St Norbert

Archbishop of Magdeburg (Central Germany), Founder of the Premonstratensians (aka Norbertines) (entered heaven this day in 1134)

Dear Bertha,

Well, what do you have to say for yourself after your first year at college?  Are you better for it, or worse? Is the college better for it, or worse? Is the world better for it, or worse?  Odd questions? I think not. Now is the prime time for you to reflect on the first 9 months of your adult life – “well begun, half done,” as they say.  And if you aren’t well begun, why wait to make some good resolutions for the coming year (not to mention for the summer)? I can assure you that if you don’t take time to reflect, I will ask our Lord to take things into his own hands, and pull a St Norbert trick on you.  What’s that? You don’t know what a St Norbert trick is? Well then, let me tell you about it.

Norbert was related to the Holy Roman Emperor on his father’s side and French nobility on his mother’s side.  A talented youth, he quickly made his way into the Emperor’s court, where his one ambition was to enjoy life as much as possible.  Hunting parties, feasts, balls, and all the lovely blueblood diversions occupied and satisfied him (sounds like freshman year at college).  Then, riding home through the fields one day, he was run down by a furious thunderstorm. Huge curtains of rain battered him; the dense, vast clouds blotted out the sun; and massive bolts of lightning threatened to impale him.  One of them threw his horse into a fright, and the horse, in turn, threw Norbert violently to the ground, where he lay as if dead for almost an hour. When he awoke, his first words echoed those of St Paul on the road to Damascus, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”  He heard God’s reply in the depth of his soul, “Turn from evil and do good: seek after peace and pursue it” (Psalm 33:15). Thus ended his frivolous court life. He followed up that moment of grace by going on a forty-day retreat. Soon afterward he was ordained a priest and began his seminal work of reforming the clergy throughout Christendom.

Don’t worry, if I hear that you have decided to go on a retreat this summer I won’t assume that your freshman year was as dissolute as Norbert’s career as a courtier.  I will, however, pray that you hear God’s voice as clearly as Norbert did and that you do whatever he is asking of you with equal gusto.

Hopes and prayers, Uncle Eddy

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