Order of Premontre, Premonstratensians, Norbertines, and White Canons

06 Chapters 21-30

06 Chapters 21-30

Chapter XXI

The Young Man Whom Satan Tempted in Various Ways.

41. Once the cornerstone was placed in Christ Jesus, as the Apostle says: "The foundation has been placed which is Christ Jesus"[21-1], gradually the edifice grew from living[21-2], well-cut and polished stones, and the house of God was enlarged to receive pilgrims who freely go on pilgrimage and hasten to the the heavenly Jerusalem.[21-3]

The snares of the tempter and enemy who works to uproot what is planted, to pull down foundations, to dispel what is gathered and to hand the dispersed over to death, all by various deceptions and cunning, were not lacking. Satan observed individual and personal tendencies in each one. In some he noticed the desire for contemplation, in others, who were simple, the desire for greater wisdom, in others fasting, in still others the forgiveness of enemies. Satan resisted them in every way. And because he wanted to become like the Most High[21-4], in order to deceive the new recruits of God, he did not hesitate to transform himself into an angel of light.[21-5]

For the sake of those who want to hear of these incidents[21-6], a few of the many will be treated here. One night the old adversary in visible form came to a man at Matins as he stood contemplating the glorious and ineffable Trinity. He said: "How happy you are, how praiseworthy in your intention. You have begun well and think you will persevere under affliction. Therefore you deserve to see the Holy Trinity to which you aspire with all your heart and mind." Saying this Satan appeared with three heads claiming to be the Trinity. The man was frightened and greatly amazed but hesitated a moment for he detected not the "whisper of a soft breeze"[21-7] but a foul odor.[21-8]

The man responded: "O wretched, unfortunate and most pitied of all creatures! You who were the image of God's likeness[21-9] and through pride lost the knowledge of this truth, how do you presume not only that you know the Trinity, but that you are the Trinity? You did not even have the strength to want to know yourself. Depart, and don't disturb me further since I am not obedient to your deceits." Satan departed immediately, only to return to this man later.

42. This confrere was indeed prompt to obey, being devout in prayer, assiduous in fasting, so much so that he fasted the whole year both summer and winter. No one could persuade him to take a second meal during the day except on Sundays and even then the food was raw and uncooked.[21-10]  But while everyone was amazed at him and praised his great abstinence and mortification everywhere, Satan appeared again secretly setting snares to destroy the new soldier. He was a youth and Satan was insulted that he had already resisted him.

Therefore, on Ash Wednesday when the Lenten fast is imposed on all the faithful, such hunger and voracious gluttony seized the man that he said he could not fast and would altogether die if he were even forced to abstain from milk and cheese. He was told: "What's wrong, brother? It is the sacred annual fast, and it is not permitted anyone, even lay people, to eat twice. Not even little children are permitted to break the abstinence from milk and cheese." He answered with grim face and wolfish fury: "Does God want a man to die by withdrawing from him at any time what He created for his use and at the hour of his need to eat?"

Father Norbert was away at this time and the confreres were still unskilled and unaccustomed to bearing arms against such attacks. Finally, after much discussion, this confrere agreed that he would only eat lenten food twice a day and as much as he wished. They feared that this disgrace would become known and it would become public that so strict and so new a religious order did not even keep the practices of lay people among their brothers.

43. When Lent was over the Man of God returned to his brothers at Prémontré to celebrate Easter. As he approached the valley he shuddered and felt a strong wind[21-11] surrounding him, as if the north wind[21-12] were blowing. He felt this immediately and told those with him that an evil temptation was present. When he was with his confreres, who trembled at his questions, they told him what had happened. Sadly Norbert said: "You have allowed this to my misery, to the detriment of a brother's soul and to serve notice of our foolishness. By so doing you have given an opportunity for the devil to ruin everything unless he is strongly resisted. Where is this man?"

When the confrere was brought in he could hardly stand. He was so fat and -- like a swollen bladder -- so filled with the spirit of gluttony that he was not able to look at the master, except with grim eyes, whom he used to love above all else. Therefore, the man, to whom God had given the discernment of spirits, seeing that this was not a human infirmity but a diabolic temptation, immediately forbade that anything else be given to him. After the confrere had fasted for some days, he considered it a great delight when a quarter part of rough bread and a cup of water were given to him. And thus, with the help of God, through his master, he was restored to his former way of life.


Chapter XXII

The Possessed Girl Who Was Healed at Nivelles.

44.  After the ancient enemy had been defeated by the young man and fear had been removed from the timid flock and peace established, the Man of God, as usual, went forth to preach. But as usually happens when a war is being waged, in the absence of the standard bearer, the enemy, lying in wait, advances on its adversary. Just so, the evil one from ambush "bent his bow and \ instruments of death on it".[22-1]   Satan observed both the hesitant flock and the leader of war, now absent and unable to defend against his frequent darts. Meanwhile we must leave the adversary and tell what the Man of God did on this journey.

"The man went forth to his work."[22-2]  While travelling along Norbert was joined by his first companion who had gone away to put his affairs in order.[22-3]   After bringing about peace among discordant parties along the way, they came to Nivelles. But because the people of that city had loved him from the time he began to preach, as soon as he had established himself at Prémontré, some of them hastened to join him. They could not bear the severity of the imposed way of life, however, and returned like a dog to their vomit.[22-4]  These men, as usually happens, wishing to cover their own wickedness, sowed weeds as a reproach to the Man of God and to turn away the seed of his preaching, as the enemy did in the field of the householder[22-5], so that they would not take the trouble to see him or listen to his preaching.  Norbert was accustomed to bear such crosses as these. Although wearied by the evil of those who had done this, he was in no way fearful. He trusted rather that this was material for victory against the demons who were trying to block his preaching and the healing of believers which God was working through him.

45. Now while Norbert was held in little esteem among those people because of this, God stirred up a battle for this soldier from which, by His gift, he courageously won a victory. He was not only restored to the former favor of the people of Nivelles but also gained a very fine reputation among everyone who heard this.

Residing in this city was the father of a girl who had been troubled by a demon for a year now and she was locked up in chains. This man, weeping heavily and sighing, affected by the suffering of his daughter, asked Norbert to at least see and touch her. A great task! But Norbert's faith was not unequal to the work. "Bring her to me." The twelve year old girl was brought and a great crowd of people gathered. Then the Priest of God, seeing the time, place and opportunity to glorify God, took on greater confidence.

Vested in stole and alb Norbert undertook to perform an exorcism. He began to read various gospels over the head of the girl. To this the devil responded: "I have frequently heard tunes of this sort. Neither for you nor for all of these people will I depart from this house today. For whom should I depart? The pillars of the Church have collapsed." But when the priest increased the exorcism, the devil responded: You accomplish nothing, because you have not commanded me through the bright blood of the martyrs.

Then, as the devil was truly proud, wishing to flaunt his knowledge, he recited, through the mouth of the girl, the Canticle of Canticles from beginning to end. Repeating word for word, he translated it to the end in French. And again he proclaimed the whole thing word for word in German, although the girl, while she was still well, had learned nothing but the psalter.[22-6]

46. The Priest of God persisted in threatening, and commanded that the demon leave the creature of God. When the demon was constrained he answered: "If you force me to leave here, permit me to enter that monk." There was a monk standing there. And he named him. But then Father Norbert, to whom God had given the discernment of spirits, exclaimed to the people: "Listen, listen to the evil of this demon who, in order to shame a servant of God, seeks to trouble him as though he were a sinner and worthy of this punishment. Don't be scandalized, however, because such is his wickedness that he wishes to revile all good people and, as much as possible, disgrace them."

After he said this Norbert pressed on more intently with what he had begun. Then the demon said: "What are you doing? I won't leave today either for you or for any other. But if you hear me cry out, many of my forces, the forces of darkness, will come to battle. Ha, ha! To battle! Ha, ha! Now I will bring these arches and vaults down on you." At these words the people scattered but the priest remained calm and unshaken.

Then the girl grabbed Norbert's stole in order to choke him. When those present wanted to remove her hands he said: "Don't! Let her be! If she has received the power from God, let her do what she can." But her boldness was broken by these words and, as if showing reverence, she released him on her own.

Since a good part of the day was gone, Father Norbert thought that she should be placed in holy water. This was done. Because she was blond, the priest, fearing that the devil would use her hair to keep her in his power, ordered her hair to be cut off. The demon, agitated by this outrage, began to take vengeance on the priest with curses and said: "Pilgrim from France, pilgrim from France, what have I done to you? Why don't you let me rest? Every evil and misfortune, every mishap will come upon you because you vex me too much."

47. It was now evening, and Father Norbert, seeing that the demon had not left, was somewhat saddened. He ordered her to be returned to her father and to be brought to Mass again the next day. He began to remove his alb and other vestments. When the impious demon saw this he began to clap his hands insultingly and say: "Ha, ha, ha! Now you're doing well, and you have not done today the work which would please me. You have consumed the whole day and accomplished nothing.  Angry at this and indignant, Father Norbert went to his lodging and decided not to eat until the girl was healed. Thus he passed that day and night without food. The next day dawned and the Priest of God prepared to celebrate Mass. The girl was again brought and again a great crowd of people gathered to see the contest between priest and demon. Norbert ordered two confreres who were with him to hold her there not far from the altar. The service was begun and they came to the Gospel. She was brought to the altar and many Gospel passages were read over her head. Once again the demon began to mock and say that he had frequently heard such tune. Therefore when they arrived at the point in the Mass when the priest elevates the host before the Lord, the demon cried out: "Look, look how he holds his little God in his hands." Demons confess what heretics deny. But then the Priest of God shuddered and, taking on strength of spirit in his prayer, began to agitate and torture the demon. The latter, constrained by torture, cried out through the mouth of the girl: "I'm burning, I'm burning." Again and again he shouted: "I'mdying, I'm dying." A third time he cried in a loud voice and frequently repeated: "I want to leave, I want to leave, let me go."

The two confreres held her tightly. Then the unclean spirit quickly fled leaving behind the repulsive traces of very foul smelling urine. He left the girl whom he had possessed. After being forsaken by her tormentor she collapsed[22-7] and was carried in a faint to the home of her father. A little later, after taking food, she appeared completely sound, in control of herself and perfectly healed. This took place publicly and the people witnessed it. Together they proclaimed the praise of God and acknowledged Father Norbert a truly apostolic man.[22-8]


Chapter XXIII

The Relies Which Norbert Discovered at Cologne.

48. Next Norbert came to Cologne where he 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. Because it is the custom of people to be imitators of something new, many, both clergy and laity, on hearing his words followed him 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 faithful people to see if he could take some holy relics for patron saints. From ancient times the fortunate city of Cologne abounded with such relics. The bishop gave his consent and the clergy and people agreed, considering the man's request to be reasonable.

Norbertimposed a fast on the confreres who were with him and on those whom God had given him while there 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 where 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 indicated. This body was then taken up with hymns of thanks and praise. Then two portable reliquaries were filled with the relics of the other virgins, and of certain other martyrs, namely Gereon[23-1], the Moors and the two Ewalds.

49. On the following day, Norbert asked the provost and the canons of St. Gereon[23-2] for relics. They gave him permission to look for them wherever he wished in their church and to take them along with him. Norbert rejoiced and carefully commended this undertaking to God in prayer 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.[23-3]

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 and extolled to God this worthy man through whom so great and so long desired a treasure deserved to be found.

No one should doubt that it was St. Gereon. The certain evidence of his identity lay in the fact that the narrative of his death and martyrdom records that only a part and not all of his head was cut off.[23-4] They had this part but they didn't lonow 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[23-5] through his preaching, Norbert set out on his return trip. Everywhere he was honorably welcomed with a procession in churches and communities.

A certain noble woman by the name of Ermesindis[23-6], the Countess of Namur, hearing that Norbert was passing through, quickly hastened to meet him and eagerly requested that he accept a little church of hers in the village of Floreffe[23-7] and install there the confreres 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.


Chapter XXIV

How Norbert Determined Profession Was to be Made.

50. Gathering together almost forty clerics and very many lay people Norbert encouraged them morning and evening with continuous consolation, and urged them with many sermons not to abandon their good intention and the voluntary poverty which they had undertaken.

Whatever Norbert taught them he demonstrated through his own works as an eagle calls its young to flight.[24-1] His exhortations and sermons were not about the earth nor did they hold out any earthly flavor but, as a dove after taking wing, he flew. Indeed, in thought and speech, he flew to rest and made his hearers take flight, so that with the prophet he seemed to say: "I shall take on wings as a dove and I shall fly and I shall rest."[24-2]  Hence some of the confreres sitting there were caught up in such a rapture of mind that they rose from their places and searched for wings around them and thinking they found them immediately thought they could fly and find rest.

Finally they entrusted themselves to him so much and they clung to him with such affectionate friendship that they sought no day order, no rule, no institutes of the Holy Fathers to obtain the glory of eternal joy except what they heard from his mouth or discovered he had said. But knowing this, Norbert, prudent and circumspect in all things, lest his holy institute falter in the future, and the foundation, which he intended to place on solid rock, totter[24-3], advised them about a day order, a rule, and the institutes of the Holy Fathers, without which the apostolic and evangelical way of life could not be completely observed. Through this way of life the set precepts of God, and the final end and the blessing of all the faithful stand firm. Like sheep following the shepherd in simplicity, they did not refuse what he urged, did not refuse what he encouraged but they embraced what he taught and obeyed in all things because of their desire for the eternal pasture.

51. For this reason Norbert feared more that he was not showing enough of what pertained to salvation to his timid flock which in simplicity was seeking God with all its heart. It was not that he did not know the various rules and the institutes of the Holy Fathers, but that many religious men, both bishops and abbots, had advised him in various ways, one suggesting the eremitic life, another that of the 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 all these things in his heart[24-4], as a wise man who is quick to hear but who defers and postpones until later.[24-5]

Finally, lest he seem to betray the canonical profession to which 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 Norbert 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. This rule was brought to him and he carefully studied it. It was not a long rule but on many points well-ordered. Immediately, on Christmas day[24-6] which was approaching, just as it was written about the Lord[24-7], one by one they enrolled themselves under that rule into the city of blessed eternity for the sake of stability in place and profession.

Afterwards many gave diverse explanations and various interpretations of this rule because its prescripts didn't seem to them to agree with the customs and practices of other rules. 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? Although diverse, are they contrary to one another? If the practice or the way of life is changed, ought the bond of charity to be changed, which is love?"

52. The rule says: "Let God be loved first, then neighbor."[24-8] The institute alone does not bring about the reign of God, but rather truth and the observance of God's commands. Therefore, the fact that this rule clearly binds in regard to love, work, abstinence from food and fasting, in regard to clothing, silence, obedience, respecting one another 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 and 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 precepts of the Gospel and Apostles where whiteness and blackness or thinness or thickness is described and let the matter be settled by giving a command.

One thing is certain, however, the angels who were witnesses of the resurrection are said to have appeared in white[24-9] 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.[24-10]

Because the Holy Fathers and our predecessors teach that preachers and those following the canonical profession should likewise be models of these angels, they should not cause scandal regarding these white garments. If they are penitents, and if their duty forces them to go out among the people, they should not be opposed to woolen garments. But if they are going to enter the sanctuary, they should not fail to use linen. The just man did not teach this in order to detract from the other precepts of the Fathers of which there are very many. He became all things to all men in order to win over all men.[24-11]


Chapter XXV

Voluntary Poverty and Prompt Obedience.

53. Norbert was severe in his judgment. When many came to him he removed, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of pride that was in them so that the Holy Spirit might find a better dwelling place in them. The grace of God was not lacking which ministered strength of divine consolation to hearts howsoever dissolute and remiss or enfeebled.

Norbert's followers had 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. Their spiritual father taught that those who wished to remain with him would 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. This was his view and, as mentioned, he decided that these professions were to be made that way.

Those who had been brought together from the beginning were of this opinion that they would rather choose an old and patched tunic than a new garment in good condition. Hence some, who took poverty very seriously, were ashamed to have new clothing given to them. To show how worthless worldly vanity is and to suppress pride they sewed old pieces of cloth over the new.  No work was so vile that they refused it. Obedience was so prompt that if a burning vessel were offered to them or if some sort of death faced them they would fear more the one giving the command than death itself.

Silence was perpetual in every place, at all times, in every situation, so that even as they accompanied Norbert, although mingling in very tight crowds of people, scarcely one word could be squeezed from their mouths. If he accused any of them of the slightest fault, to make satisfaction the one accused fell to his knees right there and was not ashamed at the sight of the people standing around. If anyone of his men reacted bitterly in his actions, words or looks, even towards evil doers, that man was immediately punished.

54. He wanted them to fast at all times and be content with one meal a day. He also wanted them to ride on donkeys for distances up to four or five leagues. Because of physical weakness, however, this could not be observed.[25-1] He ordered his confreres to always wear pants because manly strength is averse to becoming weak through feminine softness. Nevertheless he did not approve precious fabrics in this regard before the eyes of the internal judge. How great that religious order was which lacked these things because of its rule and ideal of life!

He ordered that they wear woolen garments next to their skin and woolen garments for work, and these were to be undyed. He himself, however, always wore rough haircloth. But in the sanctuary and wherever the Blessed Sacrament was to be handled or celebrated, he wanted them to use linen at all times on account of cleanliness and respect.

We must not overlook three things which Norbert especially recommended. From day to day he frequently repeated that these were to be observed: namely, cleanliness about the altar and the divine mysteries[25-2], 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. Norbert never ceased to insist that no house would ever suffer want beyond what it could bear if it carefully tended to these three things.

In his words and deeds Norbert proclaimed that he knew nothing other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified.[25-3]  In all his actions he directed attention to the aforementioned course of conduct so that, supported by reason and strengthened by authority, he was able to stand firm.


Chapter XXVI

The Novice Who Fraudulently Joined the Man of God.

55. One day Norbert was returning from Rheims with some of his companions and two novices whom he had attracted by his preaching of the Word of God. As they were walking along the road in silence reflecting on God, a voice from the clouds sounded in their ears in this way: "This is the community of Brother Norbert." To which another voice on the other side responded: "One of these novices is not of 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 he carefully sought in prayer how they should react.

From day to day 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, and dissolute in all things -- he was an Englishman -- he said: "What is it, brother, what is it 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.[26-1]  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."[26-2]  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."[26-3]

56. After he said this he fulfilled his words by his action. At that time a man who had come to conversion 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 that deceptive fraud and minister of the devil, knowing in his heart that they were poor, increased the poverty of the poor of Christ, who suspected nothing, to such a degree that nothing remained for them to procure supplies for a day.

What does this mean? First they had to be tested in regard to bodily food, they who had heard that the possessors of the kingdom of heaven are those who it is clear have become poor, not as to material wealth but as to poverty of spirit. They had to be tested in smaller things in order to learn to stand firm in the storms and confusion which they had to face as events will show in what follows.


Chapter XXVII

How it Was Shown to One of the Confreres in a Vision Where the Church Should be Built.

In order to fathom God's work, which is great and unsearchable, in which by His hidden counsel He, Who looks upon the lowly and recognizes the heights from afar[27-1], performs great wonders with the very snail, something must be said about Prémontréand its location. This must be done so that, in everything and in every age, everyonewho hears this story may give praise to Him who has manifested in this final age things known only to His foreknowledge from eternity and before all ages.

57. To pursue the order of events, very many, after leaving everything behind, were gathering under the discipline, life-style and ideal of this oft-mentioned man. Because there was now a multitude, they took counsel as to where in this wilderness they might prepare a suitable location to settle and build.

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.

The Man of God settled there with his small community. He hooked the anchor of hope to his unshaken faith, and with our Patriarch Abraham hoped against hope[27-2] to such a degree that almost all the religious and the people claimed that what the man began could not last. Due to the harshness of extreme poverty and lack of food, they were expecting in a few years flight rather than a foundation of stability. But what would he accomplish with human reason lacking rational help? Knowing that Jesus determined to go to Jerusalem[27-3], he also determined to await death there, he who had come to die to the world and live for Christ. He announced that they live, that they truly live, who live not for themselves, but they in whom the poor Christ lives: "I live, however, now not I," says the Apostle, "but Christ lives in me."[27-4] He had heard this and taught it; and "he who has ears to hear, let him hear."[27-5]

In order that his timid flock not despair, and to cheer the hearts of their friends who were awaiting not their downfall but their firm establishment, and to remove the opportunity for jealous detraction, he began to go about and consider the suitability for habitation -- as far as this was possible in such a place -- and he commanded the others to consider this also. He added that firm and intent supplication should be made to Almighty God to point out the place in which the celebration of divine worship might take place for all time.

58. While many with their continual prayers commended this plan to the Lord with severe penance, fasting and prayer, strongly asking for the good outcome of their desire, one man received a clear revelation which pointed out the place and explained what would happen in and concerning that place.

Where the church is now located, Our Lord Jesus Christ was seen on the cross. Above Him seven rays of the sun shone with a marvelous brightness. And from four directions, as the entrance of that place is in the shape of a cross, a great multitude of pilgrims with their scrips and staffs hastened and, after adoring their redeemer on bended knee and kissing His feet, as if by permission, they returned home.

When the Man of God was informed of this he gave thanks to the Lord his God Who, to his servants who seek Him in truth and who obey Him in faith and justice, gives confidence concerning the past and knowledge of the future by means of secret revelation. Afterwards, assuming confidence and with a smile on his face, he said: "Well now, most beloved brothers, gird yourselves and be strong. Many struggles lie in wait for you. These will come from the visible as well as the invisible enemy. The new recruits who come through the vision will come visibly and after receiving a command and an assignment from Him who was obedient to the Father, will fight with you until the end."

Who doubts that this was a true prophecy? Indeed it was true because subsequent events daily show that those who, after leaving everything, come as pilgrims, and after making profession, as if giving a kiss, depart to diverse nations to take their position in the line of battle. The trumpet sounds from sea to sea and their voice is heard in which both the works of God are made manifest and "are sought in all his desires".[27-6] Thanks be to Him Who does not desert those who trust in Him.


Chapter XXVIII

The Construction and Dedication of the Church at Prémontré.

59. Because the structure and spiritual temple had been well-ordered and drawn up, it was also necessary to apply labor to the material. So that everything might be done with a blessing, Bishop Bartholomew was invited and when the foundation was finished and consecrated he laid the foundation of the church with consecrated stones.

Among those present were Thomas[28-1], Lord of Coucy, who for the sake of God feared and respected Norbert knowing him to be a just man and worthy of all honor. Also present were his son, Engelrand[28-2], still a boy, many nobles, clergy and laity, and a large multitude of people who viewed the spectacle with wonder and said among themselves: "Who is this man[28-3] 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[28-4] or solid ground but in a swamp?" Such was the swamp that it could scarcely be dried up 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.[28-5]

Some of the masons were Germans (men from Cologne, who were friends of the Man of God, had hired them), others were our men[28-6], friends of the Premonstratensians. They vied with one another, one group working on one side of the church, the other group on the other side. The building grew very quickly and in nine months the church was completed and consecrated by Bishop Bartholomew.

60. However, 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 from distant areas, was pressing forward at 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. What did the man do? After recouping his strength in the Lord of consolation -- he was accustomed to accept and endure trials of this sort -- he secretly arranged with the bishop a day for the rededication of the church, the octave day of Blessed Martin.[28-7]  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. Those who were present at the time saw this as well as some who came after. But those who come after will see more, because on the witness of Truth "he who believes will do what he did and do even greater than these things."[28-8]  And elsewhere: "If you believe, you shall see greater than these."[28-9] Enough said about the material building.

What Norbert did in the meantime, or what happened to the timid flock must not be passed over in silence.  It is not possible, however, for anyone to tell at the same time and in proper order what happened to him and to them. Therefore, the listener should not be surprised if in turn the writer passes from the deeds of individuals to numerous events which should not be omitted.


Chapter XXIX

The Many Temptations of the Confreres in the Beginning.

61. Norbert then went out to preach. He went out again to sow seed, not his own but that of the Lord. He left men to direct the work he had begun in order to keep everything intact and to take charge of the community, both clerics and laymen. He placed two men in charge of each office. As a parting word he spoke about peace and unanimity, saying that no group which is gathered together can ever stray if its leaders are in agreement.

But with the departure of the shepherd, the wolf with his savage jaws began to lay snares. I have rightly said "snares because, digging into the sheepfold from the other side, he entered secretly in order to first strike fear into them, knock down the frightened with the hammer of his tail, slay those knocked down, and afterwards devour and destroy with his gaping jaws those he had slain.

Because Satan's arrogance is greater than his courage, he did well to first strike fear into these men. To some he presented himself, even in broad daylight, with his companions as an armed band ready to destroy in the guise of those whom these confreres had left behind in the world as mortal enemies. They were terrified and fought back, in whatever way they could, against those advancing in the form of an armed force and the panoply of arms and neighing of horses. When the enemy took to flight they quickly took up clubs and rocks and hastened to resist with their arms wrapped in their tunics or whatever was at hand. This may seem strange and unbelievable. However, the fight was so bitter that they thought they were throwing weapons and weapons were being thrown at them, that they were striking and were being struck, were wounding and were being wounded, were killing and were being 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?"

62. Their confreres then 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, fight bravely, otherwise you will die a most shameful death if you ever dare again to approach and threaten death."[29-1]

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.[29-2] 

Because it is not sufficient for this false and evil spirit to swallow the sea -- one should not be surprised, however, if he does so -- nevertheless he does attempt to consume the entire Jordan. Since he was not able to lead them astray openly, Satan did not hesitate to return with more hidden snares.

Into this life of poverty there gathered a multitude from diverse nations and backgrounds. They were noble and ignoble, rich and poor, old and young, wise, simple and unlettered, according as Norbert was accustomed to take them in. He had become an imitator of the Gospel passage: "Whoever comes to me I shall not cast aside."[29-3] Among these men the false spirit observed some illiterate men whom he recognized as his former dwelling places where he used to rest and carry out his will. He now filled these men with such a false and deceptive wisdom that those who previously could scarcely read a book were now saying marvelous things about books and prophesying great and wondrous things about the future.

63.  One of these men even asserted that he knew the prophecy of Daniel. He spoke, with the assistance of the Liar, about the passage where the prophet writes about the four and seven and ten horns[29-4] and about kings and the Antichrist[29-5]. 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, the venerable Simon, the Abbot of St. Nicholas.[29-6]   This man's arrogance had even grown to the degree that he presumed to give a sermon in chapter to those in attendance. He who was a witness testifies to this. As proof he cites the beginning of the sermon. "Be brave in battle and fight with the ancient serpent." That lying spirit spoke these words through his assumed instrument, but he could not move on to the truth which follows, namely: "and you will receive an eternal kingdom."[29-7] When Father Norbert signaled to someone and asked what he thought, the man responded: "Good master, it will be clear very soon."[29-8] When the false spirit realized that he was partially caught by the hearers of truth and love, skilled as he is a thousand times over, he sought, even more artfully, other modes of deception. Since he was not able to subvert the co-workers of this obvious endeavor, he could at least cut some of these contemplatives off from their contemplation.  That same cleric, who was the instrument of this evil work, was suddenly seized by a very serious infirmity. He, who previously spoke only about visible things, now presumed to lift his voice to heaven to speak of the invisible and ineffable.

64. As was the custom, the confreres ran to anoint him and to hear what he was saying. He claimed great things about himself but even greater things about the many around him. About himself he claimed 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. About the others, observing the suitability of each, as though he were a seer or a prophet, he said: "When I was recently caught up 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. One will be a bishop. Another will be a rector and master of many religious. This one will persevere in his good intention. That other one, failing, will depart."

After saying this he acted as though he were about to breathe his last. He lay on the ground for the space of an hour, as usually happens to those who are about to die suddenly. Then, after hearing the first signal for vespers, he got up and, walking swiftly, entered the choir with the others. When those present saw this they admitted their shame to one another and acknowledged that they had but even here Satan, that ancient and evil schemer, destitute of all goodness and truth, that malevolent inventor of all evil deeds, did not stop. He stirred up another cleric in the same way. Just as the first man drew his spirit of allurement from the Prophet Daniel, so this man assured them that he knew the Apocalypse of John the Apostle and he should search out the heavenly secrets contained in it.

When one of the priors[29-9] brought him into the chapter he said: "Finally the Orient from on high has visited us[29-10]. This man has not been instructed in school nor by work computed in number of years, but rather by an angelic revelation which worked through the darkness of night to instruct him and us through him. Therefore let us listen to him so that we might learn from him what he learned in his ecstasy about the celestial in the Apocalypse."

65. When they heard this, some of the confreres, who to some degree had knowledge of the subtlety of false spirits, completely forbade this. They said: "From now on we don't want to hear this man or any other until Father Norbert returns." The lying spirit saw that his brightness, by which he changes into an angel of light[29-11], was rejected. This evil spirit, like a hungry lion which goes about gnashing its teeth seeking whom it might devour[29-12], now stirred to anger and no longer able to conceal this anger, began openly to vent the hateful rage which he bore against the well-ordered battle line of this community. To begin, he placed the seed of discord between the two confreres whom he had mocked and through whom he had tried to ensnare others with his mockery. This enmity was so strong that if one could have apprehended the other somewhere he would have killed him. If they had not been restrained by bars and halters one would not have escaped the other.[29-13]


Chapter XXX

The Young Man Who Was Seized by the Devil and Healed by the Confreres.

Next that most troublesome schemer, who adds iniquity to iniquity in order to place an increased heavy burden on the innocent, seized upon the young son of a laybrother. He entered him and began to torment him badly. He who was not able to destroy the whole flock with his wiles, tried in every way to at least leave him a broken man. What was the flock to do without its shepherd for whom the wolf was lying everywhere in ambush? They were surprised and wondered that the assaults were so frequent. They were not accustomed to bear arms of this sort. They bound and locked up the demoniac until they could decide what to do.

66. During the silence of the night the prior, who was then in charge of the others, wanted to go in to him. He was still standing outside, a little distant from the house. All the doors were closed and there was no opening through which he could be seen and it was dark besides. 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 firmly, lock it as quickly as possible." The prior did not stop but advanced and, knocking on the door, entered and, standing before him, asked: "What are you saying?" The devil answered: "Are you asking me what I am saying or who I am who speak? I will tell you neither. Surely you are not the master of this man or his protector or the leader of the others? Go away," he said, "go away as quickly as you can, lest you depart shamefully injured by me.

The prior was certain that this was an evil spirit who had very frequently come to deceive but now had finally entered to destroy. He said: "I command you through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who on the cross overcame your snares and the 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 not force me thus?" The prior answered: "Not I. He forces you who at another time conquered you by the cross, as I've said." The evil demon shouted out: "Woe is me! Woe is me! What shall I do? I am the same 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."[30-1]

67. Now that the prior was certain about this troublesome persecutor of his and of others, he called the whole convent together. He explained what had happened and asked what should be done. The confreres took counsel but they were fearful inasmuch as they were novices who were not accustomed to this. They undertook corporal discipline and decided on fasting and prayer among themselves. They blessed water in a container that was handy and in procession went to where the demon was. He began to growl and shout noisily: "Let our forces come to this battle for we are many and we will crush them as grains of wheat 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 from God." The devil, turning to him with hands outstretched as if he wanted to tear the garments with which he was clothed, said: "Do you think you are their master? And pointing his finger to the cross which a young man was holding, the devil said: "He is the master, not you. For you I will do nothing, but he is the one by whom I am tormented." Demons acknowledge and fear Jesus Christ crucified. The Jews, who have the law, and false Christians do not acknowledge Him but rather curse and laugh at Him.

The man in whom the evil spirit resided was freed. Although he could scarcely be controlled by the many who were standing about, 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 to the holy water. The demon trembled at the sight of it as any little boy when he sees the rods with which he'll be beaten.

68. The possessed man was placed in the holy water, the exorcisms were read, adjurations were made, the Gospels were read while some of the confreres wept, some prayed, some performed corporal discipline or some other penitential practice. Nevertheless they all wondered about his useless answers and joking words. What more? Finally, after excessive and innumerable wearyings of his wretched body, the demon placed himself on the tongue of the demoniac, sitting there in the form of 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[30-2] and none of the faithful should ever believe you. Shortly thereafter the devil broke wind and left behind an intolerably foul stench. Freed of his tormentor the man immediately collapsed and was laid on his bed. Even after a long rest he scarcely recovered from his illness.[30-3]

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