Norbertine Saints and Blesseds for July

Saints Adrian and James – July 9

On July 9, 1572, the Calvinists hanged 19 priests and religious in Gorcum on account of their loyalty to the Catholic faith. Among these were two sons of St. Norbert, Adrian and James.

Adrian Jansen (sometimes called Becan after his place of birth) was born at Hilvarenbeek in 1529 and entered the abbey of Middelburg at the age of 15. After a stint as master of novices and chaplain, he was appointed pastor of Agterkerke in 1560 and of Munster in 1572. Adrian was an exemplary priest and a true apostle, laboring in a parish which already counted several Calvinists among its population.

James Lacops, also a canon of Middelburg, was born at Oudenaarde in 1542. He was an intelligent and charming young man whose success went to his head. His religious life was mediocre. When the iconoclastic Calvinists infiltrated the abbey in 1566, the 24-year-old James renounced his faith together with two others. His father and his brother, who also was a Norbertine, eventually brought him to reconsider. Touched by the grace of God, he returned to the abbey and was kindly received by the community when he asked forgiveness for his apostasy. Among other things, he had gone so far as to write a pamphlet attacking the Church and had become a preacher of the Calvinist beliefs. His abbot sent him to the abbey of Mariëweerd for a prolonged period of penance. At the end of five years, the abbot appointed him curate in Munster where his brother was currently pastor. After the death of his brother in 1572, Adrian Jansen was appointed pastor.

Adrian had only been there three months when revolutionary soldiers attacked the rectory and captured both priests in July 1572. Together with 17 other priests and religious, they were marched through the streets while beaten and insulted, accompanied by a screaming mob. Along the way the soldiers offered local fishermen to set the priests free in exchange for a cask of beer, an offer which the highly Calvinistic locals refused. The 19 priests and religious were thrown into prison and subjected to a trial during which they defended the doctrine of the Eucharist and the authority of the Successor of Peter. Although Adrian was more experienced in refuting the arguments of the heretics, it was now James, with his gift for speaking, who took the lead in arguing with their captors. They were mistreated, tortured, and denied food. On July 9, 1572, both Adrian and James, together with the other 17 priests and religious, were hanged from the rafters of a barn at Gorcum and received the crown of martyrdom. Adrian was 43 and James 30. They were beatified by Pope Clement X on November 24, 1675, and canonized by Blessed Pius IX on June 29, 1867.

Lord, our God, who caused Your holy martyrs Adrian, James, and their companions to persevere to the end; make us remain in You in faith and charity and pursue the unity of the Church. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Blessed Hroznata – July 21

The Czech nobleman Hroznata was born around 1170 and received after the early death of his father a good education at Krakow, where his sister, Woyslawa, was the wife of the prefect of the city. The young talented man married but soon lost his wife and his son. In place of a legal heir he founded the monastery of Teplá as his spiritual heir in 1193.

When the papal legate encouraged the knights to participate in the crusades, Hroznata promised to go to the Holy Land in order to liberate the holy places. He made the journey with the crusaders to Brindisi and passed through Rome, where the pope confirmed the foundation of Teplá. Since the crusade failed in 1197 the pope dispensed Hroznata from his vow concerning the crusades on his way back from Southern Italy and encouraged him to found a sister monastery. Together with his widowed sister he established a cloister for nuns in Chotešov around 1202. Hroznata even becomes a religious in Teplá.

The traditions relay that he was clothed at Rome by Pope Innocent III in the white habit of the Norbertine Order. Because of his expertise in a variety of areas, Abbot John appointed him substitute and administrator of the monastery properties. With all his strength, Hroznata fought for the cause of the abbey. His efforts were a thorn in the side for the enemies of the monastery. Hroznata was captured and imprisoned in 1217. Because he refused to allow the abbey to pay his ransom, his captors let him die of hunger in prison.

After his death, the confreres of Teplá were able to secure his body and buried it in the abbey church in front of the high altar. He is honored as a “saint” because of his love of neighbor, his humility and his martyrdom. His relics were exhumed and placed in a precious reliquary in the new Hroznata chapel. Already in the 13th century the vita fratris Hroznatae had been written. Pope Leo XIII confirmed his veneration as “blessed” on September 16, 1897, and 100 years later, Pope John Paul II declared him patron of the newly erected Czech diocese of Plzen on March 3, 1997. The Order now looks forward to his canonization.

Lord God, who called Your holy martyr Hroznata to be a follower of Christ crucified, make us able, we beseech You, to deny ourselves and so to enter into the glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.