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The Catholic Defender: Saint Norbert


St. Norbert of Xanten is the patron saint of priests and peace. This designation stems from his life as a priest, his commitment to fostering peace and reconciliation, and his deep devotion to God.


He had a reputation for being a skillful and inspiring preacher and was also a person who tried to make peace between the many warring princes and people of the time, even to having his life threatened.



In the 12th century in the French region of Premontre, Saint Norbert founded a religious Order known as the Praemonstratensians or the Norbertines. His founding of the Order was a monumental tasks: combating rampant heresies—particularly regarding the Blessed Sacrament, revitalizing many of the faithful who had grown indifferent and dissolute, plus effecting peace and reconciliation among enemies.


Norbert entertained no pretensions about his own ability to accomplish this multiple task. Even with the aid of a goodly number of men who joined his Order, he realized that nothing could be effectively done without God’s power.


Norbert of Xanten (c. 1075-1134) was a nobleman, courtier, ascetic, legendary peacemaker, and an exemplar of the apostolic way of life; he was a priest of the Catholic Church who founded the Norbertine order in the 12th century. He built the order on the basis of love, selfless sharing and radical hospitality.


Finding this help especially in devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, he and his Norbertines praised God for success in converting heretics, reconciling numerous enemies, and rebuilding faith in indifferent believers. Many of them lived in central houses during the week and served in parishes on weekends.


Reluctantly, Norbert became archbishop of Magdeburg in central Germany, a territory half pagan and half Christian. In this position he zealously and courageously continued his work for the Church until his death on June 6, 1134.


Norbert was canonized by Pope Gregory XIII in the year 1582, and his statue appears above the Piazza colonnade of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.


O God, who did make of Blessed Norbert, Thy Confessor and Bishop, an excellent preacher of the Word, and by his means did enrich Thy Church with new offspring, grant, we beseech Thee, that through his intercession we may put into practice, by Thy grace, what he taught us, both in word and work.


A different world cannot be built by indifferent people. The same is true in regard to the Church. The indifference of vast numbers of nominal faithful to ecclesiastical authority and essential doctrines of the faith weakens the Church’s witness. Unswerving loyalty to the Church and fervent devotion to the Eucharist, as practiced by Norbert, will continue immeasurably toward maintaining the people of God in accord with the heart of Christ.

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