Saints & Blesseds

St. Norbert, reformer of the canonical order, gave to his order the apostolic way as a norm of life. This, he also lived, stimulated by a courageous faith,
true penance, voluntary poverty, zealous preaching of conversion,
vigilant care of the poor, and finally becoming all things to all people.

Norbertine saints and blesseds are pictured below, listed in order of their feast days. These hand-carved wood statues are part of a collection of statues on display at St. Norbert Abbey. They were created by Josef Albl and sons of Albl Oberammergau woodcarvers in Germany.

Feast of Bl. Gerlac
of Valkenburg, O. Praem.

January 5

(c. 1100, † 1172?)

Gerlac was born of nobility and served as a soldier in the imperial German army. He led a wild and licentious life, part as a roadside robber, until the death of his wife, after which he experienced a conversion and exchanged his uniform and weapons for the garb of a penitent. Gerlac went on pilgrimage to Rome where he confessed his sins and as penance made a further pilgrimage to the Holy Land. For seven years he served the poor and sick before returning to Rome.

Pope Hadrian IV sent him home in 1158 with a letter of advice by which his future life in solitude was to be regulated. He retired to Valkenburg and chose a hollow oak for shelter where he lived as a hermit, living a life of penance and renunciation. He wore a rough white habit, indicating that he belonged to the Norbertine Order. On Saturdays he made a pilgrimage barefoot to nearby Aachen to honor the Virgin Mary. Many people of that region came to ask for his prayers, advice and assistance; he gave them both material help and spiritual nourishment. St. Hildegard of Bingen, after hearing about his virtues, sent him the crown of her virginal consecration as a gesture of her esteem.

Gerlac died on January 5, the vigil of Epiphany, probably in 1172. His grave and hermitage soon became a pilgrimage site. In 1201 the Norbertine abbey of Heinsberg founded a small monastery in Houthem (near the oak tree) in order to preserve his relics. At the request of the order, Pope Benedict XIII allowed his cult on January 22, 1728.


Crown: Nobility

Pilgrim’s staff: Penitent pilgrim

Hollow oak tree: Solitude

Memorial of St. Godfrey of Cappenberg, O. Praem.

January 14

(c. 1097, † January 13, 1127)

Having been born in 1097 from the lineage of the Counts of Cappenberg, Godfrey married Jutta, the daughter of the Count of Arnsberg.

In a quarrel between the bishop of Münster and the emperor, Godfrey sided with the bishop. When Münster was harassed and destroyed in 1121, Godfrey was deeply disillusioned, partly on account of the behavior of his own soldiers. He then decided to turn his castle into a monastery. He and his brother Otto met Norbert of Xanten in the same year, and Godfrey was deeply impressed by the apostolic life preached and lived by Norbert.

In the beginning his wife and brothers were opposed to his intentions, but on May 31, 1122, Godfrey gave Norbert his castle at Cappenberg. This was the first foundation of the order in Germany. Additional monasteries were founded on Godfrey’s properties in Varlar and Ilbenstadt. Neither of the brothers, however, could enter “their monasteries” until 1124 because they first had to fulfill their military duties—and, in Godfrey’s case, obtain the consent of his wife Jutta. She later entered the monastery of canonesses in the lower monastery in Cappenberg. Godfrey stayed for a time in Cappenberg where he founded a hospital for the poor and served the poorest with great humility.

When Norbert became archbishop of Magdeburg in 1126, he called Godfrey to his side. Finding it difficult to acclimate himself to life at the episcopal court, Godfrey became ill. With the approval of Norbert he went to his abbey in Ilbenstadt. Godfrey died on January 13, 1127, just a few days after his arrival. He was not yet 30 years old. After his death, his relics were divided between the monasteries of Ilbenstadt and Cappenberg.

Pope Paul V approved his veneration at Cappenberg in 1614, and Pope Benedict XIII extended it to the whole order on March 8, 1728. Following the difficult times of secularization, the bishop of Mainz began promoting the veneration of Godfrey again in 1862.


Crown: Royalty

Scull: Desire for martyrdom

Castle: Medieval castle of Cappenberg

Memorial of St. Frederic
of Mariëngaarde, O. Praem.

February 4

(b. unknown, † March 3, 1175)

Frederic was the son of a poor widow from Hallum in Friesland. His priestly vocation was recognized from his early youth, as was his special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Returning from his theology studies in Munster, he became a teacher and was ordained a priest and appointed an assistant to the priest of Hallum, whom he later succeeded.

After the death of his mother, Frederic built a hospital and asked permission of the bishop of Utrecht to establish a monastery of canons. Subsequently he went to the Norbertine abbey of Mariënweerd to learn about monastic life.

In 1163, Frederic built the monastery of “Mariëngaarde,” dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. At first the priests and nuns lived in a double monastery, but eventually the nuns moved to the convent of Bethlehem. Frederic himself, being attracted to Norbertine religious life, went to Steinfeld Abbey in order to become a member of the Norbertine Order. Frederic later became the abbot/pastor of Hallum and the rector of Bethlehem convent at the same time.

Becoming ill while at the Norbertine convent of Bethlehem, Frederic returned to Hallum — the church in which he had celebrated his first Mass and where he also would celebrate his last. After Mass he returned to the abbey to die. He said to his confreres, “Pray for me because I could not care for the poor as much as I wished since the monastery was so poor.” He urged the confreres to follow the Rule and assured them that he would never abandon them if they would remain faithful.

Frederic died on March 3, 1175. So many miracles occurred at his grave that the church of Mariëngaarde became a much-visited pilgrimage site. In 1614 during the rule of the Calvinists in Friesland, his relics were transferred to the abbey of Bonne-Espérance in Belgium, where they were entombed in the abbey church. During the French Revolution they were relocated to Vellereille, and in 1938 to Leffe in Dinant, Belgium. Pope Benedict XIII approved Frederic’s cult on January 22, 1728.


Pectoral cross and crosier: Abbot

Sudarium: Protection

Lilies: Devotion to Mary

Romanesque abbey: Founder

Feast of Bl. Hugh
of Fosse, O. Praem.

February 10

(c. 1093, † February 10, 1164)

Hugh was born in Fosses-la-Ville southeast of Brussels in present day Belgium toward the end of the 11th century. He became a cleric of the collegiate chapter of his hometown and later a court chaplain of Burchard, the Bishop of Cambray in France.

Hugh met Norbert of Xanten in Valenciennes on March 26, 1119, and was so impressed with his apostolic way of life that he became Norbert’s first disciple. In 1121, after the founding of Prémontré, Hugh returned to Norbert’s side and was named the first prior of the young community, becoming Norbert’s “right hand” man. After Norbert was appointed archbishop of Magdeburg in 1126, the confreres elected Hugh the first abbot of Prémontré, where he built the first medieval abbey church and monastery.

In order to preserve unity among Norbert’s numerous foundations, he called the superiors of the various houses to a meeting out of which the General Chapters of the order developed. Hugh also compiled the first book of ceremonies with the liturgical directives of the order and authored the ancient account of the life of St. Norbert known today as “Vita Norberti B.” Hugh played an essential role in the development, inner strengthening, and rapid flourishing of the order. Under his guidance the number of the monasteries grew many-fold.

As an abbot, Hugh was mild and humble of heart, but also very persistent. For 36 years he was the father of his community and the source of unity in the order. Hugh died on February 10, 1164, and was buried in the abbey church at Prémontré.

After the suppression of the abbey of Prémontré during the French Revolution, Hugh’s mortal remains were transferred several times, resting finally at the abbey of Bois-Seigneur-Isaac in Belgium in 1922. Pope Pius XI confirmed the cult of Blessed Hugh on July 13, 1927.


Crosier and pectoral cross: Abbot

Books: Statutes, Ordinarius, and Vita B

Architecture: Prémontré

Memorial of St. Evermode
of Ratzeburg, O. Praem.

February 17

(b. unknown, † February 17, 1178)

Evermode was born in Belgium around 1100. After hearing a sermon preached by Norbert of Xanten, he was so struck by the personality and words of this apostolic man that he left everything to join him in 1120, becoming one of his most loyal disciples. Evermode was probably ordained a priest by Norbert himself and was certainly present when Norbert transformed the chapter of Our Lady in Magdeburg into a community of the order. He remained Norbert’s companion until Norbert’s death on June 6, 1134. Evermode stood by his master at his deathbed and later took care to see that Norbert was buried in the church of the monastery of Our Lady in Magdeburg.

Evermode adhered to what Norbert considered the stricter rule of St. Augustine, the “ordo monasterii,” and followed in Norbert’s footsteps in the areas of clerical reform and the conversion of the pagan Wends. He was elected leader of Our Lady at Magdeburg, a post he held from 1138 to 1154. In this function he founded the Norbertine monasteries of Havelberg, Jericho, Quedlinburg, and Pöhlde.

When the diocese of Ratzeburg was reestablished in 1154, Evermode became its first bishop and converted the newly-installed cathedral chapter into a Norbertine chapter. It was not easy for Evermode to be caught between the prince of Bavaria and Saxony (upon whom he was dependent both politically and financially) and the prince’s adversary (who claimed the rights of the Metropolitan over Ratzeburg and was opposed in principle to bishops who were members of religious orders). Consequently, Evermode had himself consecrated bishop by the Archbishop of Mainz.

Driven by apostolic ideal, Evermode traveled throughout his diocese preaching the Word and became for his people a light of truth. The conversion of the pagan Wends was his first concern. Future generations, even among the Protestants, gave Evermode the titles “Light of the Saxons” and “Apostle of the Wends.”

Old and weakened by his many labors, Evermode died as bishop of Ratzeburg on February 17, 1178, after an episcopate of 24 years. He was buried in the Romanesque cathedral of Ratzeburg. Pope Benedict XIII confirmed his cult on January 22, 1728.


Crosier and miter: Bishop

Aspergilla and aspersorium: Blessing

O.I.: Anointing

Feast of Bl. Oda of Bonne
Rivreuille, O. Praem.

April 20

(c. 1134, † April 18, 1158)

Oda was born around 1134 in France of both noble and Christian stock. Oda wanted to contribute to the honor of her royal house and aspired to a life of holiness. From her childhood she was a very pious girl and had a special love for purity, believing that the life of the cloister would be her best protection. At the beginning of her adolescence she made a secret vow of chastity, but being too young to enter the convent she remained with her parents, devoting many hours to prayer.

Oda’s parents, however, wanted her to marry. On the day of her arranged wedding, she refused to respond to the usual questions. After being prodded to say something, Oda said, “Since you want me to say that it pleases me to take this young man as my husband, you must know that I will never marry him or any other. I have bound myself from my childhood to a Spouse to whom I have vowed my virginity. Neither love, nor riches, nor threats, nor even blows can separate me from His embrace.” Still, her parents continued to pressure their daughter to marry.

In order not to prolong the conflict, Oda disfigured her face by cutting off her nose. Hearing of her plight, Abbot Odon from the Premonstratensian convent at Rivreuille sent two confreres to the castle to console the brave child. Oda again asked her father’s permission to enter the cloister, declaring that if he did not accede to her wishes, she would continue to disfigure herself. Overcome, her father gave his permission. Abbot Odon clothed her with the white habit himself.

Oda began her religious life with profound humility, a burning desire for sanctification, complete detachment, and obedience. Eventually Oda was elected prioress. She had a heart full of compassion for the poor, the sick, and the needy, and did everything she could to lighten their burdens.

While still relatively young, Oda grew feeble and ill. She died on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1158, surrounded by her sisters. In his sermon at her funeral, Abbot Philip of Harvengt of Bonne-Espérance said, “She has borne her name with truth. She was indeed a very special ‘ode’ to the honor of God.”


Crown: Nobility

Pectoral cross: Prioress

Nose and dagger: Disfigurement

Lilies: Virginity

Book: Biography

Memorial of St. Ludolph
of Ratzeburg, O. Praem.

April 26

(b. unknown, † March 29, 1250)

Ludolph was a Norbertine canon who was appointed to the See of the newly-formed Prince-Bishopric of Ratzeburg in 1236. He led such a strict religious life that his community was nicknamed the “carcer ordinis” (Prison of the Order).

Like a good shepherd, Ludolph focused all his energies on the care of souls. He preached and made pastoral visitations. The pope entrusted him with several political missions, forcing him to fight for the rights and freedom of the Church. His most difficult trial involved standing up to Prince Albert, the “Bear of Saxony,” who had taken possession of cathedral properties—an act that Ludolph resisted. The prince’s insults and threats did not intimidate him. The Duke had him imprisoned, where he was beaten and later sent into exile. Albert consequently ordered Ludolph thrown into a dungeon, where he had to suffer severe tortures. Realizing that his treatment of the bishop was unpopular, the prince decided to set Ludolph free. After his release from prison, he was brought half-dead to the Franciscans at Wismar, where he died a few days later on March 29, 1250.

After his death, those who visited his grave in the Cathedral of Ratzeburg reported numerous favors received. Ludolph is venerated as a “Martyr for the freedom of the Church.” The centuries-old veneration of Ludolph was confirmed and extended to the whole order by Pope Benedict XIII on April 12, 1728.

The head of Ludolph was kept in the possession of the Norbertine nuns of Meer in Prussia, beginning in the 17th century. After the secularization of this convent, the relic came into the possession the abbot of Hamborn in 1826. On March 5, 1984, the Congregation for Divine Worship granted permission for the public veneration of the three Norbertine bishop-saints of Ratzeburg: Ludolph, Evermode and Isfrid.


Mitre: Bishop

Chains: Imprisonment

Palm branch: Martyr

Memorial of St. Hermann-Joseph of Steinfeld, O. Praem.

May 24

(c. 1150, † April 4, 1241)

Hermann was born at Cologne around 1150. From his earliest childhood, he manifested a tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin. His Vita recounts that he prayed daily in the church of St. Mary in Cologne. One day he offered an apple before the statue of the Virgin and Child, she bent down so the Christ Child could reach it.

Hermann was about 12 years old when he entered the Norbertine abbey of Steinfeld in Germany. He was sent to the abbey of Mariëngaarde for studies. As a young man he liked to practice strict penance. After his return to Steinfeld and his priestly ordination, he was appointed to serve in the abbey sacristy and refectory. In these manual labors he developed an extraordinary spiritual life and received numerous mystical gifts. He received the surname “Joseph” on account of a vision in which the Blessed Virgin accepted him as her betrothed. His childlike piety and frequent ecstasies caused misunderstanding on the part of his confreres. Hermann-Joseph was a model religious—humble and poor, patient and friendly to everyone. He was a model of obedience and always ready to serve his confreres.

Hermann-Joseph wrote several hymns in honor of the Blessed Mother, St. Ursula, and her Companions, and a commentary on the “Song of Songs.” He was one of the first to expressly honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus in a genuinely mystical way.

Hermann-Joseph was appointed spiritual director to the Cistercian nuns in Hoven. He was at their monastery during the final Lent of his life, where he fell gravely ill and died on the Thursday after Easter, April 4, 1241.

Veneration began immediately after his death with numerous miracles were reported at his tomb. On January 22, 1728, Pope Benedict XIII permitted his veneration. His cult was formally recognized when Pope Pius XII canonized him on August 11, 1958. St. Hermann-Joseph is venerated in the Rhine region and in the Norbertine Order as Patron of children and of students.


Christ Child holding an apple: Apparition of the Virgin and Child

Lilies: Purity

Books: Books of his writings

Solemnity of St. Norbert
of Xanten, O. Praem.

June 6

(c. 1080, † 1134)

Norbert was born of noble parents around the year 1080 in Xanten in the northern Rhineland. As a child, he was presented to the Cathedral Chapter of St. Victor in Xanten, where he was later ordained subdeacon. Emperor Henry V took note of Norbert’s gifts and charm and called him into his personal service at the imperial court. There, Norbert led a worldly lifestyle.

In the year 1115, thrown from his horse and nearly killed in a thunderstorm, he repented and began to lead the life of a penitent. Ordained to the diaconate and to the priesthood on the same day, he wandered about the countryside, preaching the word of God, railing against the abuses of the clergy, and reconciling enemies. One of the earliest paintings of Norbert depicts him holding the Gospel book and the palm branch of peace. Criticized and persecuted by members of the hierarchy, Norbert sought and obtained approval for his preaching from Pope Gelasius II and later from Pope Calixtus II, who encouraged him to settle and found a community in the diocese of Laon in northern France.

There, in the desolate valley wilderness of Prémontré, Norbert laid the foundations for his religious order. He chose the rule of St. Augustine, becoming one of the most avid reformers of the day. The community was marked by its austerity of life, its poverty, its intense liturgical life of prayer, and, above all, its complete fidelity to the ideal of community life as depicted in the Augustinian rule.

On July 25, 1126, Norbert was reluctantly ordained archbishop of Magdeburg and relinquished the leadership of his order to begin the work of shepherding the vast diocese on the northeastern frontier of the German Empire.

During his years as archbishop, Norbert fought strenuously for the freedom of the church against secular princes and proved himself an ardent champion of the cause of the Roman Pontiff. He was instrumental in the downfall of the anti-pope Anacletus II and the return of Pope Innocent II to his throne. Weakened by his travels and labors, Norbert returned to Magdeburg where he died on June 6, 1134.


Gospel book: Preacher

Palm branch: Peacemaker

Chalice: Defender of the Eucharist

Mitre, crozier, and pallium: archbishop

Figure: the heretic Tanchelm

Memorial of St. Isfried
of Ratzeburg, O. Praem.

June 15

(c. 1115, † June 15, 1204)

Isfried was born around the year 1115 and eventually became a canon in the abbey of Cappenberg. In 1159 he was named the first provost of Jerichow where he built a magnificent Romanesque church.

At the urging of Prince Henry of Bavaria and Saxony, the followers of Norbert turned their attention to the conversion of the pagan Wends. Through the intervention of Prince Henry, Isfried was chosen Bishop of Ratzeburg in 1178 as successor of St. Evermode. He completed the building of the cathedral begun under Evermode and established many parishes.

Isfried was inclined to be strict in penitential practices. Toward the rebellious Wends, however, he was a mild judge, converting them through his preaching. In the year 1190 he visited the abbey of Floreffe in Belgium and consecrated the seven altars of its church, which had been destroyed by a fire. In the same year he also consecrated the Romanesque church of Postel, a daughter house of Floreffe.

In the struggles between the imperial and the papal parties, in spite of all the threats and protests, he sided with the defeated Duke Henry of Saxony and Bavaria, to whom he had once swore fealty. He remained the confessor and spiritual director of Prince Henry, to whom he ministered at his deathbed in 1195.

Exalted through many miracles during his life and after death, he was a true light in a time of much darkness. Isfried died on June 15, 1204, at the age of 90, and was buried in the Cathedral of Ratzeburg next to St. Evermode.

On March 20, 1728, Pope Benedict XIII approved of Isfrid’s sanctity and cult. His memorial to Isfried reads: “St. Isfried of Ratzeburg died as a man of great patience, of greatest temperance, totally dedicated to religious practices. His influence extended far over the German Northeast. When the monastery of Floreffe at Namur was devastated by fire and the religious were dispersed, Isfried called them back.”


Mitre: Bishop

Flagellum: Penance

Memorial of Ss. Adrian and James of Middelburg, O. Praem.

July 9

(c. 1528, † July 9, 1572 / c. 1542, † July 9, 1572)

On July 9, 1572, for their loyalty to the Catholic faith, the Calvinists hanged 19 priests and religious in Gorcum in the Netherlands. Among these were two sons of St. Norbert: Adrian and James.

Adrian Jansen was born in 1529 and entered the abbey of Middelburg at the age of 15. After a stint as the master of novices, he was appointed a parish pastor. Adrian was an exemplary priest and a true apostle laboring in a parish, which counted several Calvinists among its population.

James Lacoupe, also a canon of Middelburg, was born in 1542. He was a brilliant young man whose success went to his head. His religious life was mediocre. When the iconoclastic Calvinists infiltrated the abbey in 1566, the 24-year-old James renounced his faith. He went so far as to write a pamphlet attacking the Church, and had become a preacher of the Calvinist beliefs. His father and a brother (who was also a Norbertine) eventually brought him to reconsider. Touched by the grace of God, he returned to the abbey and was kindly received by the community when he asked forgiveness for his apostasy.

After five years of penance, the abbot appointed him curate in Munster, where his brother was pastor. After the death of his brother in 1572, Adrian was appointed pastor. Adrian had only been there three months when revolutionary soldiers attacked the rectory and captured both priests. Together with 17 other priests and religious, they were marched through the streets of Gorcum while being beaten and insulted, accompanied by a screaming mob.

The 19 priests and religious were thrown into prison and subjected to a trial, during which they defended the doctrine of the Eucharist and the authority of the Pope. They were mistreated, tortured, and denied food. On July 9, 1572, both Adrian and James, together with the other priests and religious, were hanged and received the crown of martyrdom. They were beatified by Pope Clement X on November 24, 1675, and canonized by Blessed Pius IX on June 29, 1877.


Palm branch: Martyr

Papal tiara: Defender of the Papacy

Chalice: Defender of the Eucharist

Scaffold: Instrument of death

Memorial of Bl. Hroznata
of Teplá, O. Praem.

July 14

(c. 1160, † July 14, 1217)

The Czech nobleman Hroznata was born around 1160. From his childhood, he experienced the special protection of the Mother of God. Profiting from a good education, he became well versed in diplomacy, military science, and economics. Hroznata married but lost his wife and young son at an early age.

In place of a legal heir, he founded the monastery of Teplá in 1193. When the papal legate encouraged the knights to participate in the crusades, Hroznata promised to go to the Holy Land in order to liberate the holy places. He made the journey with the crusaders to Brindisi and passed through Rome, where the pope confirmed the foundation of Teplá. Since the crusade failed in 1197, the pope dispensed Hroznata from his vow concerning the crusades and encouraged him to found a sister monastery for Teplá. Together with his widowed sister he established a cloister for nuns in Chotesov in 1202.

Feeling a call to become a religious growing in his heart, Hroznata went to Rome and was vested by Pope Innocent III in the white habit of the order, becoming a lay brother in the monastery he had founded. Because of his expertise in a variety of areas, he was appointed administrator of the monastery properties.

In 1217 Hroznata was captured and imprisoned by robbers while doing business for the abbey. Because he refused to allow the abbey to pay his ransom, his captors starved him to death in prison. After his death, the confreres of Teplá were able to secure his body and to bury it in the abbey church in front of the high altar.

Hroznata is honored as a “saint” because of his love of neighbor, his humility, and his martyrdom. Pope Leo XIII beatified him on July 14, 1897. Pope John Paul II declared him patron of the newly-erected diocese of Pilsen on March 3, 1997.


Palm branch: Martyrdom

Hand shackles and chain: Imprisonment

Teplá Abbey: Founder

Feast of Bl. Gertrude
of Altenburg, O. Praem.

August 13

(b. September 29, 1227, † August 13, 1297)

Gertrude was the daughter of Count Louis of Thuringia and Hesse, whose wife was St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Her father dedicated her to God from the womb as he prepared to depart for the Crusades in 1227. Louis offered the unborn child to the Premonstratensian canons of Rommersdorf if a boy, or the Premonstratensian canonesses of Altenberg if a girl. Gertrude was born on September 29, 1227, a few weeks after Louis died in the Crusades. Her mother, who wished to devote the rest of her life to prayer and the service of the poor, kept her husband’s vow by entrusting Gertrude to the convent in Altenberg.

Gertrude received her entire education at Altenberg and became the third prioress of the monastery at age 24. Using her inheritance, she built the monastery church, a hospital, and guesthouse for the poor. While washing the sick, Gertrude was reported to say, “How beautiful it is that we are allowed to bathe the Savior!” When Pope Urban IV renewed the call for a crusade, Gertrude became a zealous advocate of this endeavor, collecting money for the crusaders.

In 1264, when a Decree of Pope Urban IV established the feast of Corpus Christi was met with widespread resistance, Gertrude introduced the feast at Altenberg, thus becoming one of the first to introduce the new Eucharistic feast in the order.

In everyday life, Gertrude took care of the needs of the poorest—both in the hospital and in the monastery. She had the gift of reconciling people and imploring God’s mercy through penance and mortification.

After a serious illness, she died on August 13, 1297, having led her community for 50 years. She was buried in the monastery church of Altenberg. Pope Clement V granted indulgences on the anniversary of her day of death and allowed her veneration in 1311. Her cult as a “blessed” was confirmed by Pope Benedict XIII on January 22, 1728.


Crosier and pectoral cross: Abbess

Almutium: Symbol of final incorporation into a religious community

Crown: Noble countess

Monstrance: Corpus Christi feast

Architecture: Built church, hospital, and guesthouse

Solemnity of St. Augustine
of Hippo

August 28

(b. 354, † 430)

Augustine was born on November 13, 354, in Tagaste, Numidia. He was educated as a rhetorician in the former North African cities of Tagaste and Carthage. Between the ages of 15 and 30, he lived with a Carthaginian woman whose name is unknown; in 372 she bore him a son, whom he named Adeodatus.

Augustine became an earnest seeker after truth. He considered becoming a Christian, but experimented with several philosophical systems before finally entering the Church. For nine years, from 373 until 382, he adhered to Manichaeism, with its fundamental principle of conflict between good and evil.

Around 384, Augustine went on to Milan as a teacher of rhetoric. There he came under the influence of the philosophy of Neo-Platonism and also met the bishop of Milan, St. Ambrose—then the most distinguished ecclesiastic in Italy. Augustine presently was attracted again to Christianity.

He returned to North Africa and was ordained in 391. He became bishop of Hippo in 395, an office he held until his death. It was a period of political and theological unrest. Augustine threw himself wholeheartedly into the theological battle. Besides combating the Manichaean heresy, Augustine engaged in two great theological conflicts: one was with the Donatists, a sect that held the sacraments invalid unless administered by sinless ecclesiastics; the other conflict was with the Pelagians, who denied the doctrine of original sin. In the course of this conflict, Augustine developed his doctrines of original sin and divine grace, divine sovereignty, and predestination. Augustine died at Hippo, August 28, 430.


Book: Rule of Life

Flaming heart: Restless heart

Child on seashore: Explanation of the Trinity

Feast of Bl. Bronislava
of Zwierzniec, O. Praem.

August 30

(b. 1203, † August 29, 1259)

Bronislava was born at the castle of Kamien in Upper Silesia in 1203. Her family was of Polish origin and devoted to the Gregorian reform movement. She grew up in an atmosphere deeply influenced by the Crusades, and devotion to the Holy Cross would characterize her entire life. When Bronislava was 16 years old she entered the cloister of the Norbertine nuns at Zwierzyniec in Cracow, Poland. Bronislava’s devout prayer life, her meditation on the Passion of Christ, and her veneration of the Holy Cross left a deep impression on her contemporaries.

When the Tartars invaded Cracow in 1241, Bronislava, holding the Cross in her hand, encouraged her sisters with the words, “Do not be afraid, the Cross will save us.” The barbarians left behind a track of misery. In the same year a pestilence also ravaged this region. In every difficult challenge, Bronislava was an “angel of consolation” to the people in their need. The local people considered her their patroness on whom they could count when they needed protection. Her help and protection was the Cross. During her grave afflictions, she withdrew to the solitude of a local hill where she entrusted her troubles and the troubles of others to the mercy of God.

Bronislava died on August 29, 1259. Her body was taken to the convent church where she was invoked as a saint. Her relics were placed in a precious reliquary and carried in solemn procession each year on the anniversary of her death. Pope Gregory XVI declared her blessed on August 23, 1839. The Polish bishops introduced her canonization process in 1947 under Pope Pius XII but the process was hindered by the 40 years of communist rule in Poland.


Crux gemmata: Jeweled cross

Lilies: Virginity

Cave of solitude: Refuge

Feast of Bl. Peter-Adrian Toulorge of Blanchelande,
O. Praem.

October 13

(b. May 4, 1757, † October 13, 1793)

Peter-Adrian Toulorge was born in 1757 in Normandy, France. He received his priestly formation at the seminary of Coutances and was ordained a priest in 1782. He was appointed vicar of Doville, where the pastor was a Norbertine from the abbey of Blanchelande. Struck by the example of his pastor, Peter-Adrian entered the same abbey and became a son of St. Norbert.

In 1789, the French Revolution broke out. Peter heard about the law of August 26, 1792, which condemned all servants of the Church who refused to take the oath of the new constitution. Strictly speaking, he was not affected by the law, since, as a religious, he was not serving any parish at the time. He nevertheless decided to go to the nearby island of Jersey under English rule. When he later realized that the anti-clerical law did not apply to him, he returned to Normandy and began secretly to minister to the people.

In September of 1793 while visiting the faithful, disguised in women’s clothing, Peter was betrayed and taken into custody. The tribunal did not have any proof that he had fled France to Jersey. After some hesitation, Peter-Adrian decided to tell the whole truth, knowing full well that this would put his life in danger. The judges responded by imposing the sentence of death by guillotine.

The night before his death, he wrote a letter to his brother: “You should rejoice, my brother, that God has found me worthy not only to suffer in prison but also to die for our Lord, Jesus Christ. I do not wish to grieve you with my fate. Rather you should rejoice and say with me: ‘The Lord be praised!’ I wish you a holy life and paradise at the end of your days. I wish the same for my sister, my nephew, and the whole family.”

On October 13, 1793, Peter-Adrian was taken to the marketplace of Coutances. As he was being carried through the streets in a wagon escorted by soldiers, the shutters of every window were closed in protest as the cortege passed by. The entire city mourned the loss of this 36-year-old priest, who was beheaded under the guillotine. The beatification of Fr. Peter-Adrian Toulorge took place on April 29, 2012, in the Cathedral of Coutances in Normandy, France.


Shackles: Imprisonment

Bible: Preacher

French flag: Nationality

Guillotine: Martyrdom

Memorial of Bl. Jakob (James) Kern of Geras, O. Praem.

October 20

(b. April 11, 1897, † October 20, 1924)

Francis Alexander Kern was born in Vienna on April 11, 1897. At age 11, the intellectually-gifted youth enrolled in the Minor Seminary at Hollabrunn. At age 14, he made a vow of perpetual chastity.

Francis enlisted as a volunteer in the army during World War I. In September of 1916, as a lieutenant on the Italian Front, a bullet pierced his lung and caused a wound from which he would never fully recover. He entered the seminary of the archdiocese of Vienna as a convalescent.

Around this time, a group of Czech Catholics separated themselves from Rome and founded the schismatic Czech National Church. A Norbertine canon of Strahov Abbey and a doctor of philosophy fell away from the Church and became a leader of the schism. James was deeply shocked and decided to offer himself in atonement. Pope John Paul II would later say, “In this sad event, James Kern discovered his vocation. He desired to be the propitiatory sacrifice for this fallen-away Norbertine. James entered the abbey of Geras to replace him in the order.” On October 18, 1920, James received the white habit.

Having been put to the test by his war injury, he took religious life very seriously. Through a special indult, given in view of his poor health, he was ordained a priest. At his first Mass he said, “This Palm Sunday will be followed by my Good Friday.”

In 1923 some of his ribs were removed using only a local anesthetic and his Way of the Cross began. In his festering wound, he remembered the wound of the Czech schism. On the day he was to profess Solemn Vows, he underwent surgery again. Before the operation he said, “Tomorrow I will see the Mother of God and my Guardian Angel.” The hospital chaplain gave him the Last Rites and blessed him for the final leg of his earthly journey. James Kern died on October 20, 1924.

Large groups of the faithful came to his grave in Geras to pray and to ask for his intercession. Pope John Paul II beatified James Kern on June 21, 1998, at Vienna’s “Heroes’ Square.” More than one hundred Norbertines joined the thousands present for this celebration, during which the Pope encouraged priests to follow this “Hero of the Church” and remain faithful to their vocation.


Crucifix: Identification with Christ’s sufferings

Rifle and gas mask: World War I

Abbey: Abbey of Geras

Memorial of St. Gilbert
of Neuffontaines, O. Praem.

October 26

(b. unknown, † June 5, 1152)

The knight Gilbert belonged to the nobility of Auvergne in France. Following the advice of the Norbertine abbot of Dilo, he participated in the Second Crusade (1147-1149), which was preached by St. Bernard of Clairvaux at Vezelay and led by the French king Louis VII. This crusade ended in military disaster.

Having survived this dangerous endeavor, Gilbert decided, together with his wife Petronilla and his daughter Ponzia, to dedicate himself to God and enter monastic life. He distributed his considerable wealth to the poor and founded a convent, which his wife and daughter entered.

At first Gilbert lived as a hermit. Then, after completing his novitiate in the Norbertine abbey of Dilo, he founded the abbey of Neuffontaines around 1150 and became its first abbot. He also built a hospital attached to the abbey, which became famous because of the many miracles that occurred there. Penitent and filled with compassion, he cared for a great number of sick and sinful people, whom he wished to heal both spiritually and physically. Many children with severe sicknesses were brought to him. He laid his hands on them and gave them back to their parents healed. This gave rise to the later custom of parents bringing their sick children to Neuffontaines seeking St. Gilbert’s intercession for healing.

Gilbert died on June 5, 1152, worn out by penance and hard work. He had expressed his desire to be buried in the cemetery of the poor. However, because of the many miracles that God worked through his intercession, his earthly remains were eventually transferred to the abbey church of Neuffontaines, and after being lost for a time were later rediscovered in October of 1615. The relics were transferred for greater safety in 1791, and again lost during the tumult of the French Revolution. St. Gilbert’s feast day falls on the anniversary of his translation. Pope Benedict XIII confirmed the veneration of St. Gilbert on January 22, 1728.


Monasteries: Founder of Neuffontaines

Banner: Crusader’s flag

Helmet, sword, and shield: Knight

Feast of Bl. Ricvera
of Clastres, O. Praem.

October 29

(b. unknown, † October 29, 1136)

Ricvera hailed from the region of Vermand in northern France and married Raymond de Clastres. After Raymond’s death she decided to live the apostolic lifestyle of St. Norbert and came to Prémontré.

In 1120 the bishop of Noyon issued a declaration stating that Ricvera bequeathed herself to the foundation of Prémontré, and her lands at Belmont to Norbert. She received the veil from Norbert himself in 1121.

Ricvera worked at Prémontré in the hospital founded by Norbert, which was also a guesthouse for travelers and a hospice for the poor. She enjoyed a reputation for being a consoler of the poor, the destitute, and the desperate.

Weakened by intense fasting and night vigils, she died surrounded by her sisters on October 29, 1136. At her request, she was buried in the cemetery of the poor. It is reported that roses bloomed for a long time over her grave. She has always been regarded as the first nun of the Norbertine Order and is honored as “blessed” at the monasteries of Frigolet in France and Zwierzyniec in Poland.


Crown: Royalty

Money bag: Almsgiving

Bread: Food for the poor

Beggar: Destitute

Roses: Miraculous grave marker

Feast of All Saints
of the Order

November 13

St. Norbert, reformer of the canonical order, gave to his order the apostolic way as a norm of life. This, he also lived, stimulated by a courageous faith, true penance, voluntary poverty, zealous preaching of conversion, vigilant care of the poor, and finally becoming all things to all people.

Life in accord with the Gospel of Christ and the apostolic way of life, the Rule of St. Augustine, and the lives of all the saints of the order constitute living examples for the ordering of one’s Norbertine life. Today the order honors all of those named and unnamed men and women who have zealously followed Norbert’s life and example.

Memorial of St. Siard
of Mariëngaarde, O. Praem.

November 14

(b. unknown, † November 13, 1230)

Siard was born into a noble family of Friesland in the Netherlands. He studied in the abbey school of Mariëngaarde where St. Frederic was abbot. In 1175 he entered the novitiate. After 20 years of religious life he was elected the fifth abbot of Mariëngaarde.

Nothing in his daily life distinguished him from his confreres. He wore the same habit, ate at the same table, and slept in the same dormitory. On account of his exceptional humility, he resolutely refused everything that was not strictly necessary. He was a good administrator who governed his monastery well—both in spiritual and material matters. Siard worked side by side with his confreres during the periods of manual labor, especially in the fields.

The apostolic spirit of the order thrived at Mariëngaarde under his leadership. Whenever Siard went on a journey, he took along a large basket full of bread and other foods that he could distribute among the poor. He had the gift of pacifying hatred and reconciling enemies. He urged three things upon the confreres who had to leave the monastery: a joyous departure, a peaceful sojourn, and a happy return.

Siard had a special devotion to Jesus’ friends Martha and Mary. He looked to Martha as an example for his care of the confreres, and to Mary as a reminder of the necessity of listening to Christ in prayer and meditation. Siard died in 1230, having been abbot for 36 years.

After the destruction of Mariëngaarde by the Calvinists in 1578, a Friesland nobleman rescued his earthly remains. In 1608 his relics were divided and placed in two separate reliquaries: one was transferred to the Norbertine abbey of Leffe, the other to Tongerlo, both in Belgium. The relic of Siard’s head found a home in the Generalate House in Rome until 2001, when it was transferred to the abbey of Windberg. Pope Benedict XIII confirmed the cult of St. Siard on January 22, 1728.


Crosier: Abbot

Flagellum and cross: Penance

Palm: Spirit of peace and reconciliation

Basket of bread: Food for the poor