Order of Premontre, Premonstratensians, Norbertines, and White Canons

03 Chapters 12-19

03 Chapters 12-19

Chapter 12:  Search for Relics / Floreffe / First Profession / A Church for Prémontré

Father Norbert came then to Cologne and was welcomed with joy by the people who flocked to hear him preach and confess to him. They knew him previously as a youth and now they saw him wondrously changed. Many, on hearing his words, followed him then and there and became imitators of the poverty of Christ.

At that time he wanted to build a church in which he could receive those he brought together. For this reason he petitioned Archbishop Frederick and other prominent men to see if he could take some holy relics for patron saints. From ancient times the holy city of Cologne abounded with such relics. The bishop gave his consent; the clergy and people agreed, considering the man's request to be reasonable.

Norbert imposed a fast on the confreres who were with him and commended this quest to God in the hope that He would let him find a venerable patron saint. That night there was revealed to one of these confreres in a vision a virgin, one of the eleven thousand virgins. The name of the virgin and the place of the mausoleum in which she was buried were also revealed. The next day, as pointed out in the vision, the body was sought and found complete in the place intended. This body was then taken up with hymns of thanks and praise. then two reliquaries were filled with the relics of the other virgins, the Holy Martyrs of the Theban Legion, the Holy Moors, as well as the two Ewalds.

On the following day, he asked the Provost and the Canons of St. Gereon for relics. They gave him permission to look for them in their church and take them along with him. Norbert rejoiced and carefully commended this undertaking to God through the entire night as he was accustomed to do. When morning came he ordered them to dig in the middle of the monastery where there was no indication of a tomb. There a complete body without a head was found. The body had been buried with honor and great care. There was a valuable grave stone placed at the level of the ground, not deep, but covered by the thin marble of the pavement. The body was wrapped in green cloth which had been damaged by age. There was a large cross of gold embroidery resting on his chest over his robe. The body was dressed like a soldier with leggings and spurs. The head was cut off from the upper lip. Grass sod, which had been dampened by blood, lay between the body and the bottom of the sarcophagus.

When the canons and the vast number of people who had gathered saw this, they said: "This is our master and venerable patron, St. Gereon, who has been sought for many years both by us and our predecessors but could not be found because of our sins." Shouting out joyfully in a loud voice they gave thanks to God and extolled this worthy man to God through whom so great and so long desired a treasure deserved to be found. No on should doubt that it was St. Gereon. The evidence of his identity lay in the fact that the narrative of his death and martyrdom records that part and not all of his head was cut off. It was known that the head had been thrown by the pagans into a well which was between the sanctuary and the nave of the church. Over the mouth of the well an altar was dedicated in his honor but they didn't know where the rest of the body was. Therefore the holy body was properly exhumed. Part was given to the man of God but the rest was solemnly reinterred by the clergy and people.

Not long after, taking up the relics and gathering the confreres, both lay and cleric, whom he had begotten for God through his preaching,[63] Norbert set out on his return trip. Everywhere congregations honorably welcomed him in their churches.

A certain noblewoman by the name of Ermesindis, the Countess of Namur, hearing that Norbert was passing through, quickly hastened to meet him and eagerly requested that he accept a church in the village of Floreffe[64] and there install members of his religious community. For some time she had desired to establish a religious community in that church for the salvation of her own soul and those of her forebears. Norbert considered the loving devotion of the woman and undertook what she requested.

Leaving behind one of the two reliquaries, Norbert hurried on to Prémontré because Christmas was close at hand. He had with him about thirty novices, both cleric and lay. Gathering these together with others whom he had earlier assembled, morning and evening he preached the saving word, encouraging them with comforting words not to fall away from their good intention and the voluntary poverty which they had undertaken. Whatever he taught them he demonstrated through his own works as an eagle calls its young to flight.[65]  His exhortations were not about the earth nor did they hold out anything earthly but, as a dove after taking wing, he flew to rest, and, for the most part caught up in ecstasy, made his hearers take flight after the example of the prophet, saying: "I shall take on wings as a dove and I shall fly and I shall rest."[66]

Some of those who followed Norbert believed that what they heard from him was sufficient for salvation and therefore they needed neither a rule nor structure of life. But Norbert, who was prudent and circumspect, lest his holy institute falter[67] in the future and the foundation, which he intended to place on solid rock,[68] totter, advised them that without a structure of life and without a rule and without the instructions of the Fathers, the apostolic and evangelical precepts could not be completely observed. The confreres, like sheep following their shepherd in simplicity, promised to obey him in all the things he proposed.

Indeed many religious men, both bishops and abbots, had advised him in various ways, one suggesting the eremitic life, another that of an anchorite, still another to take up the lifestyle of the Cistercians. But Norbert, whose work and plans depended on heaven, entrusted his foundation neither to himself nor to others but rather to Him who is the beginning of all things. He pondered these many things in his heart but he and those who wished to live with him had been dedicated since their youth, Norbert ordered that the rule be accepted which the Blessed Augustine had established for his followers. The apostolic life which he had undertaken by his preaching he now hoped to live. He had heard that this way of life was ordained and renewed by this same blessed man after the apostles. By the profession of this rule then, on Christmas Day at Prémontré, one by one they voluntarily enrolled themselves into that city of blessed eternity.

Afterwards individuals gave their own explanations and interpretations of this rule and their opinions were diverse. Because Norbert's writings and the works of other religious did not seem to agree, this led some to fear, some to doubt, others to be indifferent, inasmuch as the foundation was not yet well rooted. "Why are you surprised?" said the man of God, or "Why are you hesitant, since all the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth?[69]  Although diverse, are they contrary to one another? If the practice or the institution is changed, ought the bond of charity to be changed, which is love? Indeed the rule says: 'Let God be loved first, then neighbor.'[70]  The institute alone does not bring about the reign of God, but rather truth and the observance of the commands of God. Therefore the fact that this rule clearly binds in regard to love, work, abstinence from food, clothing, silence, obedience, regarding one another with respect and honoring one's father, what is there that would be of further use for any religious in order to obtain salvation? But if there should arise any contention regarding color or thickness or thinness of clothing, let them, who have the power to decide in this regard, make a decision. Let them show from the rule, from the institution of the gospel and apostles where whiteness and blackness or thinness or thickness is described and let the matter be settled.

One thing is certain, however; the angels who were the witnesses of the resurrection are said to have appeared in white,[71] and by the authority and practice of the Church, penitents wear wool. Likewise in the Old Testament, it was customary to go out among the people in woolen garments but, in the sanctuary, by precept, linen garments were in use.[72]  After the example of the angels it seems that white should be worn, and as a sign of penance woolen garments should be worn next to the skin. But in the sanctuary of God and during the divine services linen should be worn.

Those who have gathered around Norbert from the beginning gave scarcely any care or concern for corporal things. Rather, they focused all their effort on spiritual things, on following the Sacred Scriptures and Christ as their leader. Father Norbert encouraged and assured them that those who wished to remain with him could never go wrong if they put into practice the profession they made according to the gospels, the words of the apostles and the rule of St. Augustine. Hence they were not ashamed of the poverty of their clothing, nor did they offer any difficulty in obedience; they kept perpetual silence in every place and at all times. When convicted of excesses, they fell to the ground to humble themselves. They avoided harsh glances and unkind words even toward delinquents. Norbert wanted his confreres to mortify the body with fasting, and restrain the spirit in humility. As mentioned before, he wanted his confreres to use woolen undergarments, and woolen garments for work; he wanted them always to wear linen breeches,[73] although he himself wore rough haircloth. But in the sanctuary and wherever the Blessed Sacrament was to be handled or celebrated, he wanted them to use linen on account of cleanliness and respect. This last he decreed to be done at all times.

Frequently he recommended the observance of three things, namely, cleanliness about the altar and the divine mysteries, correction of excesses and negligences in chapter and elsewhere, hospitality and care of the poor. At the altar, one exhibits faith and love of God; in the cleansing of one's conscience, care of oneself; in the reception of guests and the poor, love of neighbor. Indeed Norbert never ceased to insist that no house could ever suffer want beyond what it could bear if it carefully tended to these three things.

One day he was returning from Rheims with some of his companions, and two novices whom he had attracted by his preaching of the Divine Word. As they were walking along the road in silence, reflecting on God, a voice from the clouds sounded in their ears: "This is the community of Brother Norbert." To which another voice on the side responded: "One of these novices is not in the community." Norbert, as well as the others, heard this. They considered the matter in silence suspecting nothing evil; nevertheless they were in doubt about what ought to be done.

But Father Norbert, who was the most concerned, knew that it was not without purpose that God allowed these voices to be heard, and carefully sought in prayer the cause of this event. Meanwhile he considered the deeds and actions of those about whom the voices had been heard. When he considered that one of them was less devout in his confession, frivolous in his speech, restless in his behavior, inconstant in his practices, tepid in prayer, neglectful in obedience - he was an Englishman - he said: "What is it, brother, that you bear in your heart? Reveal what lies hidden. If you seek God, no creature is hidden from Him, because as the apostle says, everything is uncovered and open to His eyes.[74]  We seek the truth and, according as it is granted to human frailty, we strive to walk in the truth. There is no agreement of truth with falsehood, nor any participation of the faithful with the unfaithful.[75]  The man shook his head and answered flippantly. "Do you think, good Father, that I want to steal something from you? You are poor; but to everyone who has it will be given and in abundance. But from him who does not have even what he seems to have will be taken away from him."[76]  He said this and fulfilled his words by his action. At that time it happened that a man who had come to conversion had brought a little money along with what little he had. The money lay tucked behind the altar of the poor oratory which was all they had at the time. One night, the Englishman, foreseeing that the hour was suitable for him, fled with the money. Thus deceitfully he increased the poverty of the poor of Christ, who suspected nothing evil. As a result there was not enough for them to procure supplies for a day.

After many confreres had joined Father Norbert, a permanent place of residence had to be prepared. The location was very rough and altogether uncultivated, set with brush and swamps and other inconveniences. There was no place suitable at hand for living except the little chapel and the orchard next to it as well as a small pond fed, as it is today, with water coming from the mountains when it rains and from the moisture of the swamps.

While the man of God remained there with his companions in prayer awaiting the consolation of God, one of them received a clear and unmistakable revelation. He reported this vision to the man of God, namely that he had seen in a section of the property Our Lord Jesus Christ on a cross, and above Him seven rays of the sun shone with a marvelous brightness. A great multitude of pilgrims with their scrips and staffs hastened from the four corners of the earth and, after adoring their redeemer on bended knee and kissing his feet, they returned home. When he heard this the man of God gave thanks to the Lord.

Later he called Bartholomew, Bishop of Laon, to come and consecrate the foundation which had been dug and to consecrate the stones which were the beginnings of the church. Among those present were Thomas, Lord of Coucy,[77] who, for the sake of God, feared and respected Norbert. Also present were his son Engelrand[78] still a boy, many nobles, clergy and laity, and a large multitude of people who wondered and spoke among themselves saying: "Who do you think this man is or of what faith that he doesn't use reason? Do you think this work is sound which is placed in such a wilderness and the foundation of which is not laid on rock or solid ground but in a swamp?" Such was the swamp that it could scarcely be absorbed even when a mass of rocks was thrown in. Nevertheless this foundation ought not totter nor be uprooted because a foundation which the Heavenly Father establishes will not be uprooted.[79]

Some of the stonemasons were German, some French. They vied with one another as they hastened on with the work, the Germans on one side of the Church, and the French on the other. The building grew very quickly, and was completed in nine months and consecrated by Bishop Bartholomew. But because sad events are usually mixed with happy ones and the adverse with the favorable, a misfortune occurred on the very day of consecration. When the great crowd, which had gathered for the feast day, was pressing forward for the offertory into the area surrounding the altar, as was customary, the main altar moved and the stone broke and the consecration was voided, according to law, and all the work brought to nothing.

Norbert was startled and saddened, fearing more the scandal of the weak than lacking trust in the work of God which does not happen without a reason. Nevertheless, he recouped his strength in the Lord of Consolation. He secretly arranged with the bishop a day for the rededication of the church, the Octave day of St. Martin.[80]  And so it happened. For this reason, as long as he lived, Norbert claimed that another dedication would have to be carried out at a future time.


Chapter 13:   Challenges of Satan

Afterward, Norbert, according to his practice, went out to preach. During his absence the ancient enemy laid many snares for the confreres who remained at Prémontré. Satan presented himself, along with his companions, to some of the confreres in broad daylight as an armed band, in the guise of those whom they had left behind in the world as mortal enemies. But they were terrified by the crash of arms and neighing of horses and fought back in whatever manner they could. Taking up clubs and rocks they fled; they also hastened to resist with their arms wrapped in their tunics or whatever was at hand. The fight was so bitter and so strange that they thought they were throwing weapons and weapons were being thrown at them; that they struck and were struck; were wounding and were wounded; were killing and were killed. when many other confreres came running toward them, reproving them for acting like madmen, they said: "Don't you see that we are oppressed by our enemy and, almost cut to pieces, that we are dying to our everlasting shame?" Then the confreres realized that these men had been deceived by an attack of demons. They sprinkled holy water, made the sign of the cross and, as the crowd of malignant spirits took to flight, the others pursued them, running swiftly as though the enemy were conquered and put to flight. They shouted after them loudly: "Hey, hey! Come back and resist, otherwise you will die a most shameful death if you ever dare to approach again." Later some of these confreres, coming to their senses and realizing that they had been deceived, henceforth persevered courageously. And they were victorious. But others, not able to bear the ignominy of such derision, went away struck by the sting of the demon's tail.

The demon advanced against the same confreres with another type of deceit. Certain ones, whom he once used as the instruments of his will, he filled with such fraud, that those who previously could scarcely read anything in a book, now were saying marvelous things regarding books and prophesying great and wonderous things about the future. One of them asserted that he knew the prophecy of Daniel. He spoke, with the assistance of the Liar, about the passage where the prophet writes about four and seven and ten horns[81] and about kings and the Antichrist.[82]  He drew the attention of some rather simple souls and, if it could have been done, would have even led into error that man of God, Simon, the venerable abbot of St. Nicholas.[83]  His arrogance had even grown to the degree that he presumed to give a sermon in chapter to those in attendance. He began with the words: "Be bold in war and fight with the ancient serpent;" but at the conclusion, "and you will receive an eternal kingdom"[84] he was not able to continue.

Meanwhile a cleric, who was an instrument of this evil work, was suddenly seized by an infirmity. He, who before spoke only about visible things, now presumed to lift his voice to heaven to speak of the invisible and ineffable. The confreres ran to anoint him and to hear what he was saying. He claimed great things about himself, but even greater things about those around him. He claimed about himself: that he, that very evening, would either be with the angels in heaven or would be standing healthy with the rest of the confreres in choir. But about the others, as though auguring or prophesying, he said: "When I was recently in ecstasy, I saw one man called to eternity; another one was placed on a throne of happiness, still another one's couch was set with the same joy; this one a future bishop; another a rector and master of many religious; this one to persevere in his good intention; that other one, failing, will depart." After saying this he behaved as though about to breathe his last. Then, after the space of an hour, he heard the call for vespers; he suddenly arose and, walking swiftly entered the choir with the others. When those present saw this they realized with shame that they had been fooled.

The evil enemy likewise stirred up another confrere. Like the one concerning the prophecy of Daniel, this one professed that he knew about John's Apocalypse and how to probe the secrets of heaven. The prior was notified of this where he was working and through him, the convent. They returned in order to hear what these new events were. The man, whose name was Reinald, was sitting there flushed like one drunk. Another, whose name was Burchard, was sitting there weeping inconsolably. When he was asked the cause of such great grief he said: "My good brothers, look, my rival here intended my death and should you check his bed the instrument of my death will be found." There was a search and under each man's bed were found signs of hatred, namely a knife of some length and a large club. When these things were brought into the convent the prior said to them: "Brothers - would that you were brothers! - The disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, who were instructed and illumined by the Holy Spirit lacked envy and hatred. For the Holy Spirit is the spirit of concord, not discord; the spirit of peace, not of dissension. It is now clear from which source you have drawn evil and not good, bitter and not sweet. Hence in the name of the Lord we impose silence on you, for we shall not hear you until our Father Norbert returns." Thus the confreres were cautioned against this and other such things.


Chapter 14:   Satanic Possessions

Some time later Satan seized upon a young man, the son of a lay brother, and began to torment him wickedly. The confreres, amazed and wondering at the assaults and their frequency, tied and locked up the possessed man until they could consult. In the silence of the night when the prior wanted to go to him, although the doors were still closed, the demon within began to shout in a loud voice: "Now he will come in to me, now he will come in to me. Here he comes. Here comes the master with the patched tunic. Let him be cursed! Lock the door, lock it as quickly as possible lest he approach me." The prior did not stop but, knocking on the door, entered and, standing before him, asked: "What are you saying?" He answered "Are you asking me what I am saying or who am I who speak? I will tell you neither. Surely you are not the master of this man or his protector or a teacher of the others? Go away," he said, "go away as quickly as possible, lest you depart shamefully injured by me." The prior was certain that this was an evil spirit and that he had very frequently come to deceive, but now to destroy. He said: "I command you through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who on the cross overcame the snares and power by which you unjustly and fraudulently held man captive. Christ rightly took that power back, so that you may not presume to hide who you are." The devil responded: "Surely you do force me thus?" The prior answered: "Not I; He forces you who at another time conquered you, as I've said." And the demon shouting out said: "Woe is me! What shall I do? I am the one who was in the girl at Nivelles in the presence of your master Norbert, the white dog. Cursed be the hour in which he was born!"[85]

At these words the prior called the confreres together. Humbly they undertook corporal discipline and gave themselves over to fasting and prayer. Next they approached the demon with holy water. Therefore he began to growl and shout out noisily: "Let them come to this battle for we are many and we will crush them as grains are crushed by a millstone and we will completely destroy them." The prior responded: "You will do so only if you have received the power". The devil said, with hands outstretched towards him: "Do you think you are their master?" And with fingers extended toward their cross, he continued: "He is the master, not you. For you we do nothing, but He is the one by whom I am tormented." For the demons acknowledge and fear our Lord Jesus Christ crucified. The Jews and false Christians do not recognize Him but rather curse and laugh at Him.

Finally the man in whom the evil spirit resided was freed. But although he could scarcely be controlled by many, a young cleric of the community, humbly bold yet truly obedient, said: "Command me through obedience and I will hold him not with my own hands but with the hands and shackles of obedience." When he had been given the command and the others had departed, he alone held the possessed man and led him, trembling at the very sight of him, to the holy water. He was placed in the holy water, while the exorcisms and gospels were read. Kneeling, the confreres prayed and cried aloud, while imposing on themselves various physical disciplines. Finally, after the man's body had been excessively tormented, the demon appeared sitting on the man's tongue like a grain of very black lentil. With open mouth and tongue stretched out, he showed himself to everyone standing there and said: "Look at me! I will not leave today for any of you." To which the prior's response was: "You are a liar from the beginning and no one should ever believe in you."[86]  Shortly thereafter the devil left, leaving an intolerably foul stench. Freed of its tormentor, the body immediately collapsed onto its sickbed. Only after a long rest did the man barely recover from his illness.

Now at that time a confrere of commendable holiness was stationed at the gate to give alms and welcome guests with a prayer. One night while he was lying on his bed, which for everyone consisted of fern, Satan came to him. He was unable to sleep and Satan was roaring and sometimes grunting and rolling the fern around the confrere's feet. This happened three nights in a row. On the advice of the prior, when Satan came on that third night, the confrere said: "Wretched and most miserable one! You were the Light Bearer. You rose in the morning,[87] dwelt in the delights of Paradise but, when this was not sufficient and you said 'I shall place my throne in the North, I shall be like the Most High',[88] you lost what you were, exchanging darkness for light, misery for happiness, choosing the stench of pigs for a place of delights. A worthy and suitable exchange! There is no place for you here. Be like the pigs rolling yourself in the stench of the sewers awaiting the time of the judgement of the dead in places that stink." The tempter departed in confusion, and did not approach this confrere again in any visible form. The evil spirit is confounded and shamed when the delights which he lost are cast up to him. He panics and trembles when the threats and terrors of the coming judgement are mentioned. Hence the custom of the Holy Church has developed that the concluding words of all exorcisms are: "I exorcise you through Him who will come to judge the living and the dead[89] and the world by fire."

Therefore when the malicious enemy had harassed the confreres many times over, and found no place for deception among the simple, he crossed over with no difficulty to Maastricht[90] where Father Norbert was. Satan seized upon a man who was the steward of a prince. Just then an annual celebration was taking place in the town and the priest of God, Norbert, celebrated Mass in the principal church there for a great crowd of people. The demoniac, growling horribly, was scarcely able to be held in control. After the celebration of the Mass he was brought to Norbert with much encouragement from the people who were present. Still clothed in the sacred vestments and, even more, girded with the strength of the Holy Spirit, Norbert approached to do battle with this most troublesome enemy. Some of the confreres asked him to spare his own health since it was now evening and they said this was a chance incident and that not all cases could be helped. He was disturbed by this and sternly rejected their proposal saying: "You are not aware, brothers, that through the envy of the devil death has entered the world. Death has continued in the world and has no intention of leaving. Indeed Satan inflicts himself on the world so frequently and in such a troublesome way that I grow angry. He makes the Word of God, which is ministered through me, grow worthless in the hearts of those who hear it. Although he is clearly unable to do so, through his innate arrogance, he secretly strives to take this Word away from those who have received it. Haven't you heard the words of the Lord, Who says that "the devil comes to take the seed of the Word of God from their hearts?"[91]

After he said this the possessed man was placed before the altar and Norbert began the exorcism compelling the demon to leave. When the priest had placed the blessed salt on his mouth, the man lunged forward and spat in his face, saying: "You have suggested that I be placed in water and beaten with harsh whips almost to the point of death. Your efforts are in vain. Your whips do not harm me, your threats do not frighten me, death does not torture nor do the chains of death bind me." The suggestion had indeed been made that he be placed in holy water although the raging man didn't hear it. When therefore the clergy and people were standing around - some out of curiosity, some out of piety - the evil demon, through the mouth of the possessed man, began to reveal the reprobate lives of many, recalling their adultery and fornication. Whatever had not been hidden by confusion was now revealed by his malicious mouth. Hearing this, everyone began to flee this way and that, only a few remaining with Father Norbert. However, as the day came to a close, those who were present, weary from the fasting and vigils of the preceding night, forced Norbert to go to his residence in order to refresh his weary body with food and sleep.

While Norbert sat at dinner with his confreres and some guests, it was announced that the sick man was sitting quietly and unbound before the altar and was asking pardon for the curses which he dishonorably uttered. They gave thanks to God, for truly that night and the next day he appeared to be cured. Now there was a mortal hatred among the citizens of that same town. Father Norbert had spent the entire next day settling and putting this feud to rest, and by the grace of God he brought complete peace among them. However, the devil who had been expelled from their hearts, not willing to depart, returned to the same wretched man who seemed to be cured. Immediately the man began to howl and rage. Therefore, when the priest of God had returned to the church, those standing there said: "Are you not aware that this possessed man of yesterday is raging again? Unless he is cured as quickly as possible he will perish, consumed by his own fury," The man of God responded: "For the present he will not be able to be freed from his tormentor because this is happening to him due to his sins" - he bore the office of steward of an estate - "and he was given over to his tormentor deservedly. Leave him alone now! After the devil vexes him for some days he will be healed, once satisfaction has been shown." And that is what happened. For three days he was bitterly tormented. Afterwards he was freed from the devil by God's mercy and, in control of his mind, he returned home unharmed.


Chapter 15:   Godfrey of Cappenberg / Theobald of Champagne

At that time, when Norbert's reputation was spreading, Godfrey,[92] a very powerful Count of Westphalia, was touched by the fear of God. He approached Norbert and shared with him his intent to give up all his property and embrace voluntary poverty. He was wealthy, powerful in arms, well endowed with estates, servants and handmaids. Renouncing all of these things he handed them over to the man of God to be disposed of, with this stipulation, that he turn the fortress of Cappenberg[93] into a religious house and consecrate it to the service of God, so that, through the mercy of God, virtue might spring up where vice had reigned.

His wife[94] and younger brother,[95] his men and their household ministers as well as Count Frederick,[96] his wife's father, all spoke against this action of his. Frederick said that the donation which he was making was for the most part from his daughters dowry.l Although the controversy over this matter was long and complex, finally by the grace of God his wife gave her consent and his brother also decided to change his life. So it happened that from their possessions three churches were set up, namely Cappenberg, Ilbenstadt, and Varlar. These houses were then staffed with confreres where religious life worthy of God thrives even to the present time.

Because the fortress of Cappenberg held control of Westphalia, Count Frederick, the father of Godfrey's wife, partly to indulge his ambition, alleged that this was his daughter's dowry, and threatened the confreres with death unless they departed as quickly as possible. He came there with his retinue several times, threatening that if he should find Father Norbert he would hang him up with his donkey so that he could see on the scale which of them was the heavier. Bishops and other princes who were present spoke against such boastful speech and threatened him with the wrath of God. By now, Father Norbert was held in high esteem by all in the Rhine area and they objected to anyone speaking ill of him.

The confreres of Cappenberg, in their difficulty, sent to the man of God, asking his help and, at the same time, informing him of the boastful words of this proud man. When he received the message, he gathered all his strength of faith and hope in Him who said "Have confidence, I have overcome the world"[97], and publicly announced that he, with his donkey, was going to enter that territory and place himself in the Count's power. What more? Although the journey was long, nevertheless he did not change his mind. Crossing the Rhine, unarmed and powerless, he entered the territory of Count Frederick. While Norbert stayed there divine vengeance came upon the Count. While he sat at dinner, his stomach burst open[98] and brought an end to his evil life. With his death peace returned to the Church.

After Father Norbert had returned to France, a very noble French prince, Count Theobald[99], approached him to ask advice about his salvation. Norbert had heard that this Count was very generous in giving alms, and in building churches and monasteries; he had heard that he was a father of orphans, spouse of widows, and steward of the poor and infirm. Therefore he did not presume to change this man's holy way of life, but gave the advice to continue his good work and to beget an heir through marriage who would inherit these vast domains with the blessing of his forefathers. The man of God used much discretion in his advice. He wanted the above mentioned prince of Westphalia, who was a plunderer of others' goods, to renounce his possessions. However he persuaded this count of France, who supported the needy with his goods, to possess all as though having nothing.[100]

At that time the man of God arranged to set out for Rome. The legates of Count Theobald were his companions on this journey and went with him as far as Regensburg. The brother of the bishop of that city was Engelbert, a powerful and noble margrave. It was his marriageable daughter whom they sought and obtained as a bride for their master Theobald. They then returned to their master to announce the good news.

Norbert, however, having resumed his journey, arrived in Rome where he was honorably received by Pope Honorius[101] of happy memory. Norbert obtained from him whatever he reasonably requested. When his business was finished he set out on his return trip and came to the city of Würzburg. On this journey both he and some of his companions clearly heard that he would be the future bishop of Magdeburg.

While he was celebrating Mass in the Cathedral of Würzburg on Easter Sunday[102] before a large gathering of people, a blind woman, whom everyone knew, approached him as he was consuming the Body and Blood of the Lord. He breathed on her eyes just after he consumed the Lord's Blood and soon after she regained her sight.

Hence all the people who were present extolled the greatness of God in a loud voice. Some of the prominent citizens of the city were so touched by this that they gave themselves and their possessions to God through Norbert. Through their generosity a church called "Cell"[103] was built near the city and is famous for its divine worship even to the present time. But the man of God, along with his companions, recalled the voice which he had heard on his return from Rome. Fearing that he would be elected bishop there, since the see was vacant, he departed quickly and in secret. After he returned to Prémontré, he arranged for the establishment of the Church of Blessed Martin which is in the suburbs of Laon, and the Church of Vivieres which is in the district of Saison, placing some of his confreres there.

On the very day on which the confreres of Norbert had arrived at Vivieres, the ancient enemy, black and in horrid attire, appeared to a farmer who was cultivating the fields. He said: "Why are you working? What are you doing? Be subject to me and I will make you rich." Thinking him to be a monk, the man responded: "Keep what is yours; we have Norbert. He will enrich us both in soul and in body." Hearing this, the demon breathed on him as though offended and then vanished, saying "Norbrec, Norbret!", as if he were tormented by the name. The farmer, however, dropped his hoe and ran screaming madly through the fields. His neighbors who were doing similar work in the same field came running. They saw that he was beside himself; they took hold of him and led him bound to the Church of Vivieres.

In the evening Norbert arrived there with Anscolf, the Archdeacon of Soisson, in whose jurisdiction the church lay, so that according to the local custom he might officially assign the place to the man of God. This was done. Meanwhile the demon was cruelly tormenting the aforementioned farmer and when asked his name he said he was Olybrius, who had tormented blessed Margaret. Father Norbert, at the request of many approached the possessed man and sprinkled him with holy water. Then rubbing his gums with blessed salt and washing them with holy water he ordered him to take no food for nine continuous days unless it was seasoned with blessed salt and holy water. Having done this the man was healed and returned home. In the morning he came to church and, thankful, told the people the details of what had happened to him in the field


Chapter 16:   Norbert in Antwerp

There arose at that time a most destructive heresy at Antwerp, which was a very large and populous city. A certain heretic, a seducer by the name of Tanchelm[104], who was remarkably shrewd and cunning, came there and found an opportunity for his false teaching. He was an evil man, an enemy of the Christian faith and of all religion to such a degree that he declared that obedience to bishops and priests was not necessary and denied that the reception of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ was a benefit to eternal salvation. He led many people of that region astray. As a result, they believed everything he said. About three thousand armed men were in his following and there was neither duke nor prince who would encounter or resist him. He wore gilded clothing and his curled hair glittered with gold and many ornaments. With lavish banquets and persuasive words he won the good favor of his listeners. Strange and astonishing! They drank his bath water and carried it away, preserving it like a relic. They also willingly involved themselves in many other vile and detestable activities so that even after the heretic's death it was not possible to root out this destructive evil.

There was in this city a community of twelve clerics who, forced by the circumstances of the error, handed over their church[105] along with some of its revenue to Father Norbert and his confreres. This was done through the agency of the bishop. They hoped that through the merits of Father Norbert and his confreres the fury of this prolific plague might be removed and, with the darkness of ignorance dispelled, the light of truth might be restored. Norbert accepted this church and the aforementioned clerics built another church for themselves in the same city. Both churches remain to this day dedicated to the service of God. And thus it happened that the people who were falsely led astray by that depraved seducer were brought back to the path of truth and justice through the work of the pious preacher Norbert and his confreres.


Chapter 17:   Farewell to Prémontré

One thing further. During the winter when the man of God was at Prémontré he took the opportunity at night to speak a word of exhortation to the confreres. Some were thirsty and water was brought from the spring. When Norbert claimed that the water was not clean, those who had brought it protested that the vessel had been washed and that they had brought the purest of water. He insisted, however, that no one drink the water. After lighting a lamp, the confreres looked carefully at the bottom of the vessel and found a large repulsive worm crawling in the jar. They were astounded because it was winter, when worms of this sort were not usually found, and because the spring from which they recalled drawing the water was very clean, as was the vessel. They now burst forth in praise of God because they had been rescued by Father Norbert from the snares of the enemy.

In various ways the ancient enemy frequently tried to deceive the confreres at Prémontré. Even when they absented themselves to take care of the needs of nature, he appeared to them in frightful images and threatened them with various fantasies. One of them, however, gathering his courage and strength of mind, said to himself: "How long shall I endure the falsehood and fantasies of this most troublesome enemy?" And getting up he rushed at the devil and sent him flying. Thus from that time on he remained immune from such illusions.

The malicious enemy appeared to another confrere also as he was tending to his private needs and kept him there senseless, from the beginning to the end of Matins. Finally, however, the constancy of the confrere won out over the importunings of the devil, for, making the sign of the cross, he leapt through the doorway which seemed occupied by the demon. When he found no one opposing him he realized that this had been an empty demonic illusion, and thus, gaining a spirit of freedom, he henceforth feared nothing of this sort.

One night the devil also came to terrify Father Norbert as he was intent on prayer in the church. The devil stood there in the form of a frightful bear striking fear in him with its teeth and claws. The man of God was somewhat frightened by the unexpected appearance but soon came to himself and recognized the snares of his persecutor. After a while he regained his courage in prayer and said: "What do you want, bloody beast? Your claws are without substance, your frightful teeth are air, and your hairy pelt empty smoke and vapor passing away like the shadow which vanishes with the sun. You were formed in the image and likeness of God and, although you were light, by your pride you merited the darkness. Depart now, I command you, because there is nothing in common between Christ and Belial, between light and darkness, between the faithful and the unfaithful.[106]  Depart quickly! You know you can harm no one without permission." The Liar then disappeared, unable to endure the truth.

Now the time had come when the above mentioned Count Theobald along with his friends was, at the set time and place, to meet his bride and her father and the gathering of her relatives. Father Norbert had also been invited. But the bride, detained by illness, did not meet him and this gave cause for suspicion that perhaps some regret or deception intervened in this arrangement. Hence, Father Norbert was asked to continue on and carefully investigate the cause of this delay. Norbert agreed to their request and set out to bring to a close the concern of this marriage which he had undertaken to arrange.

As a farewell to his confreres at Prémontré, he sent them a little money which he had received, so that they might add one hundred twenty poor, under his name, to the number of five hundred poor whom he fed at the time of famine, and that they might care for them with fraternal charity. He had no hope of returning to remain with them any longer. Hence he left them this memorial of his name, following in this the example of the True Master who, when he had loved those who were his, loved them to the end.[107]


Chapter 18:   Archbishop of Magdeburg

In the year of the Lord's Incarnation 1125, the Archbishop of Magdeburg, the metropolitan of Saxony, died. After his death the election of a future bishop was difficult since there were three eminent persons named as candidates. Because the electors were unwilling to withdraw from the candidates of their choice, the matter was brought to the hearing of the Emperor, the Most Serene Lord Lothair.[108]  There was with the emperor at that time Gerard,[109] the Cardinal Legate of the Roman See, who after Pope Honorius governed the Catholic Church as Pope Lucius.[110]  It was on his advice, since the electors could not agree, that the emperor decided to appoint Norbert as Archbishop of Magdeburg, after taking counsel with Adelbert,[111]  Archbishop of Mainz, and Albero[112], the Primicerius[113] of Metz.

Norbert at that time had been at the court to preach the word of God. Therefore, after calling together the electors and after much discussion, the emperor himself appointed Norbert Archbishop. The aforementioned Cardinal Legate of the Apostolic See, on the authority of the pope, confirmed this sincere and commendable act of the emperor and immediately sent messengers after Norbert, who was preparing to depart. Amidst a great roar of acclamation he was presented to the prince, while all the leaders of the Church of Magdeburg cried out: "He is our choice for our father and bishop; we approve him as our shepherd." And although he protested against this as much as he could, compelled by those surrounding him, he was finally brought to his knees before the emperor and forced to accept the crosier which was placed in his hands.

Meanwhile the cardinal addressed him in these words: "By the authority of Almighty God and the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul and the Lord Pope Honorius, I order you not to speak against the call of God in any way. Rather, as a faithful and prudent servant dutifully administer the "money" of the word of God which you have received for distribution so that when the Lord comes to reckon with His servants to whom He has given money for their use you might merit to hear from him: "Well done, good and faithful servant, because you were faithful over a few things, I shall place you over many. Enter into the joy of your Lord."[114]  Finally, yielding to numerous arguments and the apostolic authority, he accepted the yoke of the Lord, not without much weeping; and thus dismissed by the emperor, he set out for Saxony to the place destined for him.

At his approach to the city, the people gathered. All gave thanks that they had deserved to receive a man of holy reputation as the shepherd of their souls. Gazing at the City of Magdeburg to which he was being led, he entered barefoot. After he was received in the church he entered the palace accompanied by many people. However, since he wore a shabby cloak, he was not recognized and suffered rejection at the hands of the doorkeeper. But when the doorkeeper was reprimanded by others, Father Norbert, smiling, said: "Don't be afraid, you know me better and see me with a clearer eye than those who force me to this palace to which I, poor and simple, ought not to be raised.

After he was consecrated bishop[115] he began to be a faithful steward[116] of his household. He called together the administrators of the diocesan property and undertook a reckoning[117] of the income of the diocese. This was found to be so modest that it could scarcely cover the expenses for four months. Although the church at Magdeburg had been established and raised up by imperial power and endowed and expanded by much generosity, nevertheless it had been greatly reduced by the negligences and extravagances of the archbishops. To restore it, Norbert the Archbishop, encouraged by the will of God, took back the possessions of the Church appropriated by the hands of the violent. By so doing, he afforded them the opportunity to malign him. He became hateful to everyone who at first acclaimed him with praise. But he did not hesitate to suffer insult for the name of the Lord.[118]  Hence by condemning, both when favorable and unfavorable, by rebuking, by entreating[119], he tried to renew the face of his church both by spiritual and physical increments.

Among the many things promptly done by him, he obtained the Church of the Blessed Mother of God and Ever Virgin Mary from the emperor and the cathedral chapter, as well as from the canons of that church. He placed the confreres of his Order in this church as he had so long desired. Here, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, they devoutly administer the divine services to this very day.

In response to Norbert's good work, however, the indignation of his rivals was stirred up. On the very solemn day of the Lord's Supper, while he was receiving penitents for confession, there stood at the door of the house a man clothed in penitential garments. He asked the porter to be admitted for confession. The porter indicated this to the man of God, who said: "Don't let him in." When therefore he persisted in knocking, the others stood back and he was finally admitted. The man of God looked at him carefully from a distance and said, "Do not approach, but stand there and do not move." Norbert called the palace servants who were outside and ordered them to remove the young man's garment. When he was stripped there appeared secured to his side a sharp knife about a foot and a half in length. When asked why he had come armed like that, trembling and stunned and fearing death, he fell at Norbert's feet[120] and confessed that he had been sent to kill him.

After hearing the names of those who had hired him to commit the crime, all were amazed that household members and secretaries were found to be at the heart of this betrayal, men at whose hands official matters were handled. This just man, however, calmly responded that it was no wonder that the ancient enemy was preparing these snares for him, since on this same most sacred night he persuaded the Jews to proceed to the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was happy that he merited to be a sharer of the Lord's Passion, especially on that day on which mercy is given to those without hope, pardon to sinners and life to the dead. At another time a cleric of his household attempted at night to strike him with a knife as he was leaving with his clerics for the celebration of Matins. But by mistake he struck another of the clerics ripping his garment. And when the man shouted that he was wounded, the attacker, knowing by the sound of the voice that it was not the archbishop, said: "I did not think it was you but he whom I was planning to kill."[121]  The Archbishop had gone ahead, mixed in among the others, fearing just such an event as though having advanced knowledge of the future. Therefore when others were pursuing the fleeing attacker to capture him, the man of God said: "Let him flee. You should not render evil for evil. He did what he could and what God permitted."

In the midst of all these events Father Norbert had not forgotten his first foundation in the Church at Prémontré. Lest perhaps the confreres, whom he gathered there, be in danger without a shepherd, he sent messengers there to grant them free election of a shepherd. He made a recommendation, suggesting a person who was suitable, and of proven religious value, and this is the one whom the confreres unanimously - a unanimity pleasing to God - agreed upon.

The one who was elected[122] was at the same time staying with Father Norbert. On the day on which the confreres elected him, he learned of his election through a vision in the night. He claimed that in the vision he stood with Father Norbert before Our Lord Jesus Christ, and that he was received by the right hand of the Savior from the hand of Norbert, who said: "O Lord, to Your Most Holy Majesty I present this man whom You entrusted to me." When the news regarding the unanimous choice of the confreres arrived, Norbert addressed the one elected in the presence of the confreres who were with him, saying: "Through election by the confreres you will succeed me in the house of our poverty. Go therefore in the name of the Lord, for the hand of the Lord will be with you until the end."[123]

After receiving Norbert's blessing, he departed taking two confreres with him, one of whom was appointed abbot in Antwerp, the other in the Church at Floreffe. He himself, however, went on to Prémontré and became a renounced abbot of that church. Soon he appointed abbots from among his confreres for the Churches at Laon and Vivieres and for the one called Bonne-Esperance. He determined to come together annually with these abbots in a set place for the reparation of any decline of the Order, for eradicating excesses and for the healthy restoration of anything necessary. From then on the confreres of that Order, which the venerable Father Norbert established, increased throughout the world even to the present day.


Chapter 19:   Norbert Reconsecrates the Cathedral

Around this same time Pope Honorius, of blessed memory, passed away. Innocent[124] succeeded him by canonical election but was unable to take possession of the Roman See because of the intrusion of Pierleoni[125] and the sedition of Pierleoni's relatives. Innocent left and went to France where he was honorably and fittingly received. There he presided at the Council of Rheims[126] where archbishops and bishops and a multitude of prelates and faithful of Christ gathered from diverse lands. Here the interloper Pierleoni was excommunicated and the election of Innocent confirmed. Archbishop Norbert was present. Besides the many concerns of the universal church, he consulted regarding the private needs of his own church and obtained the confirmation of the Apostolic See regarding many useful privileges. When his affairs were in order he returned home.

On his return[127], however, he found an unexpected situation which was disturbing. Something happened in the cathedral which according to the authority of the canons seemed to require reconsecration. The elders of the city spoke against this, claiming that the consecration ought not to be repeated since it had been celebrated on the authority of many kings and bishops. Norbert on the contrary responded that he would never celebrate the divine mysteries there unless the anathema was removed from the church.

Soon he announced publicly the outcome of the matter, pointing out that he was bound to do that which the custom of the Holy Fathers decreed in cases of this sort. Therefore on the following night Norbert and two other bishops, along with the cathedral provost and many of his clergy, clothed in sacred vestments entered the church and, as is the practice, performed the office of consecration with sincere devotion. When the office was completed, however, while they were still in their sacred vestments, much shouting and tumult among the people was heard outside. Indeed the whole city was in an uproar because of the rumor that the Archbishop had smashed the altars, had opened the sanctuary, had broken up the tombs and reliquaries and laid them aside for himself, and under the darkness of this night, had decided to flee with all of these, as well as the treasures of the church.

Hearing the clamor of the populace, those who were with the man of God were terrified. He was undaunted and wanted to go out to the people but his companions kept him from doing this. they said that an uprising could not easily be settled at night. They forced him to climb into a fortification which in former times had been built by the Emperor Otto for a church tower. The church itself was never finished because of Otto's death. There Norbert and those who were with him sat down, still robed in the sacred vestments, and awaited death. Once settled in the tower they celebrated the solemnity of Matins in honor of the Blessed Paul whose feast was being observed.[128]  They sang the praises of God while the tumult of the people, who kept them under siege, increased against them.

At this point, some of the confreres resolutely awaited the outcome of the situation, while others faltered and, groaning, said: "Oh, why did we follow this man here to die with him in our sins?" The holy man consoled them as much as he was able: "Don't be frightened, my dear brothers. What we have endured is of God; what we are enduring is of God. When some good work is assailed by God's enemies it is by His permission." Saying this he prayed more fervently for them that they might not weaken[129], and from their lack of prayer his own devotion increased. He later claimed that he feared not so much death as that his confreres might give up from despair. The hostile crowd continued to gather throughout the whole night, but the priest of God and those gathered with him increased their prayer.

In the morning, some men made an advance on the tower, others attacked the Archbishop and his clerics with arrows. Then unexpectedly certain men who were said to have sworn to kill Norbert boldly climbed to the top of the tower. When the man of God saw them attacking with drawn swords, he stepped forward lest they kill others in their rage. He said: "You are seeking one man. I am here. Spare these who have not deserved the sentence of death." When they saw him, still clothed in his purple pontifical vestments, they were suddenly struck by the grace of God and, falling at his feet, sought and received pardon. Once his adversaries, they now became his defenders.

Others, however, quickly followed and, assuming the Archbishop was beheaded, tried to kill one of his soldiers who was in their way. They drove a sword into his neck all the way to his throat and, thinking him dead, left him half alive. When the man of God saw this, leaping into the midst of the crowd he put himself in death's way rather than have anyone die while he remained alive. But when the one who had struck down the soldier saw him, full of fury, he boldly struck at the shoulder of the Archbishop with his still bloody sword. The sword glanced off but did not inflict a wound; nevertheless the blood on the sword spattered the fringes of the episcopal miter. Thereafter the stains from the blood were always visible.

While this was taking place, some, who did not seem to be participants of this uprising, placed in their midst the relics of the saints which were brought from the churches. They said that it was a disgrace that the shepherd was attacked by his flock. They said this feigning a false kindness. They too were trying to force him, while he was in this predicament, to remove from the Church of the Blessed Mary his confreres whom, as was stated above, he had stationed there. But he absolutely refused, claiming that, as long as he lived, this act, which they regretted had been confirmed by imperial power and apostolic authority, would not be counteracted by them.

While they awaited the outcome of this event and the end of such tumult, the Count of the City arrived. He was returning from a journey and, unaware of the uprising, came upon the rioters. Separating them one from another, he set a day on which everyone who had a just complaint against the Archbishop might come and receive justice. At the orders of the judge they departed.

But the priest of God entered the cathedral, over which the riot had taken place, to say Mass and render unbounded thanks to God. When he approached the altar he said to those gathered around: "Look, everything which had been reported broken and stolen is whole and safe." Then he celebrated Mass there but read the epistle and gospel himself as all his ministers, exhausted from weariness and fear, had left. When Mass was finished he entered the palace happy, elated and thankful that the Lord had delivered him from such tribulation.[130]

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