The Five Pillars of ‘Communio’ in the Norbertine Order

At the heart of the life of the Canons Regular of Prémontré is the idea of ‘communio’. This is often characterised by five points;

i. Laus Deo in Choro– The praise of God in choir through the chanting of the Divine Office and the worthy celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has long been a hallmark of our life.  The principle obligation of the canons in the priory is the singing or chanting of the Divine Office publicly and solemnly in the name of the Church; it includes the Conventual Mass – since the Mass is the highest form of prayer. This obligation is the first end of the Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré; it is indeed proper to all Orders of Canons Regular. Pius XI said of the Order “You are my Order. Just as bishops have their canons delegated to offer public prayer in their diocese, in the same way you are my canons, not just for one diocese, but for the universal Church.”

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ii. Zelus animarum– zeal for souls, or the care of souls, is the second end of the Canons Regular of Prémontré. Basing our lives on that of the Apostles we are bound to give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Having the care of souls the Premonstratensians, especially in England, have the care of parishes. This zeal for souls consists in the administration of the sacraments, in service in the Church, in preaching the Gospel, in teaching, in directing parishes and in performing all other pastoral duties. In the days of Our Holy Father Norbert these duties were sadly neglected by the secular clergy and the Canons were very much a remedy to this problem. Norbertine abbeys were called by Bishops ‘seminaries of missionaries and parish priests’.

iii. Spiritus iugis penitentiæ– the spirit of habitual penance was grafted by Our Holy Father Norbert onto the Rule of St. Augustine in order that it might be a strong means in helping his canons to become worthy pastors of souls. For more than a century the Norbertine Canons of England have offered Mass in reparation for the sins of the world, particularly those committed against Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Corpus Christi Canonry is the centre of the Archconfraternity of the Mass of Reparation on whose aims and work Pope St. Pius Xth gave his Apostolic Blessing and in 1904 presented a silver chalice for the use of the Canons. Each Saturday the Mass of Reparation is offered by the community.

norbert17.jpgiv. Cultus Eucharisticus– devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. The Holy Eucharist was the centre of St. Norbert’s life; he loved It and defended It, as at Antwerp in his triumph over the Sacramentarian heresy. It is because of this that he is represented holding a ciborium or monstrance in his right hand. Most of his miracles were wrought in connection with the Mass. He is said to be the first, chronologically speaking, of the saints called Eucharistic. Speaking of the Premonstratensian Canons, Pope Pius XI said: “Your Order is gloriously Eucharistic, and Eucharistically glorious.”

v. Cultus Marianus-the cult of Our Lady. Our Holy Father Norbert wished that his canons should honour and venerate in a special way the most Holy Mother of God, the Patroness of his Order. it was Our Lady who showed him the site at Prémontré on which he was afterwards to build his church and, after it was erected, he dedicated it to her. Most of the churches of our Order are similarly dedicated. Our Lady showed St. Norbert the white habit which his canons wear in her honour. After each Office an antiphon is sung to Our Lady.

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