The Order of Prémontré

The Order is known by many different names. Our official title is “The Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré,” but we are also known as the “Norbertines,” after our holy founder, and as the “Premonstratensians,” after our mother house in France. In England we were also known as the “White Canons” because of the colour of our habit. After our names, we use the abbreviation O.Praem., which is Latin for "Ordo Praemonstratensis", the Order of Prémontré.

St Norbert
Our Holy Father St. Norbert

In addition to St. Norbert, there are 14 saints of the Order recognised by the Church with their own liturgical feast days. Beyond this list, there are hundreds of members of the Order who have distinguished themselves by great holiness of life and for service to the Church. Notable among these in recent years is the late Father Werenfried Van Straaten, founder of Aid to the Church in Need, popularly known as ‘The Bacon Priest.’

At the heart of the life of the Canons Regular of Prémontré is the idea of ‘communio,’ which is often characterised by five points:-

1. Laus Dei in Choro

The praise of God in choir through the chanting of the Divine Office and the worthy celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The principle obligation of the canons in the priory is the singing or chanting of the Divine Office publicly and solemnly in the name of the Church; it includes the Conventual Mass.

2. Zelus animarum

A zeal for souls, or the care of souls, is the second end of the Canons Regular of Prémontré. Basing our lives on that of the Apostles we are bound to give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Having the care of souls, the Premonstratensians have the care of parishes. This zeal for souls consists in the administration of the sacraments, in service in the Church, in preaching the Gospel, in teaching, in directing parishes and in performing all other pastoral duties.

3. Spiritus iugis pœnitentiæ

The spirit of habitual penance was grafted by Our Holy Father Norbert onto the Rule of St. Augustine in order that it might be a strong means in helping his canons to become worthy pastors of souls. For more than a century the Norbertine Canons in England have offered Mass in reparation for the sins of the world, particularly those committed against Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Our Canonry is the centre of the Archconfraternity of the Mass of Reparation on whose aims and work Pope St. Pius X gave his Apostolic Blessing and in 1904 presented a silver chalice for the use of the Canons.

4. Cultus Eucharisticus

Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. The Holy Eucharist was the centre of St. Norbert’s life; he loved It and defended It, as at Antwerp in his triumph over the Sacramentarian heresy of Tanchelm of Antwerp. It is because of this that he is represented holding a ciborium or monstrance in his right hand. Most of his miracles were wrought in connection with the Mass. He is said to be the first, chronologically speaking, of the saints called Eucharistic. Speaking of the Premonstratensian Canons, Pope Pius XI said: “Your Order is gloriously Eucharistic, and Eucharistically glorious.”

5. Cultus Marianus

The cult of Our Lady. Our Holy Father Norbert wished that his canons should honour and venerate in a special way the most Holy Mother of God, the Patroness of his Order. it was Our Lady who showed him the site at Prémontré on which he was afterwards to build his church and dedicate it to her. Most of the churches of our Order are similarly dedicated. Our Lady showed St. Norbert the white habit, which his canons wear in her honour. After each Office, an antiphon is sung to Our Lady