St Norbet of Xanten – 6 June
In the 12th century in the French region of Premontre, Saint Norbert founded a religious Order known as the Praemonstratensians or the Norbertines. His founding of the Order was a monumental tasks: combating rampant heresies—particularly regarding the Blessed Sacrament, revitalizing many of the faithful who had grown indifferent and dissolute, plus effecting peace and reconciliation among enemies.
Norbert entertained no pretensions about his own ability to accomplish this multiple task. Even with the aid of a goodly number of men who joined his Order, he realized that nothing could be effectively done without God’s power. Finding this help especially in devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, he and his Norbertines praised God for success in converting heretics, reconciling numerous enemies, and rebuilding faith in indifferent believers. Many of them lived in central houses during the week and served in parishes on weekends.
Reluctantly, Norbert became archbishop of Magdeburg in central Germany, a territory half pagan and half Christian. In this position he zealously and courageously continued his work for the Church until his death on June 6, 1134.
St Marcellin Champagnat – 6 June
Marcellin Joseph Benedict Champagnat, FMS, also known as Saint Marcellin Champagnat, was born in Le Rosey, village of Marlhes, near St. Etienne, France. He was the founder of the Marist Brothers, a religious congregation of brothers in the Catholic Church devoted to Mary and dedicated to education
St Ephram – 9 June
Poet, teacher, orator, and defender of the faith, Ephrem is the only Syriac Christian recognized as a doctor of the Church. He took upon himself the special task of opposing the many false doctrines rampant at his time, always remaining a true and forceful defender of the Catholic Church.
Born in Nisibis, Mesopotamia, he was baptized as a young man and became famous as a teacher in his native city. When the Christian emperor had to cede Nisibis to the Persians, Ephrem fled as a refugee to Edessa, along with many other Christians. He is credited with attracting great glory to the biblical school there. He was ordained a deacon but declined becoming a priest. Ephrem was said to have avoided presbyteral consecration by feigning madness!
He had a prolific pen, and his writings best illumine his holiness. Although he was not a man of great scholarship, his works reflect deep insight and knowledge of the Scriptures. In writing about the mysteries of humanity’s redemption, Ephrem reveals a realistic and humanly sympathetic spirit and a great devotion to the humanity of Jesus. It is said that his poetic account of the Last Judgment inspired Dante.
It is surprising to read that he wrote hymns against the heretics of his day. He would take the popular songs of the heretical groups and using their melodies, compose beautiful hymns embodying orthodox doctrine. Ephrem became one of the first to introduce song into the Church’s public worship as a means of instruction for the faithful. His many hymns have earned him the title “Harp of the Holy Spirit.”
Ephrem preferred a simple, austere life, living in a small cave overlooking the city of Edessa. It was here that he died around 373.