Saint Norbert was born in 1080 in Xanten, a town near the Holland-Germany border. The son of a wealthy and influential family, Norbert was a sub-deacon whose only task was to chant the Divine Office, until he was appointed chaplain (religious counselor) to the Emperor Henry V in Cologne, Germany. He lived pleasurably as a nobleman, but after a lengthy stay in Rome with Henry V, he underwent a great conversion.
He heard the Pope’s declaration that it was wrong for a secular power to control the appointment of bishops and Norbert agreed. Following a close escape from a bolt of lightning during a storm, he withdrew from imperial service and went into seclusion in an abbey. After three years of self-scrutiny and prayer, he resolved to enter the priesthood, divested himself of all his possessions and sought permission from the Pope to become a missionary preacher.
Norbert then traveled through France and he preached repentance, peace, and moral reform to a country plagued by feudalism and brutality. In 1120, he established an abbey in the valley of Premontre, France and founded an order called the Premonstratensians or Norbertines. They sought Christ through community living, poverty, obedience, celibacy and dedication to the active priestly ministry. The community was monastic, apostolic and evangelical.
Norbertine abbeys extended all over northern Europe. Appointed Archbishop of Magdeburg, Germany in 1126, Norbert turned his residence into a Norbertine monastery, spreading his ideals into eastern Europe. He lessened the monastic duties of his monks so that they might better experience “the world” by reaching out to the needs of the people. He died in 1134, leaving behind an example of ministry-minded priests empowered by the Holy Spirit. St. Norbert is buried in Prague, Czech Republic. His feast day is June 6.
The statue of our patron was dedicated in the St. Norbert Parish church vestibule on June 5, 1983.