Happy Feast of St. Norbert. St. Norbert was born near Cologne in 1075. He was of noble rank and spent his youth pursuing the many pleasures in life. His life changed dramatically at the age of 33, when a thunderbolt struck near his horse’s feet, and the animal threw him. When he awoke, he was touched with grief of heart and began to say to himself: “Lord what do you want me to do?” Immediately as if He were responding: “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”
St. Nobert experienced a profound conversion. What he preached by his words, he demonstrated by his works. And what he did, he confirmed with signs and powers. At the center of St. Norbert’s spiritual life and ministry was the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Contrary to custom of his times, he celebrated Mass every day. It was after offering the Eucharistic sacrifice that he loved to preach, while his heart was overflowing with the love he had drawn from intimate contact with Christ.
In 1121, St. Norbert established the first monastery of the Norbertine Order in Prémontré, France. He drew many men and women to Apostolic life by his zeal and divine fervor. As we approach the feast of Corpus Christi and the kickoff of our Eucharistic Revival at St. Elizabeth Seton, we seek St. Norbert’s intercession for his devotion to Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. The Eucharist, the heart of liturgical prayer was the focus at Prémontré and in the life of St. Norbert. St. Norbert is known as the Apostle of the Eucharist.
In the Gospel today, the Pharisees and Herodians try to entrap Jesus by questioning Him about paying Roman taxes. If Jesus says not to pay taxes, He speaks against Rome and would be reported for inciting a rebellion. If He says to pay taxes, He speaks against the Jews who were embittered by Roman rule. How does Jesus respond? He says, "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God." And silences the crowd.
It is Caesar’s face on the coin that is used to pay taxes…so give to Caesar what is his rightful property. God’s image and likeness, however, is stamped into every living person. Even more important than civil responsibilities is the obligation everyone has to give himself back to God. How do I give myself to God? How do I repay God for His goodness, generosity, love, and mercy? How do I render all the gifts I have been given to God?
St. Norbert said, “You will never enjoy the sweetness of a quiet prayer, unless you shut your mind to all worldly desires and temporal affairs.” Rendering all begins in silence, the stillness of life where we encounter God. With the power of the Holy Spirit, we can silence the noise of the world with all its’ false promises. When I receive the Eucharist, the heart of Jesus, I am filled with mission and strength to begin to give myself completely to God.
Today, the Norbertine Order consists of several abbeys throughout the world, including one in De Pere, Wisconsin home to St. Norbert’s College. The National Shrine to St. Joseph is located adjacent to Old St. Joseph Church on the grounds of St. Norbert College. St. Norbert College is also 20 miles from the National Shrine to Our Lady of Champion, formerly Our Lady of Good Help. These holy grounds make for a wonderful summer weekend away!