Midnight Hour Wisdom
”Listen carefully to the word of God, keep it judiciously and observe it faithfully” ~ Saint Norbert
This month’s First Saturday observance and devotion brings with it the Feast Day of the man whose quote kicks off today’s reflection. Saint Norbert of Xanten was a Catholic Bishop and founder of the Preminstratensian Order of canons regular, better known ~ and far easier to remember, pronounce, and spell ~ as the “Norbertines.“ He is the Patron Saint of the Kingdom of Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), the city of Magdeburg, which is the capital and second-largest city of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, as well as expectant mothers, who invoke his intercession during childbirth for a safe and healthy delivery. More on Saint Norbert in a moment.
“For I am already being poured out like a libation,” says Saint Paul in today’s 1st Reading (2 Timothy 4:1-8), employing the vivid imagery we’ve come to expect from this beleaguered yet tireless prophet. “The time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well. I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” He goes on to advise those in his midst to “be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient,” while urging them to employ fortitude and patience, the former a gift of the Holy Spirit, the latter a much coveted albeit difficult virtue to acquire. He then goes on to make this very poignant prediction pertaining to the days that lie ahead:
“For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.” Perhaps Saint Paul could provide us with the winning lottery numbers or tell us who will emerge victorious in the Orioles/Red Sox Game. Lord knows his acuity as it relates to today’s prognostication was spot on.
These final writings from Paul are an accumulation of all his wisdom, his knowledge, his discernment, his uncanny knack for prophesy . . . and the list goes on and on. In Paul, we see extraordinary spiritual gifts, "charismatic gifts” if you will. Natural abilities and miraculous abilities, all empowered by the Holy Spirit. These supernatural graces, given by God for the good of others and distinguished from the graces given for personal sanctification, were vital to the early founders of the Church in order for them to fulfill their mission. The Apostles were of course blessed in similar fashion as were the Prophets; Isaiah, Moses, Ezekiel and so
In the case of Saint Norbert, he suffered no delusions of grandeur regarding the daunting task that lied ahead of him. He in fact knew that his own ability to accomplish the many critical tasks that made up his mission was irrelevant. As more and more good and faithful men joined his Order, he still knew that nothing could be done, certainly nothing of any spiritual significance, without God’s power.
But Saint Norbert had a profound love for and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the body, blood, soul and divinity of his Savior that pulsated and coursed through his veins by way of his daily reception of the Eucharist. Fueled by this food for the journey, he cultivated the necessary gifts of the Holy Spirit; wisdom, fortitude and piety to name but three, for as tomorrow’s Solemnity of the Holy Trinity reminds us, the bread of life unlocks and increases the gifts of the Spirit within the recipient, for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are as one.
Saint Norbert and the Norbertines converted countless heretics, reconciled numerous enemies, and reenergized the faith of many who had fallen into spiritual indifference. On the day of his ordination, Saint Norbert made the following proclaimation:
”O Priest! You are not of yourself because you are of God. You are not of yourself because you are the servant and minister of Christ. You are not your own because you are the spouse of the Church. You are not yourself because you are the mediator between God and man. You are not from yourself because you are nothing. What then are you? Nothing and everything. O Priest! Take care, lest what was said to Christ on the cross be said to you: ‘He saved others, himself he cannot save!”
He knew that his priesthood was in God’s hands from its very inception. Saint Norbert’s devotion to Christ coupled with his humility and faith serve as an example to us all. May we all grow in the wisdom that he and Saint Paul possessed throughout their ministries, beginning each day with the simple prayer that Saint Norbert began each of his days with:
“Lord, what do you want me to do?”
For more on the First Saturday Catholic Devotion, please revisit the following essay: