Members of the Lay Order of Prémontré, clerics or lay persons commit themselves to strive for Christian perfection, inspired by the canonical tradition which is lived out in the Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré and their desire to share with the evangelization of the world in union with the Order of Prémontré and under its direction (cf. Canon 303; S 40).
Inspired by the teaching and and example of Sts. Augustine and Norbert, striving for Christian perfection for the Lay Order of Prémontré takes on the specific form of ecclesial communio, that is, communion with God and each other in God (Const. 11).
Within the framework of their daily lives in the world, members strive to establish unity of mind and heart in God with those with whom they live and work. They will, therefore, seek intimate communion with God before all else and then communion with their neighbor keeping in mind the first words of our Holy rule, "Let us love God above all things, dearest Brothers, then our neighbor, for these are the chief commandments given to us."
Members of the Lay Order are a "spiritual arm" of the Norbertine Community reaching out into all areas of life, seeking to share with others what they themselves gain as sons and daughters of St. Norbert. Their affiliation with a community of canons regular is not, therefore, for their own personal good alone. It is chiefly by their Christian example, and presence among others, that they hope to bring the Order's ideal of "communio" into the world where they live and work.
Communion between the members of the Lay Order and with the entire Order is in the order of charity (S 35). The members of the Lay Order freely offer their spiritual and material assistance to the canonry of St. Michael. The community of St. Michael is bound in turn to manifest toward the members of the Lay Order spiritual care and a fraternal charity which desires to see developed and deepened that charity in such a manner that they form only one flock and one shepherd in the service of God and all people after the pattern of St. Norbert (S 59).
The members of the Lay Order, in offering their day to God, constitute a community of faith and charity which is one living expression of the communion of saints. All members share in the spiritual graces of the canonry to which they belong, i.e., St. Michael's (S 52).
The Abbot is the spiritual father of the Lay Order, and all members owe him the respect due to a spiritual father. In his place he appoints a religious who is charged with the spiritual care of the Lay order (S 44). The Abbot's delegate is the spiritual director of the Third Order and has the following responsibilities. He may be assisted by others:
Accept new novices and professed into the Third Order
Approves in the Abbot's name the leaders designated by the Chapter of the Lay Order (S 44)
Give Spiritual conferences for
Days of recollection and retreats.
Provide personal, spiritual direction for the members who desire it.
Approve the Rule of Life for novices and if needed help them draw one up.
Approve any major changes in the rule of life of the professed.
Develop the fraternal life among the members as well as between them and members of St. Michael's canonry. He does this by:
Keeping the channels of communication open between the members at the monthly meetings. This is delegated in a particular way to the president and other officers.
Communicating to members not at attendance at the monthly meeting through newsletters and tapes. This is delegated in a particular way to the Secretary/Treasurer and other officers.
Keeping the Abbot informed of the happenings and developments in the Third Order as well as the Abbey community.
A President is appointed to provide the overall coordination of the Chapter. He has the following responsibilities:
Prepares for and presides at Chapter meetings.
Generates and distributes a calendar of Chapter and Abbey events.
Keeps and maintains a library for the Lay Order.
Recommends to the Chaplain the admittance of Postulants and Novices to the Lay Order.
Coordinates with the Chaplain: professions, novice vestitions, retreats, special activities and events, and prayer petitions.
He may at any time appoint officers to be responsible for some of his duties as he deems necessary, e.g., Librarian, Prayer Petition Coordinator, Retreat Coordinator, Special Events Coordinator, and the like.
He may also appoint members to help with other areas as needed, e.g., record and distribute audio tapes, create and distribute name tags, children's religious activities during Chapter meetings, clean and setup for monthly meetings, and the like.
A Secretary Treasurer is also appointed with the following responsibilities:
Records minutes of each monthly meeting and sends minutes of meetings to all members of the Lay Order.
Records attendance at each monthly meeting (Adult and Youth Chapter) and Novitiate class.
Maintains the updates listings of names and addresses of members with dates of their clothing and profession.
Administers the goods of the Lay Order in such a manner as will be directed to the good of the members without forgetting fraternal assistance to the poor.
Each year render a faithful account of his/her administration to the prelate. The president and Chaplain may at any time examine his/her books to see that they are kept in good order.
The Abbot must exercise vigilance that the ends of the Lay Order are observed, and that no abuse of discipline, no defect of faith or morals trouble the activities of the Lay Order. On the other hand, the Lay Order is subject to the vigilance of the Holy See, of the Abbot General, and also to the extent that Apostolic activity is directed into the diocese, the Ordinary of the place (Canon 305).
No member legitimately inscribed in the Lay Order can be dismissed by the Abbot or by the spiritual director without a just cause. Those who have publicly distanced themselves from the Catholic faith or who have placed themselves outside the ecclesial communion, or who have incurred an excommunication, after warning, must be dismissed by the Abbot or the religious delegated by him; however, the right to appeal to higher authority is preserved (cf. Canon 308).
The admission of members into a chapter of the Lay Order must always be done in such a manner that it reveals the spiritual character of the bond with the canonry of St. Michael (S 49).
The rite of admission may be presided over by the Abbot or the religious who is the spiritual director or another priest delegated by the Abbot.
There are three types of chapters in the Lay Order affiliated to St. Michael's canonry:
Adult Chapter: Must be at least 18 years of age upon admission and 19 by day of profession.
Youth Chapter: Must be at least 12 years of age upon admission. They are invested with the white scapular but there is no profession or commitment. To be invested in the white scapula they must have attended six monthly meetings.
Third Order: Women who are celibate and desirous of living the Premonstratensian life to a fuller degree are encouraged to live in community under the direction of a woman appointed by the Abbot.
Formation consists of three stages:
Affiliate Formation: before entrance into the novitiate, one must be affiliated with the Lay Order for at least one year. Monthly meeting attendance are required to discern a vocation to the Lay Order.
Novitiate Formation: Begins with vestition of the scapular and ends with profession. It lasts two years. Besides monthly meetings, novices are required to undergo a more intense formation. Other days of formation are required, usually once a month. If one is legitimately dispensed from novitiate classes, he/she is responsible for getting a tape of the class and listening to it. However, to be professed, one is required to be present for fourteen class periods. A weekend retreat is also required. The purpose of Novitiate formation is to definitively discern a vocation to the Lay Order, to develop a Norbertine spirituality and to strengthen the spiritual bond with St. Michael's canonry.
Ongoing Formation: Begins with profession and continues throughout life. The purpose is to grow in one's Norbertine spirituality and maintain one's spiritual bond with the canonry of St. Michael's. This is accomplished by fidelity to one's rule of life drawn up in the Novitiate, and revised upon need, with one's confessor and submitted to the spiritual director of the Lay Order. At least half of the monthly meetings should be attended to remain an active member; otherwise one is considered to be inactive. A yearly retreat is also recommended.
An active member has active and passive voice in all decisions submitted to the Chapter for vote. Inactive members retain full membership in regard to their sharing in the spiritual benefits of the Order, but do not have active or passive vote. Attendance is calculated from September to April.
Profession terminates the novitiate formation and definitively inserts one into the Lay Order. It is a promise to strive for Christian perfection in the state of life God calls one, under the direction of the canonry of St. Michael's according to the spirituality of St. Norbert as contained in one's rule of life.
Every person legitimately inscribed in the Lay Order is free to leave the Order.
RULE OF LIFE:
To ensure the development of a proper Norbertine spirituality and the strengthening of communion with other members of the Lay Order and with the canonry of St. Michael's, a Rule of Life is to be drawn up by each member of the Order. It's composition should proceed from two principles:
It should support and facilitate the faithful fulfilling of the duties of one's state of life.
It should consist of specifically Norbertine elements animated by the Norbertine charism of "communio."
The Rule of Life is drawn up in the first year of novitiate with the help of one's confessor. It is to be revised before profession, as need or circumstances arise. Any substantial revision should be approved by the spiritual director. Fidelity to the Rule should assure an authentic Christian life and Norbertine spirituality. It does not bind under sin.
The marks of the Norbertine Order are:
Liturgy of the Hours and personal prayer,
Mission or zeal for souls.
These marks flow from and are expressive of "communio." The Rule of Life should, therefore, be drawn from the following sources.
The Holy Eucharist: Perfect communion with God and one another is realized only in heaven where we all share in the banquet of the Lamb. The Holy Mass is the sacramental celebration of the Heavenly Banquet, and the highest form of communion with God and one another during our pilgrimage on earth. It is, therefore, the source and summit of the spiritual life of the Norbertine. Our holy founder, St. Norbert, realized this because he celebrated the Holy Mass twice daily. He is known as the Apostle of the Blessed Sacrament.
The Rule of Life Should Center Around the Eucharist:
Weekly celebration of Mass is minimal,
Daily Mass and communion is recommended,
If possible, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass is also proper for our Order. Everyone's Rule of Life should make provision of Eucharist Adoration, from a weekly visit to a daily Holy Hour. All must firmly propose to cherish and to promote the worship of the most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.
Prayer and the Liturgy of the Hours: The communion of saints praise God day an night in the eternity of heaven. In this they fulfill the purpose of creation and salvation. On pilgrimage, we share in their eternal praise through the Liturgy of the hours. Therefore, the Liturgy of the Hours is the second realization of communion with God and one another, and has always been central to our charism. St. Norbert was a reformer of the canonical life centered on the Divine Cult.
The Rule of Life should make provision for the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, at least in part:
Once a day, some part of the Liturgy of the Hours should be recited,
If this is not possible, at least the Benedictus and Our Father should be recited in the morning, and the Magnificat and Our Father in the evening,
An examination of conscience with an Act of Contrition and Hail Mary can take the place of Night Prayer.
Lectio Divina (spiritual reading) and meditations are also necessary to maintain a prayerful spirit. The Rule of Life should set aside some time every week for meditation and spiritual reading. Daily meditation and reading, if possible. Meditation and reading should flow from and lead to a more recollected and fruitful celebration of the Liturgy.
Marian Cult: The communion of saints gather together around Mary their Mother and Queen, to form one family in God giving praise to Him day and night. The Apostolic Community, after the Resurrection of the Lord, was found together in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus. As Norbertines, we look to Mary as the model and best means of reaching communion with her Son and with one another, in God. Therefore, the Marian Cult has always been in the forefront of our charism leading us to communion with God and each other. This is seen in the life of Sts. Norbert and Hermann Joseph.
Every member of the Lay Order should consecrate and entrust himself/herself to Our Lady. St. Hermann Joseph is our model of Marian consecration and devotion. This consecration should be renewed frequently, especially on Saturdays and on Marian feast days, and in a very special manner on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and Feast of St. Hermann Joseph.
The liturgical cult of Mary is especially characteristic of Our Order. Therefore, on Marian feasts and Saturdays, special attention to the liturgy should be paid.
The Rule of Life should make provision for a weekly devotion to Mary in the form of the Rosary, a Litany, etc., but especially the Marian liturgical cult. Daily rosary, however, is recommended.
Besides the Marian cult, the cult of the Norbertine saints should be fostered, in particular:
St. Hermann Joseph, May 24th
St. Norbert, June 6th
Sts. Adrian and James, July 9th
Bl. Gertrude of Altenburgh, August 13th
St. Augustine, August 28th
All Saints of the Order of Prémontré, November 13th
The Sacred Penitentiary has granted a plenary indulgence to the members of the Lay Order under the usual conditions (confession, communion, prayer for the intention of the Pope) and on the condition that they make or renew, at least in private, the promise to observe faithfully the statutes of the Lay Order on the aforementioned Feasts (S 51).
Devotions to other Norbertine Saints should also be fostered. Feast days of Norbertine Saints are listed below:
St. Godfrey of Cappenberg, January 14th
St. Frederick, February 4th
Bl. Hugh of Fosse, February 10th
St. Evermode, February 17th
St. Ludolph, April 26th
St. Isfrid, June 15th
Bl. Hroznata, July 14th
Bl. Bronislava, August 30th
St. Gilbert, October 26th
St. Siard, November 14th
Penance: The saints in heaven have reached perfect communion with God and each other. They have no need of conversion and penance to remove obstacles and impediments. We, the Church on earth, are sinners and often put obstacles in the path of communion with God and each other. We need a conversion of our ways and penance to remove the obstacles to communion. St. Norbert taught us this by his example and penitential life. Thus penance has always been an essential mark of our Order.
The most efficacious means of conversion and penance is the Sacrament of Penance. The Rule of Life should provide for this as our primary expression of living a penitential life. The sacrament should be approached frequently. Monthly confession is recommended, preferably from a regular confessor who can provide spiritual direction as well.
In the footsteps of St. Norbert, apostle of peace, we wish to be men and women of peace, among ourselves, in our relationships, in the social and political sphere. This ideal of peace and reconciliation must be sustained by our life of prayer and readily put into action by reconciling enemies and heartily forgiving our own enemies for God's sake.
Fasting is biblical and characteristic of our Order. The Rule should provide for the minimal observance of fasting (Ash Wednesday, and Good Friday) and abstinence from meat (Fridays throughout the year).
Another work of penance of piety may be substituted for Friday abstinence with the exception of Fridays in Lent. Other days of fast are recommended especially vigils of solemnities, such as:
The Immaculate Conception,
The Feast of St. Norbert
During the penitential season of Lent
With discretion, ones Rule of Life should specify days of fast, and every year a Lenten program of fasting should be drawn up with one's confessor. Other forms of penance are also encouraged especially those which facilitate the fulfillment of one's duties and help one to live the mystery of Christ's cross. Suffering in patience and resignations to one's daily cross is an attitude every son and daughter of St. Norbert should foster.
Mission and Apostolic Service: The communion of the Blessed Trinity lovingly shares its life with creation in sending the Son and Holy Spirit. The communion of saints continually intercede for us since they desire to share their happiness with us. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit united the disciples in a communion with God and each other, which expanded to others through preaching the Gospel, adding to their community. As Norbertines, we continue that dynamism of communion - mission through apostolic zeal for souls. It is a mark of our Order and part of the spirituality of our Founder, St. Norbert.
Therefore, our Rule of Life should call us to service and send us forth in mission.
The first and essential mission every member of the Lay Order has is the faithful fulfilling of daily duty to one's family, neighbor and work place. Everything else is subordinate. Since example is the most powerful means of proclaiming Christ, charitable speech and modest dress is particularly important. Let no distraction, immodest language, or blasphemies be found on anyone's lips. At all times, one should be modestly dressed, aware that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
The second responsibility is sacred study. This is necessary for apostolic formation since we should be ready to give a reason for the hope we have in Christ.
Every week, time should be set aside for sacred study of faith (see Appendix A, below):
Documents of Vatican II,
Other apostolic work would be:
Promotion of Norbertine vocations to the priesthood and the Lay Order,
Availability for Abbey projects, both spiritual and material,
MI apostolate, and
Social apostolate of Catholic Charities.
APPENDIX A - REQUIRED READINGS:
These are readings upon which our Life is based, and should be ongoing throughout one's life.
Catechism of the Catholic Church,
Statutes of the Third Order of Prémontré, St. Michael's Abbey,
Personal Rule of Life.
Life of St. Norbert, and Norbertine Saints
Instructions on the Liturgy of the Hours (Volume I)
Introduction to the Devout Life - St. Francis de Sales
Conversation with Christ - Peter Thomas Rohrbach
True Devotion to Mary - St. Louis De Montfort
There may be additional readings as required by the instructor.