In the 11th century, the Catholic world was divided into two sharply distinct vocations: the layman and the monk or nun. The two never mixed: monks and nuns lived in seclusion—frequently in the desert or wilderness—and the laymen remained in the secular sphere.
Then St. Norbert came on the scene.
Norbert was a priest living in the French town of Prémontré. He collected a little band of followers, and together they sought holiness, bound by no rule but charity for one another. For some time they remained this way—but Norbert wanted something more.
He wished to live as the Apostles did—adhering to the beautiful disciplines of monks yet moving about in the world among laymen, preaching and ministering to them. This life would be called a canonical life.
Norbert consulted various priests and bishops for advice on what to do. They gave him conflicting feedback—some advised him and his followers to become monks, others suggested staying in the world as priests. No one seemed to consider the possibility of mixing the two lives.
Troubled, Norbert asked his followers to pray for guidance. Their prayers were quickly answered—St. Augustine of Hippo came to the rescue. He appeared to Norbert in a dream and gave him rules for a canonical way of life. If Norbert and his followers lived by this rule, Augustine said, they would face the Last Judgment without fear.
Since then, the Premonstratensians—the Canons Regular of Prémontré, commonly known as the Norbertines—have flourished throughout the Catholic world. Their five objectives are a mixture of priestly, monastic, and purely Norbertine practices: 1) singing the Divine Office; 2) zealousness for the salvation of souls; 3) habitual penance; 4) special devotion to the Holy Eucharist; and 5) devotion to the Blessed Mother, especially her Immaculate Conception (these last two were unique in the early 12th century).
If you share St. Norbert’s desire to pray like a monk, In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks To Heart is a must. Written by a Benedictine monk during his time before the Holy Eucharist, these communications from Our Lord and Our Lady have changed the spiritual lives of religious and laity alike. Within these pages, you’ll find instruction on the fundamentals of a rich spiritual life, consolation, healing, and much, much more. Get your copy today at The Catholic Company!