"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." John 6:68


Wednesday, 06 June 2012

St. Norbert, Bishop (c.1080-1134)


        Of noble rank and rare talents, Norbert passed a most pious youth, and entered the ecclesiastical state. By a strange contradiction, his conduct now became a scandal to his sacred calling, and at the court of the Emperor Henry IV he led, like many clerics of that age, a life of dissipation and luxury.

        One day when he was thirty years of age, he was thrown half dead from his horse, and on recovering his senses, resolved upon a new life. After a severe and searching preparation, he was ordained a priest and began to expose the abuses of his Order. Silenced at first by a local council, he obtained the Pope's sanction and preached penance to listening crowds in France and the Netherlands.

        In the wild vale of Prémontré he gave some trained disciples the rule of St. Augustine and a white habit to denote the angelic purity proper to the priesthood. The Canons Regular, or Premonstratensians, as they were called, were to unite the active work of the country clergy with the obligations of the monastic life. Their fervor renewed the spirit of the priesthood, quickened the faith of the people, and drove out heresy.

        A vile heretic named Tankelin, appeared at Antwerp and denied the reality of the priesthood and especially blasphemed the Blessed Eucharist. The Saint was sent for and by his burning words, exposed the impostor and rekindled faith in the Blessed Sacrament.
        Many of the apostates had shown their contempt for the Blessed Sacrament by burying it in filthy places. Norbert bade them to search for the Sacred Hosts. They found them whole and undamaged, and the Saint bore them back in triumph to the tabernacle. Hence he is generally painted with the monstrance in his hand.

        In 1126 Norbert found himself appointed Bishop of Magdeburg; and there, at the risk of his life, he zealously carried on his work of reform, and died, worn out with toil, at the age of fifty-three.


Lives of the Saints, by Alban Butler, Benziger Bros. ed. [1894]

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