough and unrefined peoples", the Church could not encourage communion without requiring the fitting respect. And that is what she did, not without wondering "with anxiety how to escape the double danger of either depriving the faithful of the life, by keeping them away from the host, or of 'eating the judgment upon themselves' by making their access to the Holy Table too easy" (c.1255). The trouble is that the requirements imposed were so demanding that they could not but contribute to the estrangement of the Christian people as a whole from frequent access to sacramental communion. Besides the demanding requirements of continence, even inner dispositions were actually required, such as "purity of heart, the practice of Christian virtues, alms, and prayer." That was heading toward "the exemption from venial sins that Durand de Troarn (+ 1089) explicitly required." At the same time, Raoul Ardent (+ 1101) "was even more rigorous. To approach the Eucharist worthily, the soul must be freed from all venial sin, and one must also abstain from the conjugal duty, from all business, from claiming debts, and as far as possible, one must dedicate oneself to the most perfect and highest occupations" (c.1257).


Last but not least, the orientation was more and more clearly leading to "a new spirituality" thus stigmatized by Joseph Duhr:


"By stressing so much only the idea of food, or by only focusing on the real presence, the Middle Ages were little by little led to an anti-liturgical conception, which was separating the eucharistic celebration from communion. We think that this mentality, shared by some priests and members of the hierarchy, explains even better than the scarcity or the bad will of the clergy, why people were receiving communion so rarely in the Middle Ages" (c.1259).






With this historical background, and aware of Saint Gertrud’s connection with the great movement of eucharistic fervor which arose at the beginning of the 13th century, let us try to discover the position of The Herald regarding frequent communion.


First, it is important to notice that the monastery of Helfta, during Saint Gertrud’s life (1256-1301/1302?), did not seem to be familiar yet with the so-called "presential devotion" to the Eucharist (c.1259). The feast of Corpus Christi was not celebrated there, and in The Herald we do not find mention of a prolonged exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. On the contrary, the passages of this work[4] referring to the Eucharist, manifest that the veneration of the Real Presence is not separated from the Eucharistic celebration. Above all, they testify that for Gertrud, the full meaning of the eucharistic celebration is in the sacramental communion. It is true that the Bride-Church whom Gertrude is aware of representing (see the expression in persona ecclesiae in Book 4,16. L4,16,6,1), is nourished with the Word of her Bridegroom, and enjoys the vision of the host and the chalice, but her hunger and thirst are satisfied only in the communion of the "life giving sacrament of the Body and Blood" of Jesus Christ:


Overtaken by sickness one day when about to receive communion, she realized that her strength had completely failed and that consequently she could experience less devotion. She said to the Lord: "Oh sweetness of my soul, since (alas!) I know only too well that I am unworthy to receive your most holy body and blood, if I could find alleviation or pleasure in any creature apart from you I would not receive holy communion this time. But since from east to west and from south to north I can call to mind absolutely nothing in which I could delight and experience refreshment of body and soul alike other than in you; therefore ardently panting, sighing and running in the thirst of my desires I come to you, the living fountain" (Book 3,50,1 p.157. L3,50,1,4-13).


Such an ardent desire for union with the Beloved in the sacrament is undoubtedly connected to the way Gertrud understood preparation for communion. We will come back to this further on. For now, let us find out how often she received communion, what where her motives for exhorting to frequent communion, and which causes of abstention she found justified.






When Joseph Duhr wrote that Saint Mechtilde[5] and Saint Gertrud "did not hesitate to become the apostles of frequent communion" (c.1262), he mentioned two frequencies in their access to sacramental communion: Sundays and feast days. This is actually what surfaces from The Herald. The way texts are organized and the comparison between chapters lead us to think that Gertrud received communion about every Sunday and every feast day. At that time, it is the testimony of an unusual access to sacramental communion, when one knows for instance that the Rule of Saint Claire, confirmed by Innocent IV (1253), foresaw only seven communions a year (Christmas, Holy Thursday, Easter, Pentecost, the Assumption, All Saints Day, and the feast of Saint Francis). For the Franciscan Third Order, approved by Nicolas IV (1289), there were only three or four communions a year. As for the Camaldolese lay brothers, they received communion just four times a year, and their priests once a month (c.1263). Saint Louis (+ 1270) received communion only six times a year, and Saint Elisabeth of Portugal (+ 1330) only three times a year.


The frequency at Helfta may have been connected with their relationships with some Cistercian monasteries. We know for instance that Saint Lutgard of Aywières in Brabant (+ 1246) also received communion every Sunday and feast day. Blessed Ida of Louvain (+ 1300)[6] received permission from Rome to receive communion every day. Alpaïs de Cudo (+ 1211), a recluse who had Cistercian spiritual directors, received communion every Sunday (c.1262). We also notice that the Cistercian Ecclesiastica Officia (around 1185), in the chapter on the kiss of peace during the eucharistic celebration, foresaw for the brothers a frequency for receiving communion similar to the one practiced at Helfta.


If the relationships between the community of Helfta and Cistercian monasteries is a hypothesis, we know for sure that they had relationships with Dominican and Franciscan communities. We know it especially through the "Endorsement and Authorization" placed at the beginning of The Herald (p.29. SC 139, pp.104-107). That is why it would be useful to be able to compare the way Gertrud expressed herself on the access to sacramental communion, with the advice given by Saint Bonaventure and Saint Thomas Aquinas on the same subject. This being closely connected with preparation for communion, we will deal with this in next conference.






Four chapters of The Herald help us to discover the reasons given by Saint Gertrud in favor of frequent communion. Here they are, in their order in the book.


a) Book 3,18,8 p.74. L3,18,8,16-17:


"She asked the Lord, ‘My Lord, does someone who falls into sin immediately lose this blessedness, just as someone who retreats from the light of the sun into the dark loses the welcome brightness of light?’ The Lord replied, ‘No; for although in sinning to a certain extent he obscures the light of the divine favor from himself, none the less my loving-kindness (pietas tamen mea) always keeps the trace of that blessedness in that man for eternal life: he multiplies (toties) this blessedness as often as (quoties) he strives with devotion to attend the sacraments".


We do not have a strict declaration on the benefit of frequent communion, but on the benefit of the participation itself to the holy mysteries. We kept this passage for two reasons that we will find again in following chapters: 1) in the style, there is the balanced formula toties...quoties; 2) in the content, there is a link between frequency and eschatology.



b) Book 3,36 p.128:


This chapter is too important not to be quoted integrally:


"Another time, too, when she was about to communicate, she said to the Lord, 'Lord, what are you going to give me?' The Lord replied, 'Myself, wholly and completely, with all my divine power, just as my Virgin Mother received me.' Then she said, 'So what more shall I have than those who received you with me yesterday, and today are omitting to do so, since you always give yourself completely?' The Lord replied, 'If it was the custom among the ancients that he who had twice gained the consulship should take precedence over him who had been recipient of it once, how could it possibly not be that he who has received me more often (saepius) on earth should not excel much more in glory in eternal life?' Then groaning she said, 'How greatly will the priests then surpass me in glory, whose duty it is to communicate every day?' The Lord said, 'They will indeed shine with great glory, those who approach worthily; but none the less a disposition of inner joy far superior to the glory of outward appearance, thence there is one reward for these who approach from loving desire, but another for those who take with fear and reverence, and yet another for those who are prepared to take with strenuous efforts. But none of these will he receive who only celebrates out of habit (ex usu)."


From this very dense chapter, let us keep only what deals with our subject. Frequency (saepius) is obviously connected to eternal life (aeterna vita). In other words, the effect of frequent communion will be seen in eschatology, under the form of a greater glory given to "those who have received me more often on earth." With the given of this principle, the final part of the Lord’s answer brings all the necessary nuances to avoid giving a calculated, narrow, and fossilized interpretation.



c) Book 3,53,2 p. 164:


Here the dialogue between Christ and Gertrud follows the line of the one in Book 3,36, though Gertrud’s first question is not on the value of the repeated gift of sacramental communion, but on the value of the repeated gift of Jesus’ Heart:


"Since you, my sweetest lover, have so often given me your deified Heart in various ways, I should like to know what fruit I ought now to seek, in that you again grant it me so freely."


At first reading, the Lord’s answer sounds strange, for he gives the impression not really to answer her question dealing with the heart, by speaking about sacramental communion:


"Does not the catholic faith hold that anyone who receives communion on a single occasion (semel), to him I give myself for his salvation with all the benefits contained in the treasuries of my divine and human natures alike? And the more often (quanto saepius), however, a person has received communion, the more greatly the accumulation (tanto magis cumulus) of his blessedness is increased and multiplied."


You already noticed the same balance expression in the style as in Book 3, 18,8 (L3,18,8,16-17): quanto saepius ... tanto magis cumulus. As for the reason of encouragement, it is in the cumulus beatitudinis. But how to know if this accumulation of blessedness is to be understood about eschatology as the "excel much more in glory" of the previous passage, or about the presence already given of the realized eschatology ? By connecting this passage to Book 3,36, we are inclined to consider the future consequence of the saepius more in the cumulus then in the beatitudo, this blessedness being understood as the salvation received, in faith, at each communion, with the double treasure of Christ’s divinity and humanity.

We must still explain why the Lord answered about communion when she asked a question related to his heart. It is to be understood as an analogy of relationships: just as the one who often receives communion receives from it an accumulation of blessedness, so the repeated gift of Jesus’ heart will be for Gertrud the cause of a cumulus beatitudinis.



d) Book 5,25 p.552. L 5,28,2 :


Gertrud expressed to the Lord her eagerness to be brought "from this land of exile to the land of rest." To justify the delay, the Lord answered:


"...Know that I communicate myself to you entirely in the sacrament of the altar, which after this life cannot be; and in this union there is more blessedness and delight than in any human love, for that is often vile and transitory; but the sweetness of this union (suavitas unionis) ennobles and dignifies the soul. On the contrary, the more it is lived, the more it is intense and efficient[1] (quanto saepius renovatur, tanto efficacius viget)".


Once again, we find the balance in the formula: quanto saepius renovatur, tanto efficacius viget. But unlike the previous passages which defer the benefit of frequency in eschatology, this passage presents it as a suavitas unionis between Christ and Gertrud in this very life.



To sum up, we can say that the survey of these four chapters allow us to point out two motives of encouragement to sacramental communion in The Herald. The first is connected to what we could call its "salutary and eschatological effect", expression used by Father Gy[7], by extending the semel of every sacramental communion to the saepius of frequency. The second motive comes from the factor of growth which affects the gloria in eschatology (passage b), the suavitas unionis in the present life (passage d), and the beatitudo in the realized eschatology of the present life (passages a and c).






Saint Gertrud’s zeal to encourage herself and others to communion and to frequent communion, makes us even more curious to know what reasons justify abstention, in her opinion. Five chapters of The Herald give us an idea. We will study them in their order in the book.


a) Book 2,18,1 p.146:


"One feast day", Gertrud considered herself "held back (from communion) by physical weakness, or rather driven away, I am afraid, at divine instigation by my unworthiness..." Let us notice the two motives, as well as Gertrud’s hesitation in mentioning her unworthiness only. We will understand better why later.



b) Book 3,10 p.46-48:


"On the feast of Saint Matthias, since she had made up her mind not to receive communion because she was hampered for many reasons..." Here we have almost no information. But the passage is interesting, as we see in it the Lord leading Gertrud to change her mind: she will obtain the great favors she was longing for ("that is, to enjoy my most loving sweetness and, melted by the fire of my godhead, to flow into me just as gold is fused with silver. From this you would have a most precious alloy (electrum) which you could most worthily offer God the Father to his eternal praise, and all the saints would have most fully their complete reward", Book 3,10,2 p.47. L3,10,2,7-11) only "if you were to fit yourself today to receive the sacrament of my life-giving body and blood". She did so, letting "the lover of men and women" place her "among those who would most sweetly take their fill of his delicacies".


The conclusion of this passage is not without interest either. It partly explains Gertrud’s hesitation about her unworthiness in the previous passage:


"And when on the same day another person had refrained from holy communion for no good reason, she said to the Lord, 'Why, most merciful Lord, did you allow her to be tempted in this way?' The Lord replied, 'Is it my fault that she has pulled the veil of her unworthiness over her eyes for so long that she was completely unable to discern the loving-kindness of my fatherly affection (pietatem paterni affectus)?' (Book 3,10,2 p.48. L3,10,2,20-26).



c) Book 3,38 p.131-133:


We will notice here that the writer, before describing what happened, mentions Gertrud’s "devotion" (devotio) which led her to a "frequent desire to receive the body of Christ." "One time, she had prepared herself rather devoutly (devotius) on the preceding days for communion..." but "on Saturday night felt so weak that it seemed to her that she could not receive communion." Then "as usual (more sibi solito) she consulted the Lord on what he would rather she did (quid sibi magis complaceret faciendum)." Unlike the previous passage, the Lord asked her to refrain from communion, giving two reasons: a general one (propter discretionem = discernment, L3,38,1,10), and a personal one (= he declared himself "best satisfied" by Gertrud’s concentration in preparing to receive communion. "Just as a bridegroom, satisfied by varied banquets, takes greater pleasure in lingering quietly with his bride in private than in sitting with her at table", Book 3,38,1 p.131. L3,38,1,7-9).


Conforming herself to the good pleasure of her bridegroom, Gertrud prepared for spiritual communion (ad spiritualem communionem, Book 3,38,2 p.131. L3,38,2,1-2), by exposing herself to "the threefold effect, like the sun, that the divine gaze brings about in the soul." "Then, at both Masses when the convent was receiving communion,… from each host the Lord Jesus offered to someone, he seemed to give her a very efficacious blessing. She was astonished at this and said, 'Lord, do those who have received you sacramentally (sacramentaliter, Book 3,38,3 p.132. L3,38,3,8) just now enjoy a greater result, or I who have freely anticipated so many of your divine blessings?" As often in The Herald, the Lord used images to reply: "Who is considered to be richer? He who is adorned with jewels and precious necklaces, or he who has a vast amount of pure gold secretly concealed?" Gertrud understood in this way:


"...Although he who receives communion sacramentally (sacramentaliter) doubtless gains a rich result of salvation, both in body and in soul, according to the faith of the Church, none the less he who omits receiving the body of Christ purely for God’s praise (pure ad laudem Dei), out of the virtue of obedience and of discernment (ex virtute obedientiae simul et discretionis), and communicates spiritually, inflamed by desire and love of God (desiderio ac amore Dei inflammatus spiritualiter communicans), deserves to obtain just such a blessing of the divine condescension as she herself received at that time. A far more effectual fruit follows in the eyes of God, although this is hidden from human understanding." (Book 3,38,3 p.133. L3,38,3,14-23).


Here the reasons given for abstention are very clear. They are three: obedience, (ex virtute obedientiae) and discernment (discretionis), already mentioned at the beginning, to which is added "purely for God’s praise" (pure ad laudem Dei). However valuable these causes for abstention may be, no one can pretend to find the "vast amount of pure gold secretly concealed" proper to spiritual communion, if one is not "inflamed by desire and the love of God" (desiderio ac amore Dei inflammatus).



d) Book 3,77 p.218-219:


Instead of commenting on this chapter, we will give extensive excerpts from it:


"A certain person, compelled by a zeal for righteousness, was once stirred up against certain other people whom he personally judged insufficiently prepared and devout, but who none the less went to communion quite often. This person openly opposed them and his words made some of them more fainthearted about receiving communion.

While Gertrud was praying for him she asked the Lord what he thought about this. The Lord replied: 'Since my delight is to be with the sons of men and I have left them this sacrament out of my great affection in memory of me, as a constant reminder to be undertaken anew, and in addition I have bound myself through this to remain with the faithful even to the consummation of the world, anyone who holds back by words or suggestions someone who is not in mortal sin interferes with or interrupts in some way my delights that I could have had in them. He is like an over-severe tutor who restrains the king’s son too harshly or drags him away for the companionship and games of those his own age who are rather low-born or poor, but whose company the king’s son enjoys very much, simply because he thinks it more suitable for the young man to enjoy the honor due to royalty than to play in the streets with a stick or such like." (Book 3,77,1 p. 218-219. L3,77,1,1-22).


Here we are far from the requirements given by Durand of Troarn, by Raoul Ardent, and by many others, moved by an indiscrete "zeal for righteousness" (exigente zelo justitiae, Book 3,77,1 p.218.  L3,77,1,1). Just one cause for abstention remains: the case of mortal sin.



e) Book 4,10 p.338-341. L 4,13 :


In many respects, this passage is similar to the one in Book 3,38. The circumstances are almost the same: Gertrud "had prepared herself with great fervor" for sacramental communion, but she was very weak. We find again the same three motives of abstention: 1) obedience (here to the spiritual mother = ad complacitum matris spiritualis, L4,13,1,4; repeated in L4,13,4,23 with the words humilitatis aut obedientiae); 2) discernment [translated as discretion in this edition] (propter bonum discretionis, L4,13,1,5; repeated in L4,13,4,4 and L4,13,4,22-23 with the words causa discretionis); 3) the desire to purely praise God (laudem aeternam en L4,13,1,6; pure propter me en L4,13,1,11). With all these conditions gathered, the narrative tells us that "as the sisters communicated at the mass, our Lord placed Gertrud tenderly at the loving wound of his side" (Book 4,10 p.340. L4,13,4,1-3). "Having drunk of this torrent of sweetness and delight", and having tasted such delights, she asked: "O Lord, if it is true that those who abstain thus from communicating receive such great fruit, is it, then, more advantageous to abstain?" (Book 4,10, p.340. L4,13,5,1-3)? The Nequaquam of the answer comes right away:


"By no means (Nequaquam); for those who approach the sacrament of love of my glory receive the food of my divine body as the delicious nectar of the divinity, and are adorned with the incomparable splendor of my divine virtues" (Book 4,10 p.340. L4,13,5,4-8).




Through the survey of these five chapters, can we discern clear guidelines in Gertrud’s attitude regarding abstention? The clearest case is the one of mortal sin: she adopted the usual position, that is to say no sacramental communion (L3,77,1,14; L3,18,24,18). For other cases, Gertrud seemed to keep at a distance from the positions of her time, by avoiding to overestimate the motive of unworthiness, and by stressing more the motive of "discernment" with its two corollaries: obedience and the desire to purely praise God. To what extent is this emphasis proper to her? Our study lets us only share an impression which would require some verification: the theologians and spiritual masters of the 13th century seemed to insist, more than she did, on the necessity to "examine oneself" (1 Cor 11:27-29), which is, it is true, a form of "discernment", but undoubtedly more characterized by a face-to-face encounter with oneself than with someone exterior to oneself to whom one obeys in the desire to praise God. It is true that Gertrud was part of the old monastic tradition in which the work of discretio (in the sense of "sorting out" the feelings of the heart with an "elder" to "discern" what pleases God)[8] has always been in honor. We will find again this difference in emphasis, and so what is maybe a characteristic proper to Saint Gertrud and to the milieus marked by the movement of eucharistic fervor, when we deal with the preparation for sacramental communion.


Let us notice also that none of the five chapters presented mention "the bath of confession" (Book 3,14,1 p.57. L 3,14,1,22). This indication is enough to understand that the legitimacy of abstention went far beyond, in Gertrud’s mind, the mere possibility of confessing or not before Mass.[9] At last, whatever delights spiritualiter communion can bring, the Nequaquam of Book 4,10 (L4,13,5,4) is a complete dismissal of any "indiscrete" abstention of sacramentaliter (L3,38,3,14) or corporaliter (Book 4,10. L4,13,4,4) communion.[10]



[1] This last sentence is not in the published English translation





[1] . This conference has its inspiration in Joseph DUHR, « Communion fréquente », Dictionnaire de Spiritualité II, 1953, c.1234-1290.


[2] . The introduction of this conference refers to Olivier QUENARDEL, La Communion Eucharistique dans le Héraut de l’Amour Divin de Saint Gertrud d’Helfta, Brepols 1997, 3e Partie, Chapitre 1, « Région privilégiée et figuration par-dessus tout désirée », pp. 89 – 94.


[3] . "All the faithful of both sexes shall after they have reached the age of discretion faithfully confess all their sins at least once a year to their own (parish) priest and perform to the best of their ability the penance imposed, receiving reverently at least at Easter the sacrament of the Eucharist" (Omnis utriusque, canon 21, Fourth Council of the Lateran,, accessed on 12/08/03).


[4] . Cf. Olivier QUENARDEL, op. cit., pp. 171-203.



[5] . Saint Mechtild of Hackeborn (1241-1299), the abbess Gertrud of Hackeborn’s sister, was the chantress at the monastery of Helfta and was in charge of the school. Gertrud’s education was entrusted to her. There was a deep friendship between them. Gertrud welcomed the «revelations» also granted to Mechtild, and with some other confidantes, she gathered them in «The Book of Special Grace» (Liber specialis gratiae).


[6] . Ida of Louvain, as the two other Cistercian nuns Ida of Nivelles and Ida of Leeuw, was also part of the movement of eucharistic fervor in the 13th century. Cf. Edmundus MIKKERS, « Ida », Dictionnaire de Spiritualité VIIIB, c.1239-1242. 


[7] . Pierre-Marie GY, La liturgie dans l’histoire, Paris, Cerf 1990, pp.202-204. The author especially shows that post-communion prayers in the Roman Catholic liturgy are aimed at «the salutary and eschatological fruit» of the Eucharist, rather than at its «ecclesial fruit» in the Augustinian sense.


[8] . Here is the testimony given by the writer of Book 1 about Gertrud’s discretio: «The virtue of discretion (discretio) shone in her to no ordinary degree, most especially from the fact that she enjoyed a wonderfully fluent command, beyond that of others, of the sense and the text of Scripture. Nonetheless, although in a single hour she might give prudent answers on a variety of subjects to the many people who sought her advice so that those who heard her were greatly astonished, with humble discretion (tam humili discretione) she asked that others, far inferior to her, should decide what she herself should do. She concurred so heartily with their advice in all matters that it was unusual for her to be so attached to her own decisions as not to follow more willingly the opinion of others.» (Book 1,11,12 p.76. L 1,11,12).



[9] . Our interpretation is confirmed by Book 4,7 p.331. L 4,7,4,1-4 : «On the following day, as she prayed for those who communicated according to her advice, but could not approach the sacrament of penance… » This is another indication on the importance given to discretio, as related to advice in the monastic milieu of Helfta.



[10] . In The Héraut, it seems that discretio had a role to play above all in the case of abstention. We are tempted to say that sacramentaliter, on the regular days (Sundays and feasts), is never «indiscrete». But to abstain from it can be indiscrete. Hence the necessity to use the causa discretionis in the relation of obedience. Then they discerned if abstention or the choice of spiritualiter communion contributed more or not to the desire of purely praising God.