In the footsteps of St. Norbert

Taking advantage of the traditional post-examination ‘vakantie’ Br. Rupert was able to spend a few days in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It was an opportunity to visit and pray at some of the sites closely associated with the life of Our Holy Father, St. Norbert and the history of our Order in both the Netherlands and Germany.

Our first visit was to the chapel of the former abbey of Roermond. This abbey of the Carthusian order was especially famed for one of its great and learned members; Dionysius the Carthusian – a noted theologian and mystic. In 1786 the Premonstratensians of Hotherm came to occupy the building until their dissolution in 1797. The chapel also features a statue of St. Gerlac, a hermit who lived an eremitical life next to the abbey of Hotherm and who had been clothed in the habit of our Order.

“In the days of Emperor Henry the Younger, during the pontificate of Pope Paschal, in the year of the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 1115, there lived in the town of Xanten, which from of old was called Troy, a man named Norbert.”

Vita B

Xanten in Germany is of course synonymous with St. Norbert. He was born in nearby Gennep and was educated in Xanten where he was ordained to the sub-diaconate and joined the canonry of St. Victor. After his conversion experience on the road to Vreden and his ordination to the priesthood in Cologne he returned to Xanten and attempted to reform the life of the canonry. St. Norbert’s attempts to recall the canons to their rule of life were met with ridicule and insult and thus he took leave of Xanten. The canonry church of St. Victor survives to this day; together with its beautiful high altar where St. Norbert celebrated mass. In the town square of Xanten is a statue of St. Norbert.

Our final destination, after visiting Maastricht and the beautiful basilica of St. Servaas, was the former abbey of Rolduc. In the crypt of the abbey church is a small chapel where St. Norbert celebrated Mass. St. Norbert spent time at Rolduc after he left Xanten in order to reflect and pray to discern what God was calling him to do. One one occasion whilst he was celebrating Mass a great miracle occurred:

Altar of St. Norbert at Rolduc

“Sometime later he was wearing himself out by severe fasting and abstinence, pushing himself day and night with vigils and prayer. While he was celebrating Mass as customary in a certain crypt, a spider fell into the already consecrated chalice. When the priest saw it he was shocked. Life and death hovered before his eyes. The spider was large. What should the man do whose faith was now deeply rooted in the Lord? Lest the sacrifice suffer any loss he chose rather to undergo the danger and consumed whatever was in the chalice. When the sacrifice was finished he expected to die immediately. While he remained at his place before the altar he commended his awaited end to the Lord in prayer. When he was disturbed by an itching in his nose he scratched it and suddenly he sneezed expelling the whole spider.” – Vita B

This Eucharistic miracle is recorded in a window of the crypt which stands before the very altar on which St. Norbert celebrated Mass. On this occasion however, no spiders were to be seen.

Our friends, relatives and benefactors were all remembered in prayer at these holy places, together with the intentions of all the members of our Order.

With thanks to Fr. Alexander de Graaf Woutering, Dean of Horst, and Fr. Troy Schneider for making these visits possible.

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