Saint of the Day – 14 January – St Godfrey of Cappenberg (c 1097-1127) Friar of the Order of St Norbert (the Premonstratensians or Norbertines), Husband and Father, Monk and Founder of Monasteries, Apostle of the Sick and the poor. Born in c 1097 at Cappenberg Castle, Westphalia, Germany and died on 13 January 1127 at the Abbey of Ilbenstadt, Germany of natural causes. Also known as – Godfrey of Ilbenstadt, Godfrey of Kappenberg. Gaufrid, Geoffrey, Geoffroy, Geofroi, Gioffredo, Godefrid, Godefridus, Godefroid, Godfrey, Goffredo, Goffrey, Gofrido, Gotfrid, Gothofred, Gottfrid, Gottfried, Jeffrey.
Godfrey was born into the wealth and prestige of the Counts of Cappenberg. In his early adulthood he played an active role in supporting the cause of the Roman Pontiff against Emperor Henry IV. In 1121 he encountered St. Norbert at Cologne and was so struck by his lifestyle and preaching that he immediately made plans to give away all his possessions and enter the infant Norbertine Order.
Together with his brother Otto and his wife Judith, he handed over Cappenberg Castle to St Norbert on 31 May 1122, thus establishing the first foundation of the Order in Germany. Both Otto and Judith followed Godfrey’s example and embraced the religious life of the new Order. The further donation of his estates at Varlar and Ilbenstadt to St. Norbert caused an uproar among the local nobility who viewed it as a threat to their established aristocracy. Under the leadership of Godfrey’s hostile father-in-law, Frederick of Arnsberg, an unsuccessful military assault was made upon the new Monastery at Cappenberg.
Through all of these trials Godfrey remained steadfast in his desire to be a Norbertine. When things calmed down, Godfrey received the Habit from the hand of St Norbert, himself.
Godfrey especially loved to care for the poor and sick in the hospital attached to the Abbey. St Norbert wanted to have him by his side at Magdeburg but Godfrey felt out of place in the noisy northern metropolis and was granted permission to return to Cappenberg. It was on his way back to Mount. Cappenberg that Godfrey fell ill at Ilbenstadt. Surrounded by his brethren and his brother Otto, he made peace with them all: “My brothers, through love for the Order, through zeal for the glory of God, I have occasionally reprimanded some of you a bit too harshly. I beg pardon from you now.” Moments later, seeing a vision of Angels, Godfrey exclaimed, “How beautiful! How beautiful! The Messengers of my Creator and God have finally come!” With that he fell asleep in the Lord. It was 13 January 1127.
Godfrey is pictured with the crown of nobility which he rejected for the sake of Christ’s Kingdom, with the skull of penitence recalling his severe trials and with one of the poorest of the poor, whom he loved to serve so much. St Godfrey’s relics are enshrined in the Churches in Ilbenstadt and Cappenberg, Germany.
You raise up in the Church, men and women
who out of love for You,
are willing to follow in poverty
the poverty of the poor Christ.
Out of their abundance,
others are cared for in their need.
We honour in prayer and praise,
he example of Godfrey of Cappenberg
who, in spite of even violent opposition,
gave to Saint Norbert his home as a new community
and who himself, became a faithful disciple
of that man of God.
Inspired by his openness of heart and hands,
lead us to build up the Body of Christ
by our generous response to the Gospel.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ
in the communion of the Holy Spirit
this day and forever and ever.