Podcast Episode 010: Learning the Norbertine Way of Life


As Norbertines we are committed to a lifelong conversion of our ways. We realize that though the formal formation program may have come to an end, true formation continually evolves throughout one’s lifetime. Reflections On Norbertine Formation »

fôrˈmāSH(ə)n/    1. the action of forming or process of being formed.

When joining a religious community, one enters into a period of formation. While formation is a life-long endeavor for all of us, within the Norbertine community it involves a formal two-year period, known as “novitiate,” enabling men to discern their calling and vocation and to “grow harmoniously into a mature human and Christian person.” What exactly are these years like? How do men grow in faith and in community during this critical time?

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Lenten Reading Suggestions

Lenten Reading

Looking for inspiring books that will enhance your Lenten journey? We asked a few prolific readers within the Norbertine community for suggestions. Below are their recommended titles.

Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.

Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.

Fr. Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem.

Fr. Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem.

Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection

By Pope Benedict XVI

Recommended by: Fr. Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem., and Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.

Pope Benedict takes his readers through the familiar stories surrounding our Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection while adding unique reflections and insights earned from a lifetime of study, prayer, and reflection. This book not only makes you rethink what you know of Jesus of Nazareth but also fall in love with him again.

Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter

By Hans Urs von Balthasar

Recommended by: Fr. Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem.

Named a cardinal of the Church by Pope (Saint) John Paul II shortly before he died, Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) was one of the great theologians of the post-Vatican II Church. Mysterium Paschale is one of Balthasar’s most influential works, especially for its unique take on Christ’s decent into hell. At times, this work can be a bit jargon-filled and difficult to read, but for those comfortable with theological language, it is a profound and worthy book.

Fr. Michael Weber, O. Praem.

Fr. Michael Weber, O. Praem.

Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI

By Pope Benedict XVI

Recommended by: Fr. Michael Weber, O. Praem.

I’ve used Pope Benedict’s devotional throughout the last couple of years for reflection. Although these are daily meditations throughout the year, they are particularly powerful, well written short reflections on Scripture passages—including Lenten messages.

Abbot Emeritus Jerome Tremel, O. Praem.

Abbot Emeritus Jerome Tremel, O. Praem.

The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully

By Joan D. Chittister, O.S.B.

Recommended by: Abbot Emeritus Jerome Tremel, O. Praem.

Grace and wisdom flow from some 40 short essays. A rich source of reflection for anyone approaching or experiencing the elder years.

Fr. James Herring, O. Praem.

Fr. James Herring, O. Praem.

i am through you so i

By Brother David Steindl-Rast

Recommended by: Fr. James Herring, O. Praem.

Brother David, one of the most significant spiritual teachers and international speakers of our era, tells his incomparable rich story spanning the nine decades of his life.

Brother David and his TED Talk also can be found online.

Written for Our Instruction: Theological and Spiritual Riches in Romans

By Thomas D. Stegman, SJ

Recommended by: Fr. James Herring, O. Praem.

This book sets forth and makes accessible an under-appreciated aspect of St. Paul’s theology on the life of the Spirit. In his letters, Paul often reminds his readers/hearers about the gift of the Spirit they have already received.

Everything Ablaze: Meditating on the Mystical Vision of Teilhard de Chardin

By David Richo

Recommended by: Fr. James Herring, O. Praem.

Richo describes our calling to discover the sacred heart of the universe, grow into planetary consciousness, and participate in the great work ahead of us. A rich resource for meditating.

—Ursula King
Fr. Michael Brennan, O. Praem.

Fr. Michael Brennan, O. Praem.

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

By Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, with Douglas Abrams

Recommended by: Fr. Michael Brennan, O. Praem.

The author invites these two spiritual leaders and close friends to share their experiences of deep and abiding joy, most particularly in the face of profound suffering. This book has both confirmed and challenged my understanding of hope, joy, and suffering amidst the blessedness and brokenness of our shared humanity.

The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your TransformationThe Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation

By Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell

Recommended by: Fr. Michael Brennan, O. Praem.

Fr. Richard Rohr invites us to enter into one of the central tenets and mysteries of Christianity: our God is relationship, our God is community. Made in this image and likeness, we are invited to be transformed by our God, who constantly calls us into relationship. I’ve had this book on my shelf since late last summer; perhaps Lent will be the perfect time to jump in.

Between the Pages Book Discussion

Wednesday, February 28, 2018, 10-11 a.m.

Tony Pichler, director of the Norbertine Center for Spirituality at St. Norbert Abbey, is facilitating a book discussion on The Divine Dance. Details and registration »

Frater Johnathan Turba, O. Praem.

Frater Johnathan Turba, O. Praem.

iBreviary—Office of Readings

Recommended by: Frater Johnathan Turba, O. Praem.

When I start my day reading the Office of Readings, my heart is much more open to God’s presence throughout the day. Simply download the iBreviary app, click on “Breviary” and then select “Office of Readings.”

Hope for the Flowers

By Trina Paulus

Recommended by: Frater Johnathan Turba, O. Praem.

This simple book tells a beautiful allegory of letting go of our comforts in life and finding the courage to move through death to a life greater than anything we could have imagined. I find this book so insightful in reflecting on my own struggles, identifying what comforts I am holding on to that I may need to let go of, and visiting anew the need to give my life completely to God.

Fr. Stephen Rossey, O. Praem.

Fr. Stephen Rossey, O. Praem.

The Way of Gratitude: Readings for a Joyful Life

Editors: Michael Leach, James Keane, Doris Goodnough

Recommended by: Fr. Stephen Rossey, O. Praem.

The Way of Gratitude is a treasure trove of writings that inspire and prod one to think seriously about things that most of us just take for granted. The editors have assembled the writings of well-known authors who open the meaning of “gratitude” to make its practice useful and joyful. Authors such as James Martin, SJ, Henri Nouwen, Joan Chittister, O.S.B., and even David Brooks help you rethink your own response to gratitude.

Deacon Patrick LaPacz, O. Praem.

Deacon Patrick LaPacz, O. Praem.

The Magnificat Lenten Companion 2018

Recommended by: Deacon Patrick LaPacz, O. Praem.

This booklet contains reflections and short prayers for every day in Lent and helps keep one focused through one’s Lenten journey.

Frater Anh Tran, O. Praem.

Frater Anh Tran, O. Praem.

The Long Loneliness: An Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist

By Dorothy Day

Recommended by: Frater Anh Tran, O. Praem.

Through Dorothy Day’s autobiography of her life as a devout Catholic, a lover of Christ, and a tremendous champion for the poor, we gain insights regarding the call of true discipleship within our lives and the beauty of the Paschal Mystery.

More opportunities to celebrate the season of Lent at St. Norbert Abbey »

Young Adult Catholic Book Study

As seen in the Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Abbey Magazine (page 13)

By Fr. Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem.

Fr. Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem., leads a book discussion.

Fr. Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem., leads a book discussion.

In his talk at the 2010 Religious Education Congress in Los Angeles, Fr. Robert Barron (now Bishop Barron) shared a story about a visit he made to his brother’s house. One day, after his niece came home from school—one of the elite Catholic high schools in Chicago—Fr. Barron couldn’t help but notice her pile of textbooks on the kitchen table: Shakespeare’s Hamlet for her English class, Virgil’s Aeneid for her Latin class, and a tome of complex equations for her advanced physics class. He rummaged through the books in amazement, proud of his niece’s sophistication and intelligence. After moving a few books aside, however, his heart quickly sank. Underneath some of the greatest works of Western civilization was a paperback book full of large, simple print and colorful cartoon pictures—she was using a comic book for her religion class.

Bishop Barron’s story about his niece’s textbooks is familiar to many young adults, including me. Many of us grew up with these religious “comic books” in our Christian formation courses, leaving us unaware of the richness, depth, and beauty of the Christian tradition. Until recently, I had never heard of great Christian novelists or storytellers like Flannery O’Connor or Leo Tolstoy. I had not read the Christology of St. Athanasius of Alexandria or the mystical theology of St. Bonaventure. I did not know that theology had been brought to critically acclaimed films, like Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. In other words, I was unaware that Catholicism had a vibrant, intelligent, and colorful culture that not only passed on the faith in nuanced and sophisticated ways, but also was compelling and enjoyable!

Fr. Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem.

Fr. Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem.

After our exciting discovery of the vibrancy of Catholic culture, and recognizing the importance of sharing it with other young adults, Adam Horn (director of religious education at St. Bernard Parish, Green Bay) and I decided to start a book club for young adults ages 21-39 at St. Norbert Abbey. During the summer of 2016, we kicked off the group with a Facebook page simply called: “Young Adult Catholic Book Study: Green Bay, WI.” In September of 2016, we read our first work, Leaf by Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkien, with about eight members. After our first event, the book club started to grow. As of August 2017, our Facebook group has 70 members with as many as 18 participants at each discussion.

The fruits of our little book study are many: we have built community; we have read, watched, and discussed several great books and films; we’ve learned much and become “more cultured” along the way. Most importantly, however, we’ve become better at articulating and appreciating our faith. This was the impetus behind Fr. Barron’s story of his niece’s textbooks: to encourage young people to read the great books of the Christian tradition so that they might better understand, preach, teach, defend, celebrate, and thus communicate our faith. We believe that this book club is helping young adults in Green Bay accomplish these goals.

Join Us

If you are a young adult interested in learning to better communicate your faith, simply search “Young Adult Catholic Book Study: Green Bay, WI” on Facebook and join our group. We would love to read, discuss, and journey with you!

Selections from Ongoing Reading List:

Leaf by Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkein
A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
The Death of Ivan Illych by Leo Tolstoy
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick
The Soul’s Journey into God by St. Bonaventure
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
The Book of Job in the Holy Bible
On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius of Alexandria
The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher
Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment: Preparatory Document for the 2018 Synod on Young People by the Synod of Bishops
Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor



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