Author Topic: St. Norbert  (Read 562 times)

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Offline Binechi

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St. Norbert
« on: June 06, 2017, 05:57:43 AM »
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    St. Norbert, Archbishop and
    Founder of the Premonstratensian Order

    by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877


    Norbert, the celebrated founder of the Premonstratensian order, was born of very illustrious parents at Santen, in the Duchy of Cleves. As he grew up, he was very eager in the acquisition of knowledge, but he also led a vain, frivolous life, in which he continued even when he was a canon of the Church in his native place. He lived for some time at the court of Frederick, Archbishop of Cologne, and also at that of the Emperor, where he had opportunities to enjoy the pleasures of this World to which he was so much attached. The Almighty, however, who intended that Norbert should become a great Saint, made all this very distasteful to him by the following event.

    Norbert went, one clear, bright day, with his servant, to Freden, a village in Westphalia. He had not gone very far upon his way when suddenly a terrific storm darkened the sky, and a flash of lightning struck the earth just before the feet of the horse which Norbert was riding. He was thrown down, and remained lying on the ground almost an hour, more dead than alive. As soon as he had somewhat collected his scattered senses, he arose with the help of his servant, but sinking again upon his knees, he cried like another Saul: "Lord, what dost thou wish that I should do?" An audible voice replied: "Avoid evil and do good." And immediately Norbert determined to change his whole conduct and obey the heavenly command. Accordingly he repaired to the monastery of St. Siegebert, and began his conversion by a general confession, which he made with a flood of repentant tears.

    Soon after, he received the order of priesthood, so as to be still better secured against the frivolities of the world and to remain more constant in the service of the Almighty. He prepared himself during forty days for his first holy mass, by prayer, austere fasting and other penances; and he had no sooner said it, than he ascended the pulpit and preached with such power and pathos on the vanities of the world, that all his hearers were deeply touched. For three years he continued his penitential life; then resigned his canonicate, gave his fortune to the poor, and went to Pope Gelasius II., who was at that time in Languedoc, and begged most earnestly for permission to preach repentance wherever he could find an opportunity. He obtained the holy father's consent and went on his mission barefoot, in the depth of winter, from place to place. His life and his whole appearance were in harmony with his sermons; for, after having entered the priest-hood, he had laid aside his costly garments, and wore a long mantle made of sheepskin, which was fastened round his loins with a cord. He partook only of lenten food, and of this so little that no one could understand how he could live. By his sermons he moved a great number of sinners to repentance, converted hardened heretics and united in love and harmony many embittered enemies.

    The Bishop of Laon, in consideration of the great benefit derived from the sermons of St. Norbert, requested him most earnestly to remain in his diocese and to select, as a dwelling for himself and his companions, any place agreeable to him. The Saint chose a dreary, solitary spot in a barren valley called Premontre, where stood a half-ruined chapel. The bishop bestowed the place upon him with pleasure and gave also the means to renew the chapel and build a small monastery near it. St. Norbert, with thirteen companions who desired to live under his direction, made his abode there as soon as the buildings were completed, and thus was laid, in the year 1121, the first foundation of the celebrated order which, after the valley, was called the Premonstratensian order. The holy founder received the rules and the habit in a vision from Saint Augustine.

    In the space of a few years the number of his disciples increased so considerably, that he divided them into eight abbeys, which all became famous. Several other cities also humbly begged the holy founder to erect in their midst dwellings for his religious. Among these was the celebrated city of Antwerp, where Tanchelin had seduced many inhabitants with his heresy. This arch-heretic had almost entirely set aside the partaking of the holy Eucharist, because he denied the real presence of Christ, and had in its place led many to an impious life by his wicked teachings. No sooner had St. Norbert arrived at Antwerp than he refuted the heretic Tanchelin in a public discourse, to the great humiliation of the latter, and in a short time brought the poor deluded inhabitants back again into the pale of the true Church. In his sermons, he exhorted all to pay greater honor to the holy Eucharist and more frequently to receive it. The Canons of the Church of St. Michael offered the Saint this Church and also some houses for dwelling places, and requested him most earnestly to leave some of his religious there, that the people of the city might be kept on the path of righteousness; to which St. Norbert acceded.

    Not long afterwards, when the Saint returned from Rome, whither he had gone to obtain the confirmation of his Order, he met the Emperor and many senators at Spire. At the same time there came some deputies from Magdeburg, who announced the death of their bishop, and desired a successor. The Emperor, who highly esteemed the Saint on account of his virtues and the miracles he wrought, would appoint no other than him. The Saint used all possible means to decline so high a dignity, but was obliged to accept it, and being received in Magdeburg with great rejoicings, he was consecrated bishop. Although now occupying so elevated a position, he changed nothing in his exterior, but led the same poor, humble and austere life. He labored earnestly to reform the abuses and vices that had crept in among the clergy as well as the laity, and at first excited against himself the hatred of wicked people, who conspired to kill him. An assassin whom they had hired for this purpose, went on Maunday-Thursday, to the palace of the bishop, under the pretext of wishing to confess, but keeping a dagger concealed, with which he intended to kill the Saint. Norbert, knowing by divine revelation, his wicked design, asked him what he wished, and the unhappy man, sinking tremblingly, at his feet, confessed his intention and begged to be forgiven. For a long time accustomed not only to pardon his enemies, but to return benefits for their misdeeds, the Saint hesitated not kindly to accept the man's repentance.

    Many other brilliant examples of virtue are to be found in the history of his life, but space is wanting to report them all here. To sum it up in a few words, Saint Norbert was the Apostle of his time, a man standing high in the grace of the Almighty, who had abundantly bestowed upon him all apostolic gifts. Four months before his last hour, God sent him a severe sickness, which ended with his happy death, in the year 1134. This Saint is represented as holding in his right hand a monstrance, in his left his Archbishop's staff and an olive branch. The first is a symbol of his defence of the real presence of Christ in the holy Eucharist, and of his zeal in leading the faithful to the adoration and frequent reception of the holy Sacrament. The second signifies his dignity as Archbishop, a dignity to which the Almighty had raised him against all his expectations, and it is also an emblem of the victory which he won over the world, the flesh and Satan. It is especially related in the history of his life that at his death several pious persons saw him ascend toward heaven with an olive branch in his hand. The Almighty, who often honors in this world those who endeavor to glorify His name, made St. Norbert greatly famed through the whole Christian world, by the many and most wonderful miracles wrought at his intercession.

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    Practical Considerations


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    St. Norbert defended the real presence of Christ in the holy Eucharist, and exhorted the people to pay greater honors to the divine mystery and to receive it more frequently. You, without doubt, believe all that the true Church teaches of this sacrament. But do you honor it duly and receive it frequently? How do you conduct yourself in the church where it is kept? Can one conclude from your behavior that you believe in your heart what your lips profess? I cannot: for when I perceive that you are too indolent to bend your knees before the Blessed Sacrament, that you cast your eyes hither and thither, talk, laugh and jest. I must suppose that you do not really believe in the presence of Jesus Christ, your Saviour and Judge; or I must think that your deeds belie your words. Of the faith of the devils St. James says: "The devils believe and tremble" (James ii.). Is it possible that you do not fear and tremble in the presence of your God and Judge? Must not one conclude from it, that your faith is worse than that of the devils? And what have you to say in regard to your receiving the blessed Sacrament? How often does it take place? With how much devotion? What is your preparation for it? How long and in what state of mind do you prepare for it? How long does your thanksgiving after Communion last? Examine carefully your conscience, and resolve to do better in all those points in which you find yourself deficient.

     "Flee from evil and do good." Thus spoke the voice from above in answer to Norbert's question: "Lord what dost thou wish me to do?" To this voice, Norbert yielded obedience until the end of his life, and went thus into the home of a happy eternity in heaven. Eternal are the joys, eternal are the honors and possessions of the inhabitants of heaven. They never end, but endure to all eternity. Oh! how great must be the happiness, to dwell forever in heaven! A Saint is free from all pain forever, from all sorrow, all fear, all anxiety! A Saint has an everlasting abundance of all imaginable and more than imaginable joys. A Saint enjoys the society of other Saints, nay even the sight of God Himself, and all this without end. He is happy for evermore, ceaselessly happy! How different is the happiness of the happiest man in this world! It is short, uncertain, never unalloyed, always accompanied by fear or grief and soon passes away. On the contrary, the bliss of heaven is certain, perfect, free from all sadness or fear and is everlasting, unending. As many years will pass as there are grains of sand on the sea-shore, atoms of dust in the air, drops of water in the ocean, and yet the happiness of a Saint will not be ended, it will be still as great as when he first entered heaven.

    But for whom is such a happy eternity prepared in heaven? For you, my reader, for myself, for all human beings; for, we are all created to go to heaven. Those who do not go thither will not have fulfilled God's commandments. What are His commandments? Read what the voice from heaven said to Norbert: "Turn from evil and do good." Obey this voice and you will surely go into eternal bliss. Or tell me, does God ask too much for a happy eternity? "No work which repays us with everlasting glory ought to be too hard for us, no time ought to seem too long," says St. Jerome. What then will you do? Oh! turn from evil and do good.
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    Litany in Honor of St. Norbert


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    Lord, have mercy upon us.
     Christ, have mercy upon us.
     Lord, have mercy upon us.
     Christ hear us.
     Christ, graciously hear us.
     God, the Father of Heaven,
     Have mercy, on us.
     God, the Son, Redeemer of the world,
     Have mercy on us.
     God, the Holy Ghost,
     Have mercy on us.
     Holy Trinity, one God,
     Have mercy on us.


     Holy Mary,
    Pray for us. *

     Holy Mother of God, *
     Holy Virgin of virgins, *
     Queen of the White-robed Order, *
     Thou who hadst a great love for Saint Norbert, *
     Holy Father Norbert, *
     St. Norbert, whose birth was foretold from Heaven, *
     St. Norbert, who wast marvelously converted by God, *
     St. Norbert, mirror of true penance, *
     St. Norbert, who didst trample earthly pomps under foot, *
     St. Norbert, despiser of the world, *
     St. Norbert, who didst conquer thy passions and affections, *
     St. Norbert, who didst gain the victory over temptations, *
     St. Norbert, who didst quell and cast down devils, *
     St. Norbert, restorer of peace and concord, *
     St. Norbert, who didst walk barefoot, *
     St. Norbert, who didst practice mortification, *
     St. Norbert, lover of the Cross, *
     St. Norbert, pattern of abstinence, *
     St. Norbert, most strict observer of fasting, *
     St. Norbert, who didst thyself practice and teach silence, *
     St. Norbert, who didst receive the white habit from the Mother of God, *
     St. Norbert, most constant in faith, *
     St. Norbert, most firm in hope, *
     St. Norbert, most fervent in charity, *
     St. Norbert, zealous lover of chastity, *
     St. Norbert, model of poverty, *
     St. Norbert, mirror of obedience, *
     St. Norbert, vigilant teacher of discipline, *
     St. Norbert, defender of the true faith, *
     St. Norbert, pillar of the Catholic Church, *
     St. Norbert, flower of sanctity and brightness of all virtue, *
     St. Norbert, light of prayer and contemplation, *
     St. Norbert, pattern of perfection, *
     St. Norbert, leader of the white-robed army, *
     St. Norbert, patriarch of the Premonstratensians, *
     St. Norbert, father and protector of thy Order, *
     St. Norbert, Primate of Germany, *
     St. Norbert, worker of miracles, *
     St. Norbert, wonderful discerner of spirits, *
     St. Norbert, imitator of Jesus Christ, *
     St. Norbert, follower of the Apostles, *
     St. Norbert, who wast like to the Martyrs, *
     St. Norbert, gem of Pontiffs, *
     St. Norbert, glory of Confessors, *
     St. Norbert, companion of Virgins, *
     St. Norbert, colleague of all Saints, *

     Be merciful,
     Spare us, O Lord.
     Be merciful,
     Graciously hear us, O Lord.


     From the neglect of Thy commandments,
    Deliver us, O Lord. **

     From the transgression of our vows, **
     From uncleanness of mind and body, **
     From the spirit of fornication, **
     From a proud and sad spirit, **
     From the snares of the devil, **
     From overwhelming temptation, **
     From the disorder of our passions, **
     From the blindness of self-love, **
     From the obstinacy of self-will, **
     From an evil and unprovided death, **
     Through the wonderful conversion of St. Norbert, **
     Through his austere penance, **
     Through his ardent zeal in preaching, **
     Through his exemplary life, **
     Through all his virtues, **
     Through his holy death, **
     Through his wonderful translation, **
     Through his glorious crown in Heaven, **
     Through his merits and intercession, **


     We sinners: Beseech Thee, hear us.
     That Thou wouldst grant us true sorrow and contrition of heart,
    We beseech Thee, hear us. ***

     That Thou wouldst bestow upon us perfect mortification of our senses and of our own will, ***
     That Thou wouldst grant us a true conversion of life, ***
     That Thou wouldst make faith, hope and charity to grow in us, ***
     That Thou wouldst grant us the gift of prayer, ***
     That Thou wouldst bestow upon us the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, ***
     That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to govern and preserve Thy Holy Church, ***
     That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to extend and preserve the Premonstratensian Order, ***
     That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to strengthen the Abbot-General and all the Abbots of the Order with perfect spirit, ***
     That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to grant us the crown of perseverance, ***
     That Thou wouldst give grace to the living and to the departed eternal rest, ***


     Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
     Spare us, O Lord.

     Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
     Graciously hear us, O Lord.

     Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
     Have mercy on us.

     Christ, hear us.
     Christ, graciously hear us.
     Lord, have mercy upon us.
     Christ, have mercy upon us.
     Lord, have mercy upon us.

     Our Father (secretly).

     V. And lead us not into temptation.
     R. But deliver us from evil.
     V. Pray for us, O holy Father Norbert:
     R. That we may be made zvorthy of the promises of Christ.
     V. O Lord, hear my prayer:
     R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
     V. The Lord be with you:
     R. And with thy spirit.


     Let us pray:

    O God, Who didst make of blessed Norbert, Thy Confessor and Bishop, an excellent preacher of the Word, and by his means didst enrich Thy Church with new offspring: grant, we beseech Thee, that through his intercession we may put in practice by Thy grace what he taught us, both in word and work. Through Christ Our Lord. R. Amen.

    Awake, O Lord, in Thy Church the Spirit by Whom St. Norbert, Thy Confessor and Bishop was guided, in order that, filled with the same Spirit, we may love what he loved and live as he taught us.

    O Lord, grant to us Thy servant's constancy in Thy faith and service, that, rooted in Divine charity, we may not be conquered by any temptation. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen. Praised by Jesus Christ. Amen.
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    Saint Norbert, Bishop and Confessor
    (from the Liturgical Year, 1904)



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    The helpful influence of the Holy Ghost is more and more multiplied, along the Church's path. It seems as though He would show us today, how the divine power of His action is not crippled by lapse of years: for here we have, twelve centuries after his first coming among us, miracles of grace and conversion quite as brilliant as those that marked His glorious descent upon earth.

    Norbert, in whose veins flowed the best blood of emperors and kings, was, from the very breast of his mother, Hedwige, supernaturally invited to a nobility loftier still: yet did he devote, to the unreserved enjoyment of pleasure, three and thirty years of a life that was to number but fifty in all. The Holy Ghost at length hastened to the conquest. There bursts a sudden storm, a thunderbolt falls right in front of the prodigal, throwing him to the ground and making a frightful chasm, between him and the point whither, a moment ago, he was hastening in pursuit of new vanities that needs must fail, as all others had done, to fill the hopeless void in his heart. Then, in the very depths of his soul resounds a voice, such as Saul once heard on his way to Damascus: "Norbert, whither goest thou?" Like another Paul he replies: " Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? " He is answered: " Depart from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it." Twenty years later, and Norbert is in heaven, seated amidst pontiffs, upon a glorious throne, and all radiant with that special brilliancy, that distinguishes the Founders of the great Religious Orders, when they have reached the eternal Home.

    Deep are the traces left by him on earth, of his few years of penitential life. Germany and France receive his preaching; Antwerp is delivered from a shameful heresy; Magdeburg is rescued by this her Archbishop, from the irregularities that were sullying the House of God: such are his works; and though these alone would have sufficed to a long life of holiness, yet they are not the only titles, nor the most brilliant which Norbert has to the Church's gratitude. Before being called, against his will, to the honours of the episcopate, this once gay courtier, made choice of an uninhabitable solitude amidst the forests of the diocese of Laon, wherein to devote himself to prayer and to the maceration of his flesh. The renown of this holy penitent gained rapidly; and Premontre soon beheld her swampy marshes invaded by a vast multitude, formed of the fairest names of picked nobility, pressing thither to learn the science of salvation, from the lips of the saintly anchorite. There too, did Our Lady show to him, in vision, the white habit wherewith his disciples were to be clothed; and Saint Augustine, in like manner, delivered to him his own Rule. Thus was founded the most illustrious branch of the Order of Canons Regular. They add to the obligation of solemnizing the Divine Office, the austerities of an uninterrupted penance; and devote themselves, moreover, to the service of souls, by preaching and the administration of parishes.

    In the foregoing century, the episcopacy and papacy had been raised by the monks, from out the reach of feudal servitude; and Norbert was now raised up, to give the needed completion to their work. Although, on principle, the monastic life excludes no sort of labour useful to the Church, the monks could not (however numerous they might be) quit their cloisters, in order to undertake charge of souls. Yet, great were the wants of the lambs of the flock, at that time, for many unworthy pastors of secondary order, slaves to simony and immorality, still continued to lead astray the simple laity. The religious life was alone capable of raising the priesthood from such degradation, whether on the pinnacles of the hierarchy or amongst the lowest degrees of sacred Orders. Norbert was the man chosen by God to effect, in part at least, this immense work: and the importance of his mission explains the sublime prodigality wherewith the Holy Ghost multiplied vocations to his standard. The number and rapidity of foundations, permitted succour to be promptly and everywhere afforded. Even into the far East did the light of Premontre reach, almost at its first dawn. In the eighteenth century, notwithstanding the devastations of the Turks and the ravages of the pretended Reform, the Order, divided into twenty-eight provinces, still contained, in nearly each one of its houses, as many as from fifty to one hundred and twenty Canons; and the parishes that continued under their care, might be counted by thousands.

    Nuns, whose holy life and prayers are the ornament and aid of the Church militant, occupied from the very beginning, the place deservedly their due in this numerous family. In the time of the founder, or soon after his death, there were more than a thousand of them, at Premontre alone. Such an incredible sum gives us an idea of the prodigious propagation of the Order, from its very origin. Norbert moreover extended his charity to persons, who like Thibault Count of Champagne, would gladly have followed him into the desert, but who were retained by God's will in the world; he thus made a prelude to those pious associations, which we shall see Saint Francis and Saint Dominic organizing, in the thirteenth century, under the name of "Third Orders."

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    The Liturgy thus condenses the life of this great servant of God:



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    Norbert, born of parents of the highest rank, thoroughly educated in his youth, in worldly knowledge, and then a member of the imperial court, turned his back upon the glory of the world, and chose rather to enlist himself as a soldier of the Church. Being ordained priest, he laid aside all soft and showy raiment, clad himself in a coat of skins, and made the preaching of the word of God the one object of his life. Having renounced the ecclesiastical revenues which he possessed and which were very considerable, he distributed likewise his patrimony among the poor. He ate only once a day and that in the evening, and then his meal was of Lenten fare. His life was of singular austerity, and he was used even in the depth of winter, to go out with bare feet and ragged garments. Hence came that mighty power of his words and whereby he was enabled to turn countless heretics to the faith, sinners to repentance, and enemies to peace and concord.

    Being at Laon, the bishop besought him not to leave his diocese, and he therefore made choice of a wilderness, at a place called Premontre, whither he withdrew himself with thirteen disciples, and thus he founded the Order of Premonstratensians, whereof he received the Rule in a holy vision, from Saint Augustine. When, however, the fame of his holy life became every day more and more noised abroad, and great numbers sought to become his disciples, and the Order had been approved by Honorius II. and other Popes, many more monasteries were built by him, and the Institute wonderfully extended.

    Being called to Antwerp, he there gave the deathblow to the shameful heresy of Tauchelin. He was remarkable for the spirit of prophecy and for the gift of miracles. He was created, (albeit against his will,) archbishop of Magdeburg, and as such, was a strong upholder of the discipline of the Church, especially as regards celibacy. At a council held at Rheims, he was a great help to Innocent II, and went with other bishops to Rome, where he repressed the schism of Peter de Leon. At last, this man of God full of good works and of the Holy Ghost, fell asleep the Lord, at Magdeburg, in the year of Salvation eleven hundred and thirty four, on the sixth day of June.

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    Prayer:


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    Thou didst indeed know how to redeem the time (Eph. v. 16), as was fitting in those evil days, wherein thou thyself, O Norbert, led away by the example of the senseless crowd, hadst for so long frustrated the designs of God's love. Those years, at first refused by thee to the true Master of the world, thou didst at length return unto Him, multiplied a hundredfold, through those countless sons and daughters thou didst train up in sanctity. Even thy personal works, in but twenty years' space, filled the whole earth. Schism crushed; heresy confounded to the glory of the Most Holy Sacrament which it had already dared to attack; the rights of the Church, intrepidly defended against worldly princes and unjust retentions; the priesthood restored to its primitive purity; the Christian life strengthened on its true basis, namely prayer and penance; such and so many victories achieved in so few years, are due to the generosity which prevented thee from looking back, for one moment, from the day where in the Holy Ghost touched thy heart. Do thou make all understand that it is never too late to begin to serve God. Were it even, as in thy case, the evening-fall of life, what yet remains of time would quite suffice to make us saints, if we would but generously give that little, fully to Heaven (1 St. Pet. iv. 2).

    Faith and Patience were thy cherished virtues; make them flourish once more, in this sad world of ours, which vaunts itself on doubting of everything, and with gibe and jeer hurries onward to the abyss of hell. Forget not, dear Apostle, now that thou art in heaven, the countries thou didst formerly evangelize: we implore this of thee, despite their forgetfulness, despite their criminal return to the deceits of the devil.

    Holy Pontiff, Magdeburg has lost her ancient faith, and therewith, the precious relics of thy body, which she no longer deserved to possess: Prague is now the favoured spot of thy repose. But, whilst blessing this hospitable city, pray still for the ungrateful one that has cast aside her double treasure. O thou Founder of Premontre, smile once more on France, who derives from thee one of her fairest glories. Obtain of God, that for the salvation of these calamitous times, thine Order may recover something of its former splendour. Bless, few as they are, those sons and daughters of thine who, despite the ridiculous hostility of the powers that be, seek to shed once more their beneficent influence on France. May our own England benefit also of their return to her midst, and may their fruits be multiplied in every direction. Maintain thine own spirit among them; may they find in interior peace, the secret of triumph over Satan and his crew; may the full magnificence of the divine worship solemnly carried out, be ever unto their souls, as the dearly loved mount, whence Moses like, they may declare the Will of the Lord, unto the new Israel, the Christain people.
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    Prayer to Saint Norbert


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    Ever silently repeating,
     "Love for Thee, and Thee alone;"
     Ever, 'mid dark shadows, meeting
     Starlight from Our Lady's throne;

    Ever on her Aves dwelling
     When the foes grew loud and strong;
     Ever from his heart was swelling
     Mary's praise in one sweet song.

    O St. Norbert, may thy spirit
     Live in us till Mary's hand
     Lead thy children home--for ever
     Sheltered in the changeless land.


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    Offline congaudeant

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    Re: St. Norbert
    « Reply #1 on: June 07, 2017, 11:55:23 AM »
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  • I've always had an interest in the Norbertines after reading about a particular priest of that order. Thanks for posting this.
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