Calendar of Saints Of the many members of our Order who are revered for their holy lives and example, fourteen are especially venerated and have a Mass and Office in their honour according to the particular calendar of our Order.
14th January - St. Godfrey
Born into the wealth and prestige of the counts of Cappenberg, in his early adulthood he played an active role in supporting the cause of the Roman Pontiff against Emperor Henry IV. In 1121 he encountered St. Norbert at Cologne and was so struck by his lifestyle and preaching that he immediately made plans to give away all his possessions and enter the infant Norbertine Order. Together with his brother Otto and his wife Judith, he handed over Cappenberg Castle to St. Norbert on May 31, 1122, thus establishing the first foundation of the Order in Germany. Both Otto and Judith followed Godfrey’s example and embraced the religious life of the new Order. The further donation of his estates at Varlar and Ilbenstadt to St. Norbert caused an uproar among the local nobility who viewed it as a threat to their established aristocracy. Under the leadership of Godfrey’s hostile father-in-law, Frederick of Arnsberg, an unsuccessful military assault was made upon the new monastery at Cappenberg. Through all of these trials Godfrey remained steadfast in his desire to be a Norbertine. When things calmed down, Godfrey received the habit from the hand of St. Norbert. He especially loved to care for the poor and sick in the hospital attached to the abbey. St. Norbert wanted to have him by his side at Magdeburg, but Godfrey felt out of place in the noisy northern metropolis and was granted permission to return to Cappenberg. It was on his way back to Mt. Cappenberg that Godfrey fell sick at Ilbenstadt. Surrounded by his brethren and his brother Otto, he made peace with them all: “My brothers, through love for the Order, through zeal for the glory of God, I have occasionally reprimanded some of you a bit too harshly. I beg pardon from you now.” Moments later, seeing a vision of angels, Godfrey exclaimed, “How beautiful! How beautiful! The messengers of my Creator and God have finally come!” With that he fell asleep in the Lord. It was January 13, 1127. He is pictured with the crown of nobility which he rejected for the sake of Christ’s kingdom, with the skull of penitence recalling his severe trials and with one of the poorest of the poor whom he loved to serve so much.
4th February - St. Frederick
Frederick Feikone was the son of a poor widow from Hallum in Friesland. His priestly vocation was already noticed in his early years and his pastor gave him his first Latin instructions. He studied the liberal arts and the Holy Scriptures at Münster. Frederick had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Cecilia. Returning from Münster, he became a teacher and was ordained a priest when he was old enough. He was appointed assistant priest to the pastor of Hallum whom he later succeeded. Frederick wished to build a hospital and asked bishop Godfrey of Utrecht (1156-1177) for permission to establish a monastery of canons after the death of his mother. Thereafter he went to the Norbertine abbey of Mariënweerd to learn as novice about the monastic life. Afterwards he wandered through cities and villages to gather companions. In 1163 he built a monastery church dedicated to the Blessed Mother: “Mariëngaarde.” At first the priests and nuns lived in the same establishment but soon the sisters moved to Bethlehem. He then went to Steinfeld in order to join the foundation to the Norbertine Order. Frederick remained abbot, pastor of Hallum, and rector of Bethlehem all at the same time. A seminary for educating priests was attached to the abbey and became famous in a short time. Frederick became ill while at the Norbertine convent of Bethlehem and returned to Hallum. In the church in which he had celebrated his first Mass he also celebrated his last. After the Mass he returned to the abbey to die. He said to his confreres, “Pray for me, because I could not care for the poor as much as I wished since the monastery was so poor.” He urged them to follow the Rule and assured them that he would never abandon his confreres as long as they would remain faithful. He died on March 3, 1175. So many miracles occurred at his grave that the church of Mariëngaarde became a much-visited pilgrimage site. In 1614, during the rule of the Calvinists in Friesland, Abbot Nicolas Chamart took his relics to Bonne-Espérance where they were entombed in the abbey church in 1616. During the French Revolution they were taken to Vellereille, and in 1938, during Abbot Bouvens’ term, to Leffe in Dinant. Pope Benedict XIII approved Frederick’s cult on January 22/March 8, 1728. His feast was transferred from the day of his death since this date often fell in the season of Lent.
10th February - Bl. Hugh
Blessed Hugh was born in Fosses in what is now known as Belgium in 1093. He was a student of the school of the chapter of canons of the collegiate chapter at Saint-Feuillen and in time became the secretary of the bishop of Cambrai, Burchard. On meeting St. Norbert he experienced a conversion of his life and left all to follow Our Holy Father, traveeling with him around France, Belgium and Germany where they preached. With St. Norbert he helped found the Order at Prémontré where he became the first abbot. As abbot Hugh never signed his name with ‘abbot’ but only as ’servant of God and Norbert’, a sign of his great humility. As abbot general of the Order Hugh convoked the General Chapters and made important early reforms such as the separation of the monasteries of canons and canonesses. It was also he who codified the Premonstratensian liturgical practises. He died in 1164.
17th February - St. Evermode
Evermode was born in Belgium around the beginning of the twelfth century. Practically nothing is known of his youth. When Evermode was about twenty years old, St. Norbert came to the city of Cambray to preach at the invitation of Bishop Burchard. Evermode happened to hear Norbert speak and was moved immediately to join him. Norbert took him back to the newly founded community in Prémontré where Evermode became one of his first disciples. From this day forward Evermode accompanied Norbert on all of his journeys, soon becoming the closest friend and “beloved disciple” of the wandering preacher. Evermode was by Norbert’s side at all of the key moments of his life as founder and archbishop. On June 6, 1134, he was present at the bedside of Norbert as he imparted his farewell blessing and died. Evermode was stricken keenly by the death of Norbert. In the years that followed, he held several positions of leadership. From 1134 to 1138 he was the provost of the Abbey of Gottesgnaden in Saxony, and, from 1138 to 1154 provost of St. Mary’s in Magdeburg. In the year 1154 Evermode was appointed the first bishop of the newly founded diocese of Ratzeburg. A cathedral chapter of thirteen Norbertines surrounded Evermode with the community life he had come to cherish. As bishop he was known above all else for his apostolic zeal for the conversion of the pagan peoples of the north, most notably the Wends. As such the Premonstratensians are the only religious order to have converted an entire nation. He is often referred to as the “Apostle of the Wends” and was successful in both Christianizing and civilizing them where many had failed before. Evermode was also famed for his keen sense of justice. When the powerful Count Henry of Ratzeburg continued to mistreat some prisoners despite Evermode’s pleading to treat them fairly, he responded with a miracle. When the prisoners were admitted to the cathedral for the Mass of Easter, as was the custom, Evermode sprinkled the newly blessed Easter water on their chains, and the chains broke, setting the prisoners free. Evermode died as bishop of Ratzeburg on February 17, 1178. He is pictured with the regalia of a bishop, wiping away the tears of grief which he shed over the death of his beloved friend, St. Norbert.
26th April - St. Ludolph
Nothing is known of the early years of Ludolph. He joined the Norbertine Cathedral Chapter of Ratzeburg where he was treasurer before being elected eighth bishop of Ratzeburg in 1236. He was renowned for his exemplary religious life and powerful preaching of the word of God. He also founded a community of Norbertine sisters at Rehna. But Ludolph is perhaps best remembered for his fearless defence of the rights and goods of the church against the greedy Duke Albert of Saxony. One of the duke’s plans was to raze the cathedral complex, situated near his castle, and transform the place into a garden. Ludolph strenuously opposed the plan. While on an official journey, and accompanied by only a small body guard, he was seized by Duke Albert’s men, shackled, spat upon and handled roughly. At one point he was bound by his feet and hands in the open forest and left a prey to merciless swarms of mosquitoes. He was then thrown in prison and eventually freed. Ludolph bore all of his sufferings with patient resolve. Fearing to return to Ratzeburg where Duke Albert had gained the upper hand, Ludolph took refuge with Prince John of Mecklenburg at Wismar. It was during this exile that Ludolph, weighed down by the infirmities suffered in prison and by his advancing old age, fell gravely ill. He celebrated his last Mass on Holy Thursday. His final words were “O great and good God, allow me, your useless servant, to belong to you for all eternity.” He died on March 29, 1250. His body was returned to Ratzeburg for burial. As the procession passed through Schlagsdorf, the bells of the city were said to ring of their own accord. At the command of the Duke, Ludolph’s body was carried from the bridge to the cathedral by the nobility of Ratzeburg. Ludolph’s confreres carried him into the cathedral himself where he found his final resting place. Ludolph is honoured as a bishop and a martyr for the rights and freedom of the church. He is portrayed with the regalia of a bishop, bearing the shackles that bound him in prison and holding the palm of martyrdom.
24th May - St. Hermann Joseph
Born at Cologne about 1150; died at Hoven, 7 April, 1241. According to the biography by Razo Bonvisinus, contemporary prior of Steinfeld (Acta SS., 7 April, I, 679), Hermann was the son of poor parents who had once been rich. At the age of seven he attended school and very early he began the tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin for which he was known during his entire life. At every available moment he could be found at the church of St. Mary on the Capitol, where he would kneel wrapt in prayer and child-like appeal to Mary. One day he is said to have presented an apple, saved from his own scanty repast, to the Child Who accepted it. According to still another legend, on another occasion, when on a bitter cold day he made his appearance with bare feet, Mary procured him the means of getting shoes. At the age of twelve he entered the monastery of the Norbertine or Premonstratensian Canons at Steinfeld, in the present Rhenish Prussia, made his studies in the Netherlands, and on his return was entrusted with the service of the refectory and later of the sacristy. After he had been ordained priest, it was remarkable with what reverence and devotion he offered the Holy Sacrifice. He was known for his gentle demeanour and affability, his humility, his extraordinary mortifications, but, above all, for his affection for the Mother of God, before whose altar he remained for hours in pious intercourse and ecstatic visions, and in whose honour he composed wonderful prayers and hymns. Mary, in turn, showed him her predilection, called him her chaplain and her spouse, and confirmed his surname Joseph, given to him by his brothers in religion. Hermann was sometimes sent out to perform pastoral duties and was in frequent demand for the making and repairing of clocks. He had under his charge the spiritual welfare of the Cistercian nuns at Hoven near Zulpich. Here he died and was buried in the cloister. His body was later transferred to Steinfeld, where his marble tomb and large picture may be seen to the present day; portions of his relics are at Cologne and at Antwerp. He is represented in art as kneeling before a statue of the Virgin and Child and offering an apple.
15th June - St. Isfrid
Nothing is known of the early years of Isfrid. In the year 1159 he was elected provost of the Abbey of Jerichow in the Archdiocese of Magdeburg. In the year 1180 he became the first successor of St. Evermode as bishop of Ratzeburg. The medieval chronicler describes him as "sanctus sancti successor" ("a saint succeeding a saint"). He was known for his organizational skills and worked tirelessly for the German colonization of the land of the Wends. Isfrid was the confessor and friend of Duke Henry of Saxony. Henry was a devout layman who supported Isfrid enthusiastically in his project of continuing the missionizing of the Wends, begun by Evermode. But Emperor Frederick Barbarossa unjustly deprived Duke Henry of his possessions, giving them to Bernard of Anhalt. Bernard persecuted all who disapproved of the emperor's policy against the pope or who sympathized with Duke Henry. Isfrid bore these persecutions with dignity and patience until Henry was at last reconciled with the emperor and recovered his duchy. In the ancient annals of Stederburg, Isfrid is called "a man excelling in Christian wisdom, humility and fortitude." In 1195 the canons of the chapter of Schwerin, composed of both Saxons and Wends, could not agree on the election of a bishop. Isfrid was asked by the pope to arbitrate, and the choice feel to Brunward, one of the first Wends to receive episcopal ordination. Isfrid was a man of great austerity. Once, on Good Friday, while fasting on bread and water, the water which he drew from an ordinary source was miraculously changed into wine. Isfrid lifted his eyes to heaven and said: "When your will, O wonderful Creator, transforms the things you have created, I cede to your command. Behold, on the day of the passion of your Son, I will take that which you give." Many miracles are associated with the life of Isfrid. One day, as he and his canons were processing around the church, a blind man approached isfrid, seeking to be cured. Isfrid had pity on him and spoke the words of Psalm 145: "The Lord enlightens the blind." At these words, the man recovered his sight. Isfrid died on June 15, 1204, and was buried in the Cathedral of Ratzeburg. He is pictured with the regalia of a bishop, with the cup of water turned to wine and with the blind man whom he cured.
9th July - SS. Adrian and James
Adrian Jansen and James LaCoupe were both Norbertine canons from the Dutch Abbey of Middleburg. Adrian was born in 1529 at Hilvarenbeck (whence the Latinized surname “Becan”, which is sometimes used to avoid confusion with other Jansens). Around Eastertime, 1572, he was appointed pastor at Munster, a village on the North Sea. Here, as in former parish assignments, he distinguished himself for his pastoral zeal. Tensions with the Calvinists were very pronounced at Munster, but Adrian was not intimidated. He went about openly in his white habit, preaching and proclaiming the good news. The associate pastor at Munster during this period was the young Father James LaCoupe. James was born in Audenarde, Belgium, in 1542, and made his solemn profession in the Abbey of Middleburg in 1561. He was well-liked by the brethren of the abbey for his friendly and open personality. But, led astray by the writings of the Protestant reformers, James left the abbey to embrace the doctrins of the Reformation. He went so far as to write a scathing tract against the Catholic Church. Largely through the tearful entreaties and prayers of his father, James was eventually moved to seek re-admittance into the Catholic Church and the Order. He was sent to the Abbey of Marienhof where he submitted himself to an extended period of penance and wrote tracts in defence of the Catholic faith. In 1567 he was appointed associate pastor at Munster. Frs. Adrian and James found themselves at Munster during the height of Protestant animosity. As the summer of 1572 arrived, the nearby villages of Dordrecht and Gorcum were captured by Calvinist pirates, and a dozen religious were being held in Gorcum with little hope of release. The parish priests of Munster were warned not to leave their rectory. In July there was an urgent call for help at the rectory door. Fooled into believing he was to administer the last sacraments to a dying man, Adrian opened the bolted door and was captured along with James. The two were dragged to a prison cell at Brielle where they joined nineteen priests and religious awaiting their fate. After repeated offers to renounce their Catholic faith, the priests and religious were finally led to an abandoned monastery near Gorcum on July 9. Two religious renounced their faith at the last minute and were spared. The others, including Fathers Adrian and James, were hung from the rafters and then horribly mutilated. Adrian and James are pictured with the hangman’s rope around their necks and the palm of martyrdom in their hands. Adrian holds the papal crown and keys, symbolizing his defence of the Roman Pontiff. James holds the chalice, symbolizing his defence of the doctrine of the Eucharist.
14th July - Bl. Hroznata
Hroznata was born of noble parents in Bohemia around 1170. His mother consecrated him to the care of the Blessed Virgin from his birth. Although he appeared to be a still-born child, his mother’s trust in the Virgin Mary’s intercession brought Hroznata both life and good health. Twice as a young boy he came close to death: once when the heavy wheels of a carriage passed over him, and again when he fell into a river. But Hroznata grew into a distinguished young man and married a young lady from a noble family. After the premature death of his wife and child, he felt alone and abandoned. But, turning his vision to the spiritual, he resolved to place his earthly riches at the disposal of the Church. In 1193 he gave his lands and possessions to the Norbertine Order for the foundation of the Abbey of Tepl. He made a promise to God to take part in the Crusade of 1197 and left with the Crusaders for the Holy Land. Several obstacles, especially in the transporting of the Crusaders by sea, led to the abandonment of the Crusade. Hroznata returned home via Rome where he was released from his promise by Pope Celestin III, who encouraged him instead to found a community of Norbertine sisters at Chotieschow. In the meantime Hroznata felt a growing desire to enter the Order himself. To that end he sought advice from the pope and received the white habit of the Order from Innocent III in 1202. Many trials awaited Hroznata. Upon returning to Tepl as a laybrother, he was appointed overseer of the abbey’s immense lands and became embroiled in various disputes involving property rights and ownership of land. With the power invested in him by his abbot, Hroznata fought strenuously against greedy nobles who tried in every way to gain control of the patrimony of Tepl. With courage and strength he openly opposed these men, thereby making many enemies. One day while travelling from Tepl to Lichtenstadt, Hroznata was seized by a band of hostile knights and imprisoned on Mt. Kinsberg. There he suffered a slow and agonizing death by starvation. He died on July 14, 1217. His cult as a martyr was officially confirmed by the Holy See in 1897. Hroznata is pictured with the crown of nobility which he renounced for the sake of Christ’s kingdom, and with the palm of martyrdom, holding a church which recalls his foundation of the Abbey of Tepl.
13th August - Bl. Gertrude
Born on September 29, 1227; the youngest of three children of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. At about the age of one she was brought to the Norbertine sisters of Altenberg, perhaps her saintly mother foresaw her own imminent death and knew that the sisters would be good mothers to her orphaned child. When the Elizabeth did just a few years later in 1231 at Marburg, she is said to have appeared in Gertrude’s room at Altenberg, radiant and smiling. When Gertrude was old enough, she joined the community for life. So extraordinary were her gifts and virtues that she was chosen Abbesses of the convent at age 21. Under her guidance and direction many women among the nobility left the world to join the flourishing community at Altenberg. Gertrude built the abbey church in honour of the Blessed Virgin and St. Michael. Once when she had scrubbed and washed a veil, the rays of the sun were said to hold it aloft until it was dry, thereby showing heaven’s approval of her devotion to the lowliest tasks. Gertrude had a special gift for reconciling enemies. When Pope Urban IV called for a new Crusade, Gertrude received his permission for her sisters to bear the Crusader’s cross and join in the Crusade through prayers and works of penance. When the same pope introduced the solemnity of Corpus Christi, Gertrude was among the first and most ardent promoters of the feast, which, beginning in 1270, was celebrated at Altenberg with the highest possible solemnity. After 49 years as abbess of Altenberg, Gertrude died at the age of seventy on August 13, 1297. She is portrayed with the crown of nobility, the pectoral cross of an abbess, and a monstrance recalling her devotion to the feast of Corpus Christi.
30th August - Bl. Bronislava
Born around 1200 at Kamien in present-day Poland. As a young girl she expressed interest in becoming a religious sister, but her father stubbornly resisted. Bronislava was despondent until the Lord himself appeared to her with the reassuring promise: “Patience, Bronislava, you will become my spouse.” She was finally permitted to enter the community of the Norbertine nuns at Cracow around the year 1219. Bronislava identified so closely with the cross that one day, on a hillside by the convent, the crucified Christ appeared to her and said: “Bronislava, as my cross has been your cross, so, too, will my crown be your crown.” In early Lent of the year 1241, Bronislava with some of her sisters were praying, with arms outstretched in the form of a cross, when they received the news that the savage Tartars were advancing rapidly towards Cracow. the convent was in imminent danger of destruction. Bronislava took up a crucifix, pressed it to her heart and said to her sisters, “Do not fear anything – the cross will save us.” She then led the sisters to the subterranean passages beneath the convent where they successfully remained hidden from the invaders. The convent buildings, however, were not spared, and collapsed in flames, trapping the sisters underground. It is said that when Bronislava knocked three times with her crucifix on a rock wall of the dark prison, a passage to freedom opened for the sisters. After the destruction of the convent, many of the sisters took refuge in monasteries which had been spared. Bronislava remained in the ruins of the old convent with a handful of sisters, building little huts to sleep in and passing the days caring for the poor, the sick, and the countless victims of the Tartar invasion. It was the ultimate sign and blossoming of a truly cross-centered spirituality which expressed itself in solidarity with the suffering of others. The convent was never rebuilt in Bronislava’s lifetime. She eventually succumbed to a serious illness while attending the sick, dying on August 29, 1259. She is the patron saint of Cracow.
20th October - Bl. James Kern
James was a canon and priest of the Norbertine Abbey in Geras, Austria. He had been training at a diocesan seminary at the outbreak of the First World War when he was drafted into the Army. during his time of active service Blessed James was badly wounded and his afflictions would cause his continuing physical pain throughout his life. Despite these sufferings James returned to the seminary at the end of the War and proceeded with his studies. At the same time a Norbertine canon, Bogumil Zahradnik had become a leader of the schismatical Czech National Church. James was moved to offer himself to the Norbertine Order in atonement for the sins of this priest and he was duly accepted as a novice at Geras. ordained priest in 1922 James continued to bear his pains with great courage and determination, all without a word of complaint. He entered into his priestly ministry with great enthusiasm, especially in hearing his confession and his work with young people. After many struggles, physical and spiritual, James went to his eternal reward on October 20th 1924. He was beatified by John Paul II on June 21st 1998.
26th October - St. Gilbert
Gilbert was a crusader knight who had survived the Second Crusade and upon his return to Europe resolved to consecrate his life to the service of God. He immediately distributed much of his personal wealth to the poor and needy and thence financed the construction of an abbey for Norbertine nuns. His wife Petronilla and his daughter Pontia both entered this abbey and Gilbert himself entered the Order at our abbey of Dilo. He later built the abbey of Neuffontaines in 1150 and became its first abbot, overseeing the construction of an infirmary that became famed for the miracles wrought there. Gilbert personally ministered to the sick who came to abbey for physical and spiritual healing and as a sign of his humility was buried in the part of the abbey cemetery reserved for the sick who died there. When his cult grew, his body was moved into the abbey and today’s feast marks the translation of his relics. Neuffontaintes abbey was suppressed in 1790, following the revolution, and his relics translated to a parish church for safekeeping. They were never found again.
14th November - St. Siard
He was born to a noble Frisian family in the shadow of the abbey of Mariëngaard and there received the white habit at the hands of St. Frederick. During his first twenty years in the abbey Siard practised great penances and mortification and proved a model of edification for the brethren, to such an extent that Abbot John appointed Siard his successor on his death-bed. As Abbot his life was particularly marked by its austerity and benevolence. He was particularly fond of handing out bread to the poor personally and joined in with the manual labour of his brethren, particularly in the fields harvesting wheat. He was extremely open to those who sought his advice and ensured that the abbey became known as a place of refuge throughout the region. As a model of perfection, St. Siard had also given Blessed Dodo of Haskerland his Norbertine education. He also showed a true conciliatory spirit, settling disputes quickly and with the utmost gentleness and understanding. Furthermore the saint extended the lands of the abbey and guided the construction of various additions to the buildings. Once on a journey, the holy abbot came across a noisy celebration of music and dance. He stopped and turned to his brothers saying, “Just imagine what songs of joy the angel choirs must sing when they celebrate the conversion of a single sinner.” Known also for his miracles of healing, the monastery began to attract many in search of physical healing after Siard cured a man of blindness. Naturally the austere life that Siard had implemented was not popular with all of the canons and in 1290 one of their number attempted to murder the abbot. His loud cries brought the aid of the confreres and he escaped with only minor injuries. He died the same year, on November 13th. The relics of St. Siard were first kept in the sacristy of Mariëngaard abbey and latterly moved to the choir. When the abbey was destroyed by Calvinists, his relics were brought to Hildesheim by Siardus of Hensema, a Friesian nobleman. One reliquary (containing the skull and almost half the bones) came to the abbey of St. Feuillien in the town of Roeulx in Hannonia and after certain Galician reforms then rested in Strépy. On 24 February 1938 these relics were then solemnly transferred to the abbey of Leffe. A second reliquary was brought into the possession of Tongerlo Abbey in 1617. The transfer was preceded by a long journey, during which the relics were received and venerated at various Norbertine abbeys, finally resting at Tongerlo on 6 July 1617. In 1619 Prelate Stalpaerts built a beautiful shrine where the relics were houses. When Tongerlo also suffered under certain Galician reforms, the relics were safely hidden and returned to the abbey in 1860.