06 June 2009

Saint Norbert, Bishop

June 6 is the feast day of Saint Norbert.

Saint Norbert was born in the duchy of Cleves around the year 1080. A canon of the church of Xanten, he was converted from a worldly life and, embracing the religious state, was ordained to the priesthood in 1115.

At first, Norbert's acceptance of holy orders as a canon was done in a wordly spirit--using the position as a way of ensuring greater success in the German court. One day while Norbert was out riding, a thunderstom boiled up suddenly. Norbert would not have chosen to ride had he known a thunderstorm was imminent. He was accustomed to choosing the easy way and the comforts of the world. However, now he found himself caught in the storm, the rain and wind lashing at his fine clothes.

A sudden flash of lightning split the dark and his horse bucked, throwing Norbert to the ground.

For almost an hour, the still form of Norbert lay unmoving. Even the rain soaking his clothes and the howl of thunder did not bring him back to consciousness and life. When he awoke his first words were, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" -- the same words Saul spoke on the road to Damascus. In response Norbert heard in his heart, "Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it."

Immediately Norbert returned to his place of birth, Xanten, and dediated his life to prayer and penance.

Undertaking the apostolic life, he accepted the duty of preaching, particularly throughout France and Germany. Gathering together some companions, he laid the foundations of the Premonstratensian Order, for which he also founded monastaries. Elected Archbishop of Magdeburg in 1126, he reformed the Christain life and spread the faith to nereby pagan nations. Saint Norbert died in 1134.

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