Friday, 12 July 2013

Norbertine Community in Chelmsford

St Norbert: Founder of the Premonstatensians
I paid a visit to the Norbertine Priory of St Philip this week. Knowing little to nothing about the Norbertines, their history or spirituality, I was deeply impressed by the community of Canons in Chelmsford.

The Father-Prior, Fr Hugh Allan welcomed me and an enquirer who has finished studying a law degree and is discerning a vocation.

Like myself, he seemed to love it there and it seemed to me that within this community he was in his element. A young novice had arrived just the day before to begin his novitiate and there was a heartening mixture of youth and maturity present in the community. It felt like a community alive and growing, not overflowing with vocations perhaps, but able to attract young men with its mission for the salvation of souls.

Many things attracted me to the community, not least the sense that here is a community that is united in Christ - united in fraternal charity, brotherly love. Rather than being 'united in differences', they were united in Faith. Faith wrought harmony there. This is what one would expect of any religious community but, of course, it is not always so. While the personalities involved in the mission are different, I sensed a genuine love and concern for each other that I do not think I have seen anywhere else.

The Norbertines in Chelmsford have managed to catch several young men of the Benedictine generation, who have been awakened to the beauty of God in the liturgy and the central importance of worship in the Christian life. Real energy is spent on dignified liturgical celebration.

At the very heart of the community is a profound love for the Blessed Sacrament which seems to drive all that they do. While other religious orders, though less so in England, have abandoned the habit, the Norbertines dress at all times in their resplendent white habit which represents the purity of the Blessed Mother of God and of those who wish to be dedicated sons of Our Blessed Lady and lovers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

'Benedict Effect': Fr Rupert's first Mass at Our Lady Immaculate Church
Holy tradition tells us that St Augustine appeared to St Norbert in order to give him his holy rule by which the Canons live. For this reason both St Norbert and St Augustine of Hippo are Fathers and Patrons of the Order. Love for the Blessed Sacrament, love for Our Lady, love for Holy Church and for Her sacred teaching drive their mission for the salvation of souls.

It was truly a great joy to be able to sing Vespers and Compline with the community and also to spend an hour in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with them. As well as love and fidelity for the Holy Father, there was a real admiration and appreciation for the work, teachings and spirituality of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Pray for them that they may continue to attract young men to lay down their lives in love for Christ and His Church.

St Norbert receives St Augustine's rule
While religious communities and the Priesthood may not be overwhelmed by vocations, it is true to say that in those orders that share in the Benedictine vision of liturgy, young men are attracted by reverence, by beauty, by loyalty to the Pope and Magisterium, by radical orthodoxy.

As well as this, though, they know how to laugh together, how to serve one another, forgive one another and to pray together as a community united.

I am certain that God is doing wonderful things through them and for the Faithful of Chelmsford. May their mission for the proclamation of the Gospel and the salvation of souls continue to yield a rich harvest of vocations.

To learn more about St Norbert, his Order and the Norbertines in Chelmsford, click here.


Once I Was A Clever Boy said...

I agree with your view of the Chelmsford Norbertines - an impressive group of men and an impressive liturgical and parish life.

Delia said...

Sounds wonderful. For a nostalgic day out, it's worth visiting the ruins of Bayham Abbey in East Sussex, which was a Premonstratensian abbey:

Zephyrinus said...

A wonderful tale and heartening to read that a Religious Order is flourishing.

May God and Our Lady continue to Bless the Norbertine Community in Chelmsford and fill them with new Vocations.

Nosce te ipsum said...

I enjoyed reading this. Thanks.

Physiocrat said...

A bit different from when the Norbertines ran St Mary Magdalens.

Robert said...

As it is the school hols, I must try & get over myself. It is not too far from Bedfordshire./ I have visited Our Lady of England, Storrington but did not stay over.

wilsobad said...

For over 25 years I've followed the progress - and now the demise - of the Norbertine community in Storrington. Their remarkable cultural and historical links with the Prémontrés of France,and their leading priest, poet and writer, Xavier de Fourvières (a Provençal language writer and colleague of Mistral) - he was Prior of Storrington 1903-1912 - has been washed away with the arrival of Chemin Neuf - probably not their fault. Do they know what they're replacing? I hope so
Given their French Catholic background I suggest they re-esatablish contact with their spiritual forbears - Pr. Bruno Gerthoux, F-84440 Robion, France
curé at this birthplace village of Xavier de Fourvières - Robion.

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