Saint Godfrey of Kappenberg
January 13, Saint



Godfrey, Count of Kappenberg, in Westphalia, lived at a period when the nobles of Germany were engaged in constant feuds with one another, falling on each others lands, burning the villages, and carrying off the cattle. It was a period when the poor suffered untold woes. "It is good to live under the crook," they said, meaning that their only place, where they could live in security, was on the lands of the abbeys. One little incident mentioned in the life of Count Gotfried, shews the lawlessness of the times. The Count and the city of Münster not being on good terms, a party of the Kappenbergers made a foray, and swept up all the cattle from the farms in the neighbourhood of Münster, and brought them in triumph to the Count; but he rebuked them saying, "Take all these back again; my quarrel is with the men of the city; it is not seemly that the innocent and helpless farmers should lose their all on account of a contest of the rights of which they know nothing.”

Gotfried happening to attend, along with his brother Otto, the preaching of S. Norbert, who traversed Westphalia at this time, was converted, and resolved on turning his fortress into a monastery. His wife at first opposed his intention, and his relations used all their influence to dissuade him. But his earnestness moved his wife at last to withdraw her objections, and to consent to his entering the religious life; she, at the same time, also resolved to take the veil. Accordingly, Gotfried and his brother Otto, who was his junior, received the tonsure, and became canons of S. Augustine, under the rule of S. Norbert of Prémontré. Frederick, Count of Arnsberg, the father of Gotfried's wife, was furious. He was a man of great cruelty, in whose dungeons languished many wretches, and who delighted in war. His protests were in vain, the Count of Kappenberg transformed his castle into a monastery, and built two more, at Varlar and Elstadt. So great was the humility of Gotfried, that finding he was continually given his title of Count, even by the brethren, he took upon himself the most disagreeable office in the house, that of scourer of the privies.”

Frederick, Count of Arnsberg, finding remonstrances in vain, threatened to fall on the county of Kappenberg, and drive the monks out "As for that Norbert!" he exclaimed, "who has come  “riding on an ass through Westphalia, turning men's heads, let me catch him, and I'll hang him and his ass at the two ends of one rope over a bough, and see which is the heaviest fool of the twain."

Gotfried and his brethren sent to Prémontré, to tell their father in religion, that it was impossible for them to remain in Germany, that Count Arnsberg would attack them shortly; and they added the threat uttered against Norbert himself and his ass.

"Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world, said Christ," he wrote back to them, "and as for me and my ass, we are coming into Westphalia to be weighed one against the other." Nor was St. Norbert long in coming; he rode upon his ass to the door of Kappenberg; but there was no further danger, Count Frederick of Arnsberg was dead.

Before he died, Gotfried visited the cradle of his order, Prémontré, the home of S. Norbert. On his way back, next year, he sickened, and died at Elstadt.”



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