Nearly every Catholic knows of the Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines, and the Jesuits. Their respective founders are some of the most influential and venerated saints in Catholicism. But one lesser known saint that you may have never heard of belongs in the same circle as these great founders of religious orders.
Saint Norbert was born at Xanten in the Rhineland to a noble family about the year 1080. The early part of his life was devoted to the world and its pleasures, and when he entered the religious life, he still had the same desire for a luxurious life and pursuits of the nobility.
But one day, when he was out riding his horse, a terrifying lightning storm suddenly came upon him. A massive lightning strike nearly hit him, throwing him from his horse. As he awoke, Saint Norbert, speaking the same words as Saint Paul had said when he was thrown from his horse on the road to Damascus, asked, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” A voice in his heart answered him, “Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it.” He immediately reformed his life, devoting himself to prayer and penance. Giving everything he owned to the poor, he went to the pope for permission to preach. In an extreme response to his old ways, he now chose the most difficult ways to travel — walking barefoot in the middle of winter through snow and ice.
Ultimately, a bishop granted him land in the valley of Premontre, where Saint Norbert, started a community with thirteen others, that became known as the Praemonstratensians (after the valley) or more commonly, the Norbertines. They began wearing white habits, the same that Norbertines wear today, to imitate the choirs of angels in heaven in their most important duty: to sing the praise of God on earth.
Saint Norbert is a powerful intercessor for those seeking conversion, and who desire to serve others with apostolic zeal. His great love and defense of the Eucharist has earned him the title “Apostle of the Blessed Sacrament”.
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