Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

"Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

St. Norbert of Xanten
and the Spider

Chapter 2 of "The Life of St. Norbert," 12th century

When the Ember Days approached, days set aside by church custom for ordination to sacred orders, Norbert, still a subdeacon, presented himself to Frederick, Archbishop of Cologne. He requested that he be ordained a deacon and priest on the same day. Since this was forbidden by canon law, the archbishop asked him the reason for this sudden and unexpected desire. Norbert, after being pressed for an answer, fell at the archbishop's feet and with tearful groans expressed sorrow for his sins. Asking pardon, he protested to the archbishop his firm and unbending decision to change his life. The archbishop, after much deliberation and considering the outcome, although it was altogether contrary to reason and customer to ordain someone to diaconate and priesthood at the same time without knowing the reasons, nevertheless, granted the dispensation and assented to his request.

When the time for the ordination was at hand, Norbert, about to put on the sacred vestments, changed his secular garb and clothed himself with garments that seemed more suited to religious life. Then, putting on the sacred vestments he was ordained first a deacon and then a priest on the same day.

His desire fulfilled, Norbert returned to the Abbey of Siegburg and there spent forty days in the service of God and the exercise of his priestly duties. He then returned to the church at Xanten. Taking his turn celebrating the sacred mysteries of the Mass, he preached a word of exhortation to the people who were present. The following day in the chapter hall, without holding back, he admonished his fellow canons regarding salvation. Patiently and wisely he denounced, entreated and reproached them. However due to his persistence, he became bothersome to some. He endured their derision and many insults, among which, a man of low station even spat in his face. After this insult he restrained himself and kept quiet. He wiped his face and, remembering his sins, preferred to give in to his tears before God rather than retaliate.

At a later date, worn out with fasting and vigils, Norbert celebrated Mass in a crypt. After the Lord's Body and Blood had been consecrated, a large spider fell into the chalice. When the priest saw it he was shocked. Life and death hovered before his eyes. But lest the sacrifice suffer any loss he chose rather to undergo the danger and consumed whatever was in the chalice. When the service was finished, believing he was going to die, he remained before the altar and commended his awaited end to the Lord in prayer. Then he was disturbed by an itching in his nose. He scratched it, and soon the spider was expelled by a sudden fit of sneezing. Through this event both his faith in God and God's goodness to him became evident.

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