The Triumph of St. Norbert

Saturday within the Octave of the Sacred Heart was marked in the rite of our Order as the feast of the ‘Triumph of St. Norbert’. This feast recalls the zeal exercised by Our Holy Father Norbert in defending and strengthening the doctrine of the Real Presence, which was strenuously tested in the north of Belgium about the year 1124. The heretic Tanchelm had caused spiritual desolation in Antwerp and the neighbourhood, by his denunciation of the Church, the Priesthood and the Sacraments. He declared himself to be God and would see his bathwater for the veneration of those foolish enough to give him credence. Though he had been beheaded by an angry priest upset at his words, his false doctrines still lived and continued to exude their deadly poison. Bishop Burchard of Cambrai had employed various means to overcome the heresy, but so far his many attempts had been so many failures. In his perplexity he remembered Norbert, appealed to him and Norbert quickly responded to the invitation. He carefully selected from amongst the brethren those distinguished by their piety, zeal, and erudition and with them set out for Antwerp. They speedily gained the admiration of the people and then their hearing. The frequent sermons and instructions were attentively listened to and the Antwerpians soon realised that they had been deceived. The heretical doctrines of Tanchelm were repudiated and the people returned to the practice of their ancient faith. In recognition of the service he had rendered, Norbert was acclaimed by the people “Apostle of Antwerp” which title he holds to this day, and from the Canons of St. Michael, he received the gift of their church. In time an abbey was built up around it and from it were founded the well known Abbeys of Averbode, Middlebourg and Tongerlo. Iconography of St. Norbert frequently shows Tanchelm at his feet with his invalid Eucharist spread abroad.

“Brothers, do not be surprised and do not be afraid. Unwittingly you have pursued falsehood thinking it to be the truth. If you had been taught the truth first you would have been found effortlessly tending toward salvation, just as you now effortlessly lean toward perdition.”
St. Norbert to the people of Antwerp (Vita B)


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