St Norbert

II Timothy 2.8-15; Psalm 24; Mark 12.28-34

Norbert was born around 1080 in Xanten (today in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany).  He lived at court until the age of 35 when, following an accident, he experienced a conversion of heart.  He was ordained a priest and shortly thereafter, in 1019, at the Council of Reims, Pope Callixtus II asked him to found a new religious order in the ancient Diocese of Laon in France.  The Premonstratensians (sometimes known as Norbertines), came into existence on Christmas Day of 1020.  Members of the order aren’t monks but canons regular, their work involving preaching and the exercise of pastoral ministry, mostly in parishes. The sustaining dynamic of Norbertine communities is devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.  (Later a companion female order, known as canonesses, was added.)

The austerities of Cistercian life were from the first incorporated into Norbertine life.  So strict was the discipline that it killed the first three of St Norbert’s disciples!  Nonetheless the order grew quickly throughout western Europe: there were 9 houses in 1126; by the mid-14th Century there were 1300 houses for men and another 400 for women.

In 1126 Norbert was appointed Archbishop of Magdeburg, where he reformed the clergy, defended orthodoxy and promoted the unity and liberty of the Church.  He died there in 1134.  

Posted in Daily Reflection.