BY ALEX GRUBER
“Communio” is a word commonly associated with the Norbertines. But what does this mean for their intellectual tradition? St. Norbert himself said very little about academics, though he was well educated and his first followers were elite students from a university near Prémontré. Norbert founded the Order in 1126 with three main principles: 1) Act with divine purity around the altar and in all places, 2) Amend excesses and negligence within the Order and 3) Give care to the poor and hospitality to guests. Of the three, caring for the poor and guests was the most important to Norbert, hence SNC’s current motto of “radical hospitality.”
The emphasis on community transferred to the Order’s approach towards education. Unlike other religious orders at the time, the Norbertines recognized that learning could and should take place outside of abbey walls. Norbertines had jobs within the community, interacting with people. As such, the knowledge they gained and needed was based in practicality. They disregarded the theoretical, even choosing not to write much analysis of Scripture, as other religious orders did. Instead of focusing on theology alone, the Norbertines developed a wide variety of skills that they could use in the broader community. After all, education is not for the ego of the learner, nor for the simple sake of knowing. For the Norbertines, knowledge must have a purpose and should be used for the benefit of everyone.
As a liberal arts institution, St. Norbert College furthers the Norbertine tradition, giving students the opportunities and encouragement to learn to their fullest potential and make a difference in the lives of others.
Norbertine Celebrity Spotlight showcases the endeavors of Norbertines past and present, highlighting Norbertine intellectualism and emphasizing SNC’s unique status as the only Norbertine institution of higher education. But did you know that St. Norbert College is not the first of its kind? In 1252 the Order founded the College of Prémontré in Paris. It attracted the Order’s brightest theology students until it was closed during the French Revolution.
This and much more can be learned at the Center for Norbertine Studies on the second floor of the Mulva Library.