The bell tower consists of three bells that chime and resonate throughout the day. From any angle in looking at the bell tower, you see a cross.
Blessed Hugh is the lower figure. He was one of St. Norbert’s first disciples and later became first abbot of Prémontré. Above Hugh is Norbert, pointing upward to Jesus. And Jesus is the upright figure with hands raised to heaven.
Norbert in his own side chapel at the Abbey. The light above is from a skylight opening. It’s June 6th, the feast day of St. Norbert.
The most common Christogram is “IHS” or “IHC”, denoting the first three letters of the Greek spelling of the name of Jesus. In Greek capitals Jesus name is ΙΗΣΟΥΣ or IHSOUS in Latin letters. Shortened this becomes IHS(ous) or IHS. In Latin the I and J are interchangeable, therefore JHS is an equivalent meaning of the Holy Name.
Norbert in a state of ecstasy, receiving a vision from the Lord.
On the right is his Archbishop mitre.
On one occasion, while Norbert was celebrating Mass, a spider fell into the already consecrated chalice. To avoid desecrating the precious blood of Jesus, Norbert swallowed the large spider whole, only to have it expelled through his nose with a sneeze.
The Norbertines at Daylesford Abbey have a deep sense for community. They use the term communio, and practice it by living in open dialogue and consultation individually and collectively with the local community. Being canons regular the Norbertines combine community activity with the contemplative life. Yet unlike monks who live in cloistered, contemplative life and sometimes engage in the community, Daylesford canons regular preach, teach, and administer the sacraments for all who participate when at the Abbey.
The Daylesford Abbey Spirituality Center brings diverse and innovative programs, from world renowned national speakers like Fr. Richard Rohr, to how to write a collect for the opening prayer of a Mass. Of course the collect written won’t get into the Roman Missal, but understanding the process is fascinating. For some of the larger programs, like conferences and retreats, the Abbey offers 36 rooms for overnight guests with home cooked meals. Dinners before spirituality programs are a nice addition to the Abbey culture.
The Daylesford Abbey nave. Like Katharine Drexel’s Shrine monastery in Philadelphia, the pews arranged in the foreground face each other.
There are several Norbertine Abbeys in the US. In addition to Daylesford Abbey, there is St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere Wisconsin and St. Michaels Abbey in California. Each Abbey operates autonomous of one another, with their own unique culture. The Daylesford Abbey would be considered left and liberal of other Norbertine Abbeys. This also differentiates the forward thinking Daylesford Abbey from other religious in the Philadelphia area.
Since Norbert left no writings except for one small prayer, his legacy is the religious community he left behind. Following St. Augustine “those who sing pray twice” the Norbertines sing their prayers in the Divine Office and have a special devotion to the Holy Eucharist.
Norbert was devoted to the Holy Eucharist and defended the sanctity of the Blessed Sacrament. He is credited for driving a heretic from Antwerp who repeatedly blasphemed the Blessed Sacrament and had it removed from the cathedral and hidden. As part of this miracle Saint Norbert rescued the monstrance, returning it unharmed to the cathedral. We typically see the Monstrance being held by Norbert in paintings of the saint.
Goodbye to Norbert and the Abbey on Norbert’s feast day. It’s a special place for prayer, meditation and learning.