June 5, 2017

Saint Norbert of Xanten, Bishop and Founder

Saint Norbert of Xanten

Saint Norbert was another saint whose life did not begin in the same spirit of holiness with which it ended. Born in the Rhineland in 1080, Norbert became almoner (one who distributed alms to the needy, especially on behalf of a church, monastery, or wealthy family) to Henry V, Emperor of Germany. Although his role entailed spiritual duties, he spent his time at court pursuing worldly pleasures.

According to legend, one day while out riding, a sudden thunderstorm came up, during which a bolt of lightning frightened his horse. The animal reared, throwing Norbert to the ground. He lay in the rain for an hour, unconscious. When he awoke, his first utterance was, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" In his heart Norbert heard the words "Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it."

This the future saint did in earnest. He studied for holy orders and was ordained in 1115. Giving all his worldly possessions to the poor, he appealed to Rome for permission to establish a preaching congregation. In 1126, Pope Honorius II approved Norbert’s Order of the Premonstratensians, or the Norbertines, which was dedicated to preaching the Good News and to the renewal of the Church.

Saint Norbert died in 1134. His feast day is June 6th. Norbert was a man of deep prayer and spirituality. In his theological outlook, he saw the Holy Spirit as the originating force of his Order. Common prayer and celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist was to be the sustaining dynamic of the Norbertines. O God, who made the Bishop Saint Norbert a servant of your Church outstanding in his prayer and pastoral zeal, grant, we ask, that by the help of his intercession, the the faithful may always find shepherds after your heart and be fed in the light of salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit.

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