Today is the feast day of St. Norbert—as well as that of St. Philip the Deacon, St. Jarlath, bishop of Tuam, St. Gudwal, Blessed Laurence of Villamagna, St. Claud, bishop of Besancon, and St. Ceratius, bishop of Grenoble. (Gotta love Butler’s Lives of the Saints!)
Norbert, who was born in France during the mid-eleventh century, was a high-flying courtier in his youth who, much like St. Paul in the first century, had a conversion experience when he was knocked off his horse. Seemingly dead at the side of the road for at least an hour, Norbert came to and asked, in a daze, “What do you want of me, Lord?” You know the answer, I’m sure.
I love conversion stories like these. Nothing like this has ever happened to me, or to anyone I know, for that matter. (Although once when I was horseback riding with my husband, Tom—oddly enough, on horses owned by a man named Norbert—Tom fell off the horse because the saddle was not properly tightened. He didn’t have a conversion experience, however—except to swear off horseback riding.) I tend to travel in the more garden variety of conversion circles, with those to whom happens the “Aha!” moments and the gentle revelations that come when you stop and smell the roses, or at other less benign times.
And frankly, I’m hoping not to be knocked off a horse anytime soon, metaphorically speaking. I’d rather my conversion comes in drips and drabs, steadily plodding along until that day when my heart will no longer be restless but resting in God.
Until that time, stories of people like St. Norbert and St. Paul keep me inspired and engaged. Sometimes the biographies of saints make them out to be superhuman, fantastical people—and of course, they were in many ways or else they would not have been recognized as saints. But they were—are—also people who struggled along with the ups and downs of life, contending with the sublime and the mundane, and all the stuff that happens in between. Just like you and me.
If you’re looking for a great book about some of the newer saints canonized by Pope John Paul II, try 39 Saints You Should Know by Brian O’Neel.
Who are some of the saints who inspire you?