Blessed Hugh was one of St. Norbert’s first disciples and later became first abbot of Prémontré. Pope Pius XI, a great friend of our Order, confirmed the immemorial cult of Blessed Hugh on July 13, 1927.
He was born at Fosses-la-Ville in what is now Belgium around the year 1093. He seems to have been orphaned early in life and was educated at the collegiate church of St. Feuillien at Fosses. Upon ordination he was made secretary to Burchard, the Bishop of Cambrai. Whilst accompanying the bishop through Valenciennes, Hugh and Burchard happened upon St. Norbert who was there preaching. St. Norbert came to visit the bishop and was led into the episcopal presence by Hugh.
The bishop, looking at him standing there with bare frozen feet and dressed in rough clothing, absolutely amazed and dumbfounded, fell upon his neck with a gasp and cried out: “Oh Norbert, who would ever have believed or even thought this of you!” The cleric who had admitted Norbert wondered about the bishop’s affection for him and asked the reason. The bishop answered: “This man whom you see was brought up with me in the court of the king, a man noble and abounding in delights to such a degree that he refused my bishopric when it was offered to him.” Hearing this, the cleric filled up with tears both because he saw his master weeping, but also because he longed for a similar way of life. Secretly he checked out where Norbert would be continuing his journey. Norbert was suddenly seized by a serious illness while still in the city. The bishop kindly tended his illness, daily visiting him through the members of his court. The aforementioned cleric was among those visitors and when Norbert grew stronger he approached him and promised to accompany him in his profession and journey. Norbert thanked God thinking that the man was going to set out with him. But when the cleric stated that he first wanted to set his affairs in order, Norbert was troubled at his words and said only: “Ah, brother, if this is of God, it will not be undone.” The cleric left promising to return and, disposing of his possessions, a little later did return henceforth to follow the man of God. The name of that cleric was Hugh. – Vita A
After returning to Norbert’s side Hugh followed Our Holy Father on his many journeys over northern Europe and was present at the foundation of Prémontré in 1120. Hugh was made first prior of the abbey and when Norbert took up his appointment of Archbishop of Magdeburg Hugh became the first abbot. As abbot Hugh laid the foundations of the legislative and liturgical life of the Order. He organised the system of General Chapters, wrote the first statutes of the Order and organised the various liturgical offices. He was also devoted to the education and training of his clerics and governed the Order during those early years of rapid expansion. Known especially for his humility Hugh never signed his name with ‘abbot’ but only as ‘servant of God and Norbert’.
Having laboured so hard for the good of the Order Hugh died at Prémontré on 10th February 1164. In 1279 his relics were moved to the high altar of the abbey church of Prémontré and given more elaborate furnishings in 1660. With the coming of the Revolution Hugh’s relics were safely hidden in a number of locations until they found a place at the abbey of Bois-Seigneur-Isaac. His relics finally found a home in Rome, at the Generalate of the Order in 2010. How appropriate that the first abbot of Prémontré should now ever be close to his successors. On the feast of Blessed Hugh then, let us pray especially for our own Abbot General, Amplissimus Dominus, Dominus Praemonstratensis
Thomas Handgrätinger O.Praem, together with all the superiors of our Order.
It is also the feast of our own prelate, Fr. Hugh Allan o.praem. We wish him a very happy feast day and ad multos annos! This year we also have the great joy of celebrating the feast with our Abbot General, Thomas Handgrätinger, the 64th successor of Blessed Hugh.
Almighty eternal God, who are always calling new men so that they might make Your way known to others, we humbly entreat You through the merits and intercession of Your abbot Blessed Hugh, that by praying and working, we may build up Your people into one. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.