RANDOM THOUGHTS: Voices from yesterday and today…by Peachy Maramba

1080 – 1134
June 6

Norbert was born in Xanten in the duchy of Cleves, Germany in 1080 to a wealthy family of distinguished origins. His father, Heribert was Count of Gennep and related to the emperor as his mother Hedwig of Guise was from the house of Lorraine. Related thus to the German imperial house he led a pleasure – seeking and worldly life as an almoner at the court of Emperor Henry V.

To obtain financial benefit and to ensure his success at court he accepted minor religious orders as Canon in the church of St. Victor at Xanten and even as subdeacon. Thus Norbert though never a bad person exploited the church for his own profit as he was content to devote the early part of his life to the world and its pleasures.

One day at age 33 as he was riding across the countryside his horse was startled when a bolt of lightning in a violent thunderstorm almost hit them. Thrown to the ground where he lay unconscious for nearly an hour Norbert awoke to the fateful words of the Lord to St. Paul on his way to Damascus. Timidly Norbert asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me do?” An inner voice replied, “Turn from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it.”

So this is what Norbert did as his accident had been the occasion of his conversion. He became a sincere penitent reforming his life by adopting a rigorous life of prayer, fasting and meditation. A retreat he made in the monastery of St. Sigebert completed his conversion. He then studied for the priesthood, which he had steadfastly avoided in the past. He was ordained at Cologne in 1155. As a changed man, Norbert tried to reform his brother canons at the Chapter of Xanten but they resented this, persecuted and ridiculed him. He was denounced as a hypocrite at the Council of Fritzlar in 1188 for his extreme ascetism and unauthorized preaching without a license.

In disgust he re-assigned his canonry, gave all his possessions to the poor to prove the sincerity of his intentions and wandered barefoot and penniless to St. Giles in France. On a visit of penance to Pope Gelasius II he traveled barefoot in the snow and made a public confession to him. In return the Pope gave him permission to preach the gospel wherever he wanted. So Norbert became an itinerant preacher in northern France. He was even credited with performing some miracles. Soon he became known as the most famous missionary of his time.He was also called the “Apostle of Eucharist” because of his zealous preaching and vigorous stand against heresy, which denied that Christ was in the Eucharist.

In 1112, after being given a grant of land at Premontre, Laon from the Bishop there, Norbert founded his order The Premonstratensian Canons. This monastic order was also called “White Canons” after their white vestments. Norbert also founded was a second Order for women and the Confraternity of the White Scapular. The white Canons quickly spread all over Western Europe especially in Hungary. Pope Honorious II officially approved their constitutions in 1125.

Then in 1126 Emperor Lothair chose Norbert as archbishop of Magdebourg, Germany in recognition of his services as a reconciler. Though now a bishop, Norbert still lived the austere life, which he had set up for his order. Unfortunately soon after consecration he fell ill and after four months of sickness died at the age of fifty-three on June 6, 1134.

He was canonized in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. His shrine at Magdebourg became famous for many miracles. He was proclaimed Patron and Protector of Bohemia (Czechoslovakia) because 600 Protestants of Magdebourg became reconciled to the church when his body was transferred to Prague in 1627.

His relics are now resting in the abbey of Strahov in Bohemia.
SOURCES of REFERENCE: Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Vol. II – pp 484-487; Saints for Our Time – pp 121-123; Saints of the Day – pp 131 – 132; Voices of the Saints – pp 342-343; and others.


“Voices from yesterday and today. . .” RANDOM THOUGHTS by Peachy Maramba

Father of English History and Doctor of the Church 672 – 735

May 25
St. Bede popularized our current way of dating time – devised by Dionysius a Roman abbot – from the birth of Christ as B. C. and A. D. or anno domini, which means “in the year of the Lord.”

Bede was born at Monkton, in the county Durham within the territory of Wearmouth, Northumbria, England in 673. He was educated by Benedict Biscop, abbot of Wearmouth. Bede was chiefly interested in prayer and study. It was the Bible that remained his chief study. He was first an oblate in the Benedictine order and later ordained a deacon when he was 19 and finally a priest at the age of 30.Besides saying the mass he was also a great preacher.

As our Lady’s homilist he wrote all the lessons for the Common of her feasts. In his writings, he abridged larger works to make acquiring knowledge of them easier for his countrymen. In this way did the Englishmen learn in simplified form the teachings of the four great western Doctors: Sts. Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory. Bede wrote over 40 treatises on almost all fields of human knowledge especially on theology, science and history. He also wrote Latin poetry and a hymn in verse. His writings are said to be major influences on English literature. He is the only English doctor of the Church and the only Englishman who sufficiently impressed Dante to name him in his Paradiso.

He declined the office of abbot because he felt it would interfere with his chosen path of “learning, teaching and writing.” His title of “venerable” means “worthy” and was given to him for his scholarship and holiness. He merited his name Bede whichin Anglo-Saxon means prayer. Bede’s other delight was teaching. He himself taught all the subjects necessary for the service of the church such as music, rhetoric and languages. His whole effort was to teach history and doctrine exactly.

He died on May 25 and his feast day is celebrated on this day. He was canonized and named a Doctor of the Church in 1899 by Pope Leo XIII. His relics are to be found in the Galilee chapel of Durham Cathedral.

SOURCES of REFERENCE: Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Vol. II – pp 402 – 405; The Illustrated World Encyclopedia of Saints – p 126; Illustrated Lives of the Saints – Vol. I – pp 221 – 222; Butler’s Saint for the Day – pp 237 – 239; and others.

R A N D O M T H O U G H T S: “Voices from Yesterday and Today” by Peachy Maramba

Patron of Farmers and Patron of Madrid, Spain
1070 – 1130
May 15

St. Isidore“the farmer”was not well educated and remained a simple farm worker all his life – accomplishing no great deeds, inspiring no disciples, nor leaving behind any profound unforgettable saying or teaching. Born of poor pious parents at Madrid, Spain he spent his entire life on the estate of a rich landowner named John de Vargas. Though his parents were so poor that they could not send him to school, they early instilled in him a great horror of sin and love of prayer. He continually prayed while working, loving his communing with God and the saints. He also early developed the habit of waking up at the crack of dawn to go daily to mass.

Because he was an excellent fine hardworking ploughman his boss allowed him to go and worship in church daily and even treated him as a brother. However when his fellow laborers complained that his daily mass – going and other religious practices such as visiting the other churches of Madrid during holidays caused him to often come late for work, John decided to see for himself if this was really true.

One day as John himself came to watch he observed that Isidore did indeed come in late after his co-workers. But as he stepped out to take him to task for his lateness he noticed something very strange. He saw white oxen plowing the field parallel to that of the team of Isidore. He realized that supernatural help probably from angels was sent by God to help Isidoremake up for the work he missed in return for his attending Mass so faithfully.
However Isidore vigorously denied this saying, “I work alone looking only to God for my strength.” As for the accusation that he neglected his work in order to go to mass he told his boss, “I know, Sir, that I am your servant, but I have another Master as well, to whom I owe service and obedience.”

Isidore was well known for his great love for the poor. Though poor himself he was always generous giving whatever he could to those even poorer than him. His generosity was so great that his table was always open to the indigent only saving for himself and his good wife the scraps of food left over.

One day Isidore came late for a confraternity dinner so his hosts saved his portion. To their consternation Isidore arrived bringing with him a large group of beggars. When the hosts informed Isidore of the lack of food he told them not to worry as there would be plenty for himself and for Christ’s poor. There was – to the extent that there was food left over. So many miracles such as this was attributed to Isidore that he had a lasting influence on the people of Spain.

Another of Isidore’s great love was for animals. He was known for his great good care of them. A story often told about Isidore recounts that one wintry day as he was on his way to have his sack of grain to be milled he saw on the branches of a tree some birds who were obviously starving and very hungry. Moved by the sorrowful noise of the hungry birds and ignoring the taunts of his companions,Isidore sat his sack down and immediately opened it and shared what he had by pouring out half of its contents for them.

The strange thing was that when he reached the mill they found the sack to be still full. Not only that it was discovered to produce double the usual amount of flour.
Isidore had married a lovely girl named Maria Torribia who was as pious and simple as himself. Unfortunately they had an only child, a boy, who died young. It is said that after his death they agreed to live in continence.

Because Maria shared her husband’s devotion, poverty and generosity she too is honored as a saint under the name Santa Maria de la Cabeza because her head is often carried during a procession in time of drought.

About eighty years after his death in May 15, 1130, Isidore is said to have appeared to the King of Castile who was then embroiled in a fight with the Moors. Because he showed him a hidden path the King’s soldiers were able to surprise and defeat the enemy.

Another intercession of Isidore brought gravely ailing King Philip III of Spain back to good health snatching him from the brink of death simply by the bringing of his relics to the King’s sick room. It was then that King Philip petitioned for his canonization.

So many miracles took place in his shrine in Madrid that his aid has been sought over the centuries and granted to several Spanish monarchs.

But the greatest miracle of all is his being included as one of the “five saints of Spain.”He was canonized in a magnificent ceremony by Pope Gregory XV in March 1622 on the same day as four of the giant figures of the Catholic Reformation: St. Ignatius, St. Francis Xavier, St. Teresa and St. Philip Neri.

Of the five saints canonized by Pope Gregory XV only Isidore founded no order and accomplished no great deeds. Neither did he not being well-educated leave any teachings nor left any disciples. He was just a simple farm worker. But because his faith was attended by visible signs and wonders such as miracles and celestial visions and he was famous for his generosity even to animals he was declared a saint. Not only is he the patron of farmers, but of Madrid, of laborers and of the National Rural Life Conference in the United States.

“It matters not to God what station you have in life as long as you use the talents which He has given to you in His service – in most cases this means service to your neighbor.”
Generally Isidore is represented as a peasant carrying a farm implement as a spade or a sickle. Sometimes he is depicted at work in the field accompanied by angels.

SOURCES of REFERENCE: Butler’s Lives of the Saints–Vol. II–pp323–324; Pocket Dictionary of Saints–p258; The Watkins Dictionary of Saints–p121; A Calendar of
Saints–p94; All Saints–pp213–214; A Year with the Saints–May 15; and others.