Order of Premontre, Premonstratensians, Norbertines, and White Canons

08 Chapters 41-50

08 Chapters 41-50

Chapter XLI

How Satan Assumed the Likeness of a Bear in the Presence of Father Norbert.

86. If the members suffer these struggles, what will the head endure? If the subjects suffer these what will the master suffer? Certainly greater, inasmuch as Norbert inflicted the greater loss on the enemy, and still foresaw inflicting an even greater loss on Satan in the future.

Hence when the Man of God had spent a whole night sleepless in prayer, standing before the altar of the poor oratory which he had accepted at Prémontré in the beginning of his conversion, Satan stood behind him in the form of a frightful bear, a fearful sight with its teeth and claws. When the man turned and wanted to leave in order to rest his limbs which were tired from little sleep, unexpectedly seeing the beast standing there he was frightened. Very quickly, however, he recovered himself and, observing that the door of the oratory was closed and realizing that he had not previously heard the sound of anyone entering, he recognized that these were the snares of his persecutor. After a while he regained his courage with 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 and like the shadow which vanishes with the sun. You were formed in the image and likeness of God[41-1] 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.[41-2] Depart quickly! You know you can harm no one without permission, and then only those who have been subject to your power by the demands of their sins." The Liar then disappeared, unable to endure the truth.

Chapter XLII

The Circumstances That Brought Norbert to the Place Where he was Elected Archbishop.

87. The time had come when the above mentioned Count Theobald was, at the set time and place arranged by internuntios, to meet his future wife, her father and a large number of her relatives. Father Norbert, who had recommended this marriage, had also been invited and the Count brought him along to this meeting place. When they arrived they did not find her, for she had stopped along the way detained by a grave illness.

Therefore, the Count and all who were with him were wondering, suspecting that the reason was some regret or deception. After taking counsel, they asked Norbert to go to meet her and report whether the explanation for this delay was true. Norbert agreed to their request thinking it would be a disgrace to himself if he did not bring to a close the business of this marriage which he had undertaken to arrange.

Norbert had received eight marks of silver and he sent them to his confreres at Prémontré. During his absence they had undertaken to feed five hundred poor people. It was a time of famine and they bought food for themselves and the poor. Since he had been angry with them because of this he ordered that in his name they add an additional hundred and twenty poor people. A hundred of them would have full meals from the common food, thirteen would be refreshed in the guest house with bread, meat and wine, and seven would eat with the canons in the refectory.[42-1] He had offended God and his confreres because he had been displeased with their kindness and work of mercy undertaken on behalf of the poor in the faith of Jesus Christ. He now believed that this offense was remitted and expiated. He had no hope of returning to remain with them again and he did not want to leave any memory of hurt among them. He knew they had been brought together in God's love and his and that of all the faithful. In this he followed the example of the true Master who "when he had loved them, loved them to the end".[42-2]

88. Next Norbert moved on to that for which he was sent. Coming to Speyer[42-3] he found the Saxons and a large part of the clergy of Magdeburg gathered before King Lothair[42-4] to elect an archbishop. When they heard that the man, whom people from different nations of the world acclaimed as holy,[42-5] had arrived, they sent for him to come and give a sermon which people enjoyed hearing. But they also sent for him to hear his advice on certain business which required that some of them be there.

First the case of the people of Magdeburg was dealt with. They were left without their spiritual father. Present at the meeting were a certain Cardinal[42-6] who had recently come from Rome and a large number of other princes. These men had proposed three names[42-7] for the election, one of which was Father Norbert. However, Norbert was unaware of this. While they were undecided and looking for the best of the three candidates, Albero, the Primicerius[42-8] of the Diocese of Metz -- afterwards Archbishop of Trier[42-9] -- from the opposite side secretly indicated with his finger that they should choose the Man of God, Norbert. They immediately seized him with their outstretched hands and cried out loudly: "We elect this man as our father; we approve him as our shepherd."

89. The frail man could not defend himself. Norbert was not permitted to think nor by thinking to decide anything in his own regard. He was quickly caught up, praised by the king, approved by all who were standing around and even confirmed by the legate of the Roman Church. The man was led away carrying with him a very heavy burden. He was led to a place he did not know. He was dragged, I say, to a people of a depraved and perverse nation, namely among the Slavs and Saxons. Both peoples derive their name from their situation. The former, if you remove the "s", signifies the puncture of infidelity made by the point of nails (clavorum). The latter testifies to the weight of rocks (saxorum) and the blindness and harshness of a stone-like heart. He who, after seven years of labor performed for Laban, expected Rachel[42-10], or had chosen the better part of Mary[42-11], inasmuch as his body was frail, now found the work of Martha and the labor of Liah, because "there is no wisdom, no prudence, no counsel against the Lord".[42-12] And for this reason he who had neglected the unbelieving race of pagans to which he had decided to go at the beginning of his conversion, so that he might recall some people from the error of infidelity[42-13], now, bearing with him the authority and the office from which he thought to flee the divine plan, was clearly forced to submit to obedience.

Chapter XLIII

How Norbert Was Received into the City.

90. As is customary, at Norbert's entry there was a great assembly of people. All were joyful, both old and young: the old because they had elected someone who was well-known and respected; the young because they were receiving in this man someone who would sympathize with their infirmities. From a distance he gazed at the city to which he was being led and entered it barefoot. Barefoot he entered the sanctuary with the procession. Barefoot he was led to the palace. But as a poor man, poor and garbed in a cloak, while others were entering he was rejected by the doorkeeper since he was unknown to him. The doorkeeper said to him: "The other poor people were admitted long ago. It isn't proper for you to intrude rudely along with this throng of princes.

Those who were following exclaimed: "Wretch! What are you doing? Let him go, wretch. What have you done? Don't you know that this is our bishop and your master?" The man quickly fled and hid but Father Norbert, calling him back, said with a smile: "Don't be afraid and don't flee, my brother. You know me better and see me more clearly than those who force me, appearing so poor and simple, to this lofty palace to which I should not have been elevated."

Chapter XLIV

How Norbert Gathered What Had Been Dispersed.

91. After Norbert was consecrated bishop[44-1] and elevated to the episcopal chair, he was mindful of the apostolic command that a bishop should be the steward of his house.[44-2] He called together the administrators of his house and all its ministers and inquired about the sources of the episcopal income. He asked where these properties were located and who was in charge of each of them. When everything had been listed in writing and the amount of income to be expected from it there was barely enough to cover four months of the year.

The Priest of God was dumbfounded. He carefully inquired whether the church was earlier on endowed with more ample property or had these possessions been dispersed by some who previously held the reigns of government and less carefully preserved what belonged to the diocese by right.

After Norbert learned the truth that this was a noble church both founded and elevated by royal power and generously endowed and enriched, he said, "Where is all of this? How has the property been alienated from the church and from you to whom it belonged?" They answered, "Some of your predecessors, giving in to weakness, yielded up some property to their blood brothers and some of their relatives and friends, while some property they gave away outright. Others, in like manner, gave some property as fief holdings. Still others who were weaker, overcome by the powerful, were not able to defend the rights of the church and they lost some property. Thus all the property has been diminished and almost reduced to nothing. All these things used to serve the honor and good of the Church."

92. Hearing this, Norbert remembered that "cursed is the one who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, and removes his heart from the Lord".[44-3] He gathered his strength in Him and through Him by Whom he did not doubt he had been called to administer this office. He fearlessly assumed his authority and sent legations everywhere ordering that whoever unjustly held the possessions of the church, over which he presided by the will of God, should in no way dare any longer to put his hand to them unless he first showed that they were his by hereditary right and inherited from his long-held paternal property.

When the robbers and sacrilegious men heard this they were highly indignant that an unarmed and poor man who arrived on a donkey dared to give so strong and so hasty an order. They disregarded his order, thinking to lose nothing through him of these things which they had taken over violently. But he pursued them with the spiritual sword with which he was girded.  Sitting quietly he attacked, struck, cast down and bound them with the bonds of anathema.

They came to the conclusion that this persecution was easy for the bishop but for themselves long-lasting and weighty. Authority decreed that those who suffered anathema for one year were, after that year, to be considered outside the law and to have no hearing at court. Thus for the most part they handed over the property which they had unjustly usurped for themselves from the benefices of the church. But they did this unwillingly and because of this they secretly stirred up enmity and hatred against the bishop however and wherever they could.

93. But he who had taken the path of justice and the right way before his elevation to the episcopate remained unmoved by them. Norbert preached the word[44-4] and announced the kingdom of God. He brought about peace within his territory. He fostered houses of religious and built new ones where there were none before. He embraced religious and gave order to their lives. He continuously persecuted the undisciplined and irreligious unless they improved.  He demanded that chastity be observed in every way by deans and priests and those who had to direct the people and by all those advanced to sacred orders. He forced them either to hold to this or, if their actions became publicly known, to relinquish all ecclesiastical benefices.[44-5]

All of this was the beginning of Norbert's suffering and the occasion of persecutions. Day after day each one acknowledged the trouble which he bore reluctantly. They asked, "Why did we want this outsider, whose customs we didn't know, to govern us? He is contrary to our work and customs beyond what we can bear. These complaints were spread about among the old, the young, the rich and the poor. Some felt oppressed, others feared oppression, still others only agreed with what was generally being said.  Thus he who was first exalted with great praise was now cast down with censure and reproach, only in words, however, and without his knowing it. Nevertheless, these words became actions under the control of Him who arranges all things inwardly before they take place.

Chapter XLV

How Norbert Transferred the Canons from the Church of Blessed Mary and Replaced Them with His Own Confreres.

94. In front of the episcopal palace and not far away there was a church in honor of Mary the Holy Mother of God in which there were twenty secular canons living from of old under a provost.[45-1] The Priest of God foresaw that this church was necessary for him. He thought if his confreres were installed there he might relax sometimes from the pressure which came with his duties. He frequently requested this church from the king and the canons of the cathedral and the canons of the church itself. He offered in exchange another place with an equal or better income. Unanimously they all refused, saying that a church with such a name should not be changed nor should the royal power, to which the church was subject, be diminished. Neither should he place there men of another order and custom who would not be acquainted with the royal rights, due submission and obedience according to their custom.

For several years he suffered rejection by these men but finally, humbly persevering in his petitioning, he won. He won by his reasoning. He won by his constancy. They knew that he never wanted to leave off from a good beginning until he attained his goal. When those clerics had been removed and all of them relocated, each according to his wish, he placed the confreres of his order in this church as he had long desired. He arranged for the service of God to be held according to a determined life-style during his lifetime and after his departure into eternity.

Chapter XLVI

The Persecutions Which Norbert Sustained.

95. The number of confreres grew and multiplied in Saxony, where religion had grown lukewarm, and in Sclavonia, where it did not exist. After taking root they flourished and multiplied like the Hebrews.[46-1]  The Saxons and the people of Magdeburg grumbled. Hatred and envy towards the Man of God grew. Having hope and confidence in God, Norbert did not cease to expand his own community as well as congregations with other customs. For this reason the wolves raged against the lambs, the sheep against the shepherd. The wolf shared its fierceness with the mild sheep, the sheep shared its mildness with the fierce wolf. Both agreed to lend a cruel fierceness to the death of the shepherd.

You could see a strange type of persecution. Those who stood by his side secretly pierced his side. His friends almost became enemies and threw their weapons from a distance. His neighbors kept arrows in their quiver to be used at the right time and place. His counsellors carried sharp swords under their tongues and secretly set traps everywhere in order to kill an innocent man. "They became corrupt and hateful toward him.[46-2]  They acted deceitfully with their tongues; the poison of asps was under their lips.[46-3]  They trembled where there was no fear."[46-4]   They were afraid of losing their kingdom through him who labored so that they could rule forever. They feared to become poor but they acted perversely wishing to destroy him by whom they ought and could become rich if they so desired.  Perhaps it is offensive to the listener to hear so much blasphemy not indicated as such by the writer. Let the world hear and judge. Let the elders hear and let the young decide and learn and let them tell their descendants and teach them whether in days of old it happened as it happened in these days.[46-5]

96. The day was at hand, that most holy and festive day of the Lord's Supper on which the authority of the Holy Fathers decreed that penitents be reconciled to God, and on which that innocent lamb was taken captive and led away to be sacrificed in order to reconcile the enmity between God and man. And lo, at the door of the place where the Priest of God was hearing the confessions of penitents, there stood a man clothed in penitential garments persistently asking the porter to be allowed access to the bishop for confession. When the porter informed the Man of God, he said, "Don't let him in." When the porter responded that his master requested that the man wait, he insisted more and more on being admitted. Thus the man continued knocking but was not admitted until the rest of the crowd which had gathered for confession departed. Then, finally, he was given permission to enter.

The Man of God looked at him carefully from a distance and said, "Do not come any closer, but stand there and don't take a step." Norbert called the palace servants who were outside and ordered them to remove the young man's cloak. When the cloak was removed the man was discovered to have a sharp knife secured to his side. It was about a foot and a half in length. At the bishop's request, while everyone present looked on, the man with the knife was brought before him. When asked why he had come armed like that, trembling and stunned -- inasmuch as he was aware of his unspeakable and abominable cruelty -- and fearing death, he fell at Norbert's feet and confessed that he had been sent to kill him. After hearing the names of those who had hired the man, and by whose prompting and advice he had come to commit such a horrible crime, the rest who were present and those who were gathering for this novel spectacle were shocked to hear that the perpetrators of this betrayal were those who dealt with Norbert regarding serious matters and were his trusted counsellors.

97. But this just man joyfully and calmly looked at them and said, "Why are you surprised that the old enemy recognized his instrument and tried to carry out his work among his members? He did not fear to do this on this most sacred night to our holy head, Jesus Christ. Oh, how fortunate he would be who at some hour of this day would be betrayed and die at the hand not of enemies but of friends such as these whom you have heard named!"

"This is the day on which mercy is given to those without hope, pardon to sinners and life to the dead. On this day because you have prevented this death, you have prolonged my grief, brought labor, and deferred my rest. These were and are my friends, they do not deserve to be enemies because of this, for it is fitting that we imitate our head and beginning, Jesus Christ. He said, "Do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you"[46-6] and elsewhere, 'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."[46-7]  The traitor was locked up not for punishment but to uncover the plan of his supporters, in order that they might be punished by the shame of such a crime inasmuch as they felt no remorse or grief in their hearts. What should we conclude? Could the Man of God have known what this man, who came for confession and penance, brought unless abundant grace had taught him? Those who had armed themselves with shameful evil and obvious injustice failed, overcome by an unarmed man.

Chapter XLVII

The Cleric Who Wanted to Kill Norbert.

98. The envious evil done in secret did not cease. In public there was a pretense of tranquility. However, this evil was the more serious and wicked the more it was acted out by domestics and members of the household. We are really speaking of the trusted members of the household since, when Norbert had risen one night, as was his habit, to celebrate Matins with his clergy, one of his house clerics had come and positioned himself behind at the door in ambush. He was filled with evil and cruel malice, inasmuch as he was armed with appropriate weapons and ready to cautiously and deceitfully strike and kill an innocent man.

When the chaplains who preceded had gone forth, as was the local custom -- for chaplains precede their lords -- jumping forth from his hiding place and thinking the last one to be the bishop, he struck one of the clerics and ripped his garment. The man cried out, "Who is it who harms me?" The attacker, knowing from the sound of the voice that it was not the one he sought, said, "I thought this last man was the one I was planning to kill."

The bishop had gone ahead, mixed in among the others, fearing just such an event as though having advanced knowledge of the future. The attacker quickly turned and fled. When others tried to capture him, the Man of God said, "Let him flee. You should not render evil for evil.[47-1]  He did what he could and what God permitted. My hour has not yet come.[47-2]  But those who sent him will not sleep nor rest until they are weary with their abuse and they either kill me or, if the work done by me is God's work, they clearly find me approved."

Chapter XLVIII

How Norbert Arranged for a Successor at Prémontré.

99. The little flock at Prémontré, left, without their spiritual father, for two years patiently awaited him following the example of Him who said, "I shall not leave you orphans, I am going and I will return to you".[48-1]  Some of the confreres as well as some laymen said, "We will never be able to survive because without the shepherd the sheep usually disperse."[48-2]  Some wanted no master but him, others, despairing of him, wanted to elect another. They argued back and forth, putting forth a like case both for truth and reason. They lacked the comfort of faithful exhortation. Since they were not yet firmly rooted, they were still capable of wavering rather than thinking of themselves as stable.

When this had been reported to the Man of God, he feared that what God had planted through him might dry up if it were not still steeped in the dew of divine counsel. He called together some of the priors and sensible confreres and inquired of them what needed to be done. He looked into their desires one by one so that he might be more certain about his course of action.

After Norbert understood that some wanted to live with him, some wanted to live elsewhere by his counsel, still others wanted to hold to the proposed vow of poverty, yet most wanted to observe the same tenor of poverty under a definite master and discipline, he sent them back, but kept a few of the men with him. Again and again he encouraged them to pursue the pattern of unanimity so that, when he granted them permission to elect a father, the harmony of Christ Jesus and the love which he taught might be found among them.

The men departed, and the good shepherd did not forget the sons whom he had begotten in Christ.[48-3]  Lest they remain long without a teacher, he shortly thereafter sent faithful messengers to them to announce the permission to elect and to indicate his wishes regarding the election. We must not linger here as to how and what was done in the election because those who had been taught well by their master did not lack instruction from the messengers whom he sent.

100. When the election had been confirmed by the sons, just as assent had been given by the father, those who had been sent returned to Norbert announcing that his wishes had been carried out. The one who was elected[48-4] was with him. Nevertheless, he ordered that the matter be kept secret for a few days. The one who was elected was not told so that the curiosity of some who were with him could be observed. They were curiously awaiting his response. It was Norbert's practice that, when such matters had to be dealt with, changed or confirmed, or if other events requiring action occurred, he inquired of the individuals who were around him concerning these affairs. He did this in order not to make a rash decision without first -- as much as one is able - seeking out the will of God and drawing out the best views from those around him.

Norbert's intention for the time being was hidden. Nevertheless, the one elected was not unaware of what had been done in his regard. He silently considered the matter, having been instructed by a revelation from God. He later explained that in the morning of the day on which he was elected, he stood in a vision before the Son of God, Jesus Christ, with his father and master, Norbert.  Jesus, extending his right hand, received the confrere, who was elected by the rest of the confreres, from the hand of the Man of God who said, "Lord, this man whom you committed to me, I present to Your Most Holy Majesty."

101. No doubt through this he was able to know what else the divine mercy was planning in his regard. What else needs to be said? The day arrived on which the Man of God was pleased to complete what he had begun. Calling together the confreres whom he had with him he told them his decision. He called the one elected and said, "Through election by your confreres you will succeed me in the house of our poverty." The elected responded, "It is fitting to obey you and especially the Father of all. I shall go and consider the progress and fulfillment of God's mercy. If I am able to advance and succeed, thanks be to God. Otherwise, without offense, allow me to return to you whom I have chosen after God the Father as the guardian of my soul." Then Norbert said, "Go, for the hand of the Lord will be with you until the end."

After receiving Norbert's blessing, he departed taking two companions with him. Of these two the Man of God ordered that one be placed as abbot in the church at Antwerp[48-5] and the other in Floreffe. And so it was. He himself was installed and blessed as Abbot at Prémontré, and the other two in the two above mentioned churches. Another two were blessed in two other churches, those of Blessed Martin in Laon[48-6] and Viviers.

These five men and a sixth, whom the Abbot of Prémontré, immediately after his installation, sent to Bonne-Esperance, gathered on a set day in a determined place. Seeing impending dissolution of the order in several places, they feared a greater one ahead. They cut back whatever for the present seemed superfluous in their houses. Thereafter, following the model and example of the Cistercians, they determined to come together annually to correct the wrongs of their order. When word of this spread about in other houses there were six in the first year, nine in the second, twelve in the third and eighteen in the fourth year. From then on they increased throughout the world as their voices, actions and works bear witness even to the present day.

Chapter XLIX

The Open Sedition of the Citizens of Magdeburg Against the Man of God, and His Courage in the Face of Death

102. Pope Honorius[49-1] of blessed memory was called to his eternal reward. Innocent[49-2] was canonically elected to the Holy Roman See, but was unable to take possession of the See because of the intrusion of Pierleoni[49-3] and the sedition of the latter's family. Innocent left Rome and went to France where, as fitting, he was honorably received.

Innocent called a council at Rheims[49-4] and from all over bishops gathered from the various nations. Father Norbert also came and there the interloper Pierleoni was excommunicated. After approving the election of Innocent, they handed this Pierleoni over to the roaring lion to be devoured[49-5] unless he repented.

To deal with the Roman Pontiffs in this tract will seem to some to be superfluous, but I am not otherwise able to discuss in proper order certain things which ought not be omitted regarding the Soldier of Christ, things which are known to be wonderfully and laudably done by him in modern times.

Norbert had brought with him very old privileges of his diocese which were almost worm eaten. All of these he had renewed and corrected by Roman authority. Included were those documents which he had received back from the hands of those who had unjustly and violently seized them, as was noted above. Moreover, he added another privilege in secret, that when the opportunity was given, supported by Roman authority, he would extend his religious order to his episcopal church.[49-6]

After the Council was ended, Norbert returned to his own See. What he had done was now partially revealed, namely how he had armed himself[49-7] against them with the spiritual sword and with the walls and ramparts of castles. They raged all the more, saying to one another, "Our kingdom will not stand[49-8] and our glory is nothing. Our honor and the dignity of our predecessors will be destroyed unless we remove this man from our midst[49-9] as soon as possible and this subtle power of his is removed from our land." From then on they sought an opportunity[49-10] to act cautiously according to what they were planning in an unorganized and foolish way.

103. It now pleased God, who had chosen and accepted Norbert for the work of His ministry, to test his perseverance. He had already tested his faith and patience".[49-11]  He did not delay long before introducing an opportunity and time to satisfy the fury of the bloodthirsty and purify His novice with the fire of obvious tribulation.

Some misfortune occurred in the cathedral at that time. This had been secretly revealed to the Man of God. When he indicated this to the seniors of the church and protested that for such a deed the church must be reconsecrated according to the authority of the canons, they disagreed with him. They said that the church, which was certainly consecrated on the authority of many kings and bishops, must not be consecrated again. They forbade this. Norbert, on the contrary, declared that he would never celebrate the divine mysteries in this church unless they allowed him to expel the infestation of demons with which it had been enmeshed. They argued in this fashion but the man, who was not afraid of their wiles, as long as God was involved, from the pulpit announced to all the people the outcome of the affair. He also pointed out that they were forbidding him to do what was valid and what the custom of the holy fathers had decreed in cases of this sort.

104. Norbert stated his position and on the following night he took two bishops who were with him[49-12], the provost of the church who agreed with him on this"[49-13], and many of his clerical confreres. They entered the church in sacred vestments and, with holy water, carried out with sincere devotion that ceremony according as the circumstances required. Using the proper rite, they consecrated the place for the consecration of the Lord's Body and Blood with a divine blessing as it should be done. But his aforementioned adversaries, who were dead set against this action, hastened to fill their hands with the blood of the innocent priest. Others had watched to gather the blood of the lamb; these men watched to shed the blood of the innocent one.

As soon as the ceremony was completed, while those who had attended were still in their vestments, much shouting and a great commotion among the people was heard outside. The whole city was in an uproar and in a very great and indescribable rage because some of Norbert's adversaries had given them a malicious and startling report, namely that the bishop 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.

Those who were with the Man of God when they heard this were frightened, some more, some less. But he was undaunted and wanted to go out to them to ask what it was about. Some absolutely prevented him from doing this, saying that an uprising could not easily be settled by anyone at such an hour and they forced him to climb into a fortification which in former times had been built there by the Emperor Otto[49-14] in place of a church tower. It was never finished because of Otto's death.[49-15]

105. There Norbert and those who were with him sat down, still robed in the sacred vestments, and awaited a most shameful death. The insulting voices leaping up grew stronger. "Theid-ut, theid-ut" they repeated, that is "come out, come out." Those in the tower on the other hand were singing praises to God with the solemnity of Matins. With hymns and canticles of exultation they sang their praise to God in full voice in honor of the distinguished preacher Paul. The loud insulting shouts increased inordinately and declared the Priest of God guilty of death. It was the night after the feast of the martyrdom of Blessed Peter and Paul.[49-16]  As the Church celebrates the feast of Blessed Peter on the first night so, according to Church custom, it celebrates the feast of Paul on the following night.[49-17]

Thosewho were besieged sang about him whose history records that he himself was besieged. And they drew strength in their fear of martyrdom when the pledge of Blessed Paul resounded in their ears, that pledge which he confirmed was reserved for him in glory. He said, "I know whom I have believed, and I am certain that the just judge is able to keep my pledge for that day."[49-18]

Some of them, trusting in this confidence, were not afraid, but others, continuing to cling to the world and their flesh, groaned loudly and said, "Oh! Why did we follow this man here to die with him in our sins?"[49-19]  The holy man consoled and exhorted 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 of God is assailed by His enemies it is by His permission." Norbert said this but meanwhile he prayed more fervently that they might not grow weak and despair. And from their lack of devotion his own devotion increased. He later claimed that he feared not so much death as that they might give up in despair. 

106. The hostile party continued to gather throughout the whole night. The Holy Priest and those gathered with him, at a time of such great need, increased their prayer. In the morning, at the first sign of dawn, while some men made an advance on the tower, others attacked the bishop and his clerics with arrows and spears. Some, who were said to have sworn his death[49-20], as if more avidly desiring his death, rushed in, in whatever way they could, and boldly scaled the upper reaches of the tower. When the Man of God saw them attacking with drawn swords, he moved into their way lest they kill others in their rage. Following the example of his master, he said, "You are seeking one man. I am here. Spare those who have not deserved the sentence of death."[49-21]

When they saw him, still clothed in his purple episcopal and priestly vestments, they were frightened and stepped back a bit. In a moment, God, at whose assent all things are arranged, through the manifest firmness -- as much as he had -- of His martyr[49-22], struck the minds of those pursuers with such a change that, falling at his feet, they begged for and received pardon for such a daring attempt. Once his adversaries, they now became his defenders.

Others, however, quickly followed and found one of his household members who faithfully clung to him. He was defending one of the entrances. Thinking the bishop already beheaded by those who went before, they struck this man with a sword, hating him because he loved his master. Cutting his neck all the way to his throat they left him half alive thinking him dead. When the Man of God saw this, against everyone's wish, he leapt into the midst of the crowd and, giving his enemies the advantage over him, he put himself in death's way choosing to die rather than have anyone die while he remained alive.[49-23]

107. But when the man who had struck down the servant saw Norbert, filled with diabolical rage and evil, and still holding his bloody unsheathed sword, he reached out his hand against the bishop and boldly struck him on the shoulder. The sword glanced off as if it had struck against hard rock but stained the fringes of the episcopal miter which he wore with the fresh blood remaining on it. As long as Norbert lived the blood could be seen on this miter.

Some who stood there awaiting the outcome were expecting the man to die rather than live. When they saw that he did not die because he was spared by some of the men -- he was struck but not harmed -- some ran and quickly brought out the relies of the saints and placed them in their midst. They said it was inappropriate for the shepherd to be so unbecomingly attacked by his sheep. This was said out of false compassion. They too were trying to force him, while he was in this predicament, to remove from the Church of the Blessed Mary his confreres who, as mentioned, were stationed there. He refused, however, affirming that as long as he lived this act, which they regretted had been confirmed by royal power and Roman authority[49-24] would never be countermanded by them.

108. While this was going on the Count of the city arrived. Since he knew nothing of this event he ran into the midst of the rioters, separated them and set a date on which everyone, who had a just complaint against the bishop, might come, plead his case and receive justice.  Therefore, at the orders of the judge they departed. But the Priest of God entered the church, over which the riot had taken place, to say Mass and render immeasurable thanks to his God. When he approached the altar he said to those gathered around, "Look, everything which was reported broken and stolen is whole, safe and sound." Then he celebrated Mass there but read the epistle and Gospel himself as all his ministers, exhausted from weariness and fear, had left. It could truly be said about him as about our highest head, Jesus Christ, "everyone left him and fled".[49-25]

When Mass was finished Norbert returned to the palace. His face was flushed in a strange and inexpressible fashion as one having drunk deeply from the chalice of his Lord. He could say with the prophet, "I shall take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord."[49-26]  Indeed, he did not pale at the very danger of death. Those who were with him testified[49-27] that no one saw him lose his color even slightly. On the contrary he claimed that the unfailing strength of the martyrs was not difficult and very sweet, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.[49-28]

Thus the Lord rescued him, fulfilling the promises of him who said, "Many are the tribulations of the just, and from all of these the Lord has delivered them."[49-29] He seeks the faith of his soldier but in no way thirsts for his blood.  

Chapter L

The Drunkenness of the People of Magdeburg.

109. It is the practice of the envious that when they have been provoked on some occasion by those whom they envy, they do not immediately express what they find hard to take and what weighs heavy on their hearts. Afterwards, however, when they are separated, embittered with the pain, they wait for a better opportunity[50-1] to take their vengeance in word or deed. Thus the undaunted bishop's adversaries, who found the peace that he preached to them distasteful, once again called their malevolent groups together. Each expressed his grief and said he had been deluded. They had left, this man alive, they said, because their senses had been snared by magical art and because of the darkness of the night.

Norbert did not yield to them nor was he in any way afraid to alter their rights and the rightful dignity of the city. Deluded and stunned, it is not surprising that they gathered in secret to make their plans. They firmly decided that, when they gathered on the appointed date, each one should drink some wine or mead so that, if their their plans went awry while pleading their case, they might finish what they failed to do regarding the death of their shepherd. It would then be attributed more to drunkenness than to premeditation. They made a pact that whoever did not go along with this plan his house would be subject to the judgment of the entire group and be destroyed along with all his household goods.[50-2]

When this was brought to the ears of certain princes of the territory who in a way loved the Man of God because they knew he was a just and holy man, they advised him to leave for a while on the example of his master who hid himself from the face of those persecuting him, as it is written, "Jesus hid himself and left the temple".[50-3]  But when he refused and rejoiced over a possible martyr's palm, they argued with him and eventually convinced him to leave.

110. The appointed day arrived and when the signal was given the citizenry began to shout and make a lot of noise. The Man of God asked what it was about and was told that a large mob wanted to expel his confreres from the Church of Blessed Mary. He smiled and said, "It is not to be, because a foundation which the Heavenly Father has planted will not be able to be uprooted".[50-4]  Nevertheless they forced him to leave, and when horses were prepared he left for an abbey of monks[50-5] dedicated to Saint John which is located on a mountain in the suburbs of the city. When he had disposed of his affairs, he moved on to a fortress of his called Halle[50-6] where he could rest from all the turmoil. But he found it locked. His enemies had preceded him and taken over the fortress.

What should the man do who found nowhere to rest? What should he do, destitute of human aid? He went to a church of canons regular which was nearby and for several days prayed that God would direct his way in accord with His will. But He who said through the prophet, "Cursed be the one who trusts in man and places flesh as his arm and turns his heart from the Lord"[50-7], saw the humility and constancy of His novice. God looked upon the prayers of his integrity and granted peace as he wanted it and when he wanted it.

Just as the enemy had eagerly gathered for destruction, just so they hastened to gather to make satisfaction. They offered satisfaction of every sort, they even offered money in abundance. But Norbert had come more to seek souls for God than money. Lest he incur the offense of the Lord his God, he refused the money so that he might gain their souls which were in danger of being lost due to this excess.

Finally, he said the offense was his not theirs. What they did harmed themselves not him. And in particular they harmed him whom they left lying wounded and half dead. He sought satisfaction for this man, not at all for himself, taking the example of his Lord who said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do"[50-8], and of the Apostle, "Rendering to no one evil for evil".[50-9]  He grieved inwardly for he who had not deserved death lay gravely wounded, doomed to die.

Other Categories:
Library » Documents » Life of St. Norbert (Vita B) - Translation of 12th Century Manuscript