Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Notes on the Memorial of St. Norbert of Xanthen.

Today the Church remembers St. Norbert of Xanthen, a 12th century Rhenish nobleman who forsook a life of privilege and comfort to found a religious order called the Canons Regular of Premontre, also known as the Premonstratensians or the Norbertines. As my brother novice Jake Martin noted in a reflection at this morning's community Mass, there are some interesting parallels in the lives of Norbert of Xanthen and Ignatius of Loyola. Though the two men lived four centuries apart, the experiences they shared are significant. Norbert and Ignatius could both claim the title of 'reckless youth,' living somewhat profligate lives as courtiers. Following profound conversion experiences, both men adopted the mantle of the pilgrim penitent and chose to lead lives of intense prayer and rigorous penance. Living in times when the Catholic Church stood in need of renewal, Norbert and Ignatius responded by founding new religious orders to inspire the faithful and bring new life to the Church. Though the similiarities between Norbert of Xanthen and Ignatius of Loyola must not be overstated - the two men were also very different - the things they had in common are nonetheless worthy of our attention. Though the Norbertine and Jesuit Orders are also very different, they share an interesting distinction: in the 1970's, priests of both orders - Robert F. Drinan, S.J. and Robert J. Cornell, O.Praem. - served in the United States House of Representatives, representing Massachusetts and Wisconsin respectively. I'm sure there are other Norbertine/Jesuit parallels to be noted, but my unfortunate lack of experience with the Norbertines prevents me from doing justice to the topic. Though I must admit to a certain fascination with the Norbertines, I've never met any - not even Abbot Astrik Gabriel, a Norbertine medievalist and longtime professor at Notre Dame, who lived in retirement in South Bend during my time as a student. Hopefully at some point in my Jesuit life I'll actually encounter some Norbertines and gain a more experiential sense of their life and ministry. When that happens, perhaps I'll be better qualified to comment on the similarities and differences between two great orders, the Canons Regular of Premontre and the Society of Jesus. AMDG.


At September 10, 2009 4:12 PM, Blogger Dean said...

I am currently a Norbertine Novice for St. Norbert Abbey in DePere, WI.

Thank you for the kind words about the Norbertines!


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