Saint of the Day – 7 April – Saint Hermann Joseph O.Praem (c1150-1241) Priest, Friar of the Order of of Canons Regular of Prémontré (the Norbertines or White Canons), Mystic, a prolific writer on spiritual subjects and the Sacred Scriptures, known as “The Boy who Played with Angels.” From childhood, Hermann had an intense devotion to Our Bless Mother Mary, who herself, assisted him in many ways and throughout his life. This beautiful painting below by Sir Antony van Dyck, shows Mother Mary receiving an apple from Hermann, to give to Baby Jesus. Born im c1150 as Hermann von Steinfeld in Cologne, Germany and died on 7 April 1241 in Hoven, Germany of natural causes. Additional Memorials – 24 May (translation of relics) and 21 May (Diocese of Cologne) and the the Sixth Sunday after Easter at Steinfeld in Cologne. In 1958 Hermann’s status as a Saint of the Church was formally recognised by Pope Pius XII. Patronages – watch and clockmakers, children and young students, Altar boys, Acolytes, Sextons and Sacristans, expectant mothers and safe childbirth. Also known as St Hermann Josef.
Hermann was born in Cologne, the son of Count Lothair of Meer and his wife Blessed Hildegund O.Praem (c1130-1185). His sister was Blessed Hadewych of Meer, also a Norbertine Nun. Although of the nobility, the family was not overly wealthy.
According to the biography by Razo Bonvisinus, a contemporary and Prior of Steinfeld Abbey, at the age of seven, Hermann attended school and very early was known for devotion to the Blessed Virgin. At every available moment he could be found at the Church of St Maria im Kapitol, where he would kneel rapt in prayer to Mary. Bonvisinus says that the boy once presented an apple, saved from his own lunch, to a statue of Jesus Who accepted it. On another occasion, when on a cold day he made his appearance with bare feet, Mary procured him the means of obtaining shoes.
At the age of twelve, he entered the Abbey of the Premonstratensian at Steinfeld. As he was too young to be accepted into the Order, he was sent to study, probably in the Netherlands. Upon his return, he made his vows and was given the Habit and later, the additional name “Joseph.”
As a Novice, he was initially entrusted with the service of the Refectory and later, of the Sacristy. After his Ordination, Hermann was sometimes sent out to perform pastoral duties and was also in frequent demand for the making and repairing of clock – a talent and skill which he enjoyed as a recreation. Hermann became noted for the devotion with which he celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Indeed, he fell into an ecstasy of prayer so often at Mass that his Masses went on “forever.”
As a Monk, Father Hermann retained all the blameless innocence of spirit which had characterised him as a child. He was much loved for his readiness to assist anyone in need and anyone who asked. But while he had practical skills (he was an able mechanic and clock-maker), he was essentially a contemplative.
His confreres jokingly called him “Joseph” for his attention to the Madonna and Child. Typically, he declared himself unworthy to be called after the father of the Holy Family. But Our Lady took a fancy to the name and in a vision, put upon his finger a wedding ring to confirm that he was her spiritual spouse. On the basis of this vision, Hermann added “Joseph” to his other name.
He was also active in pastoral care outside the Monastery, especially in the female monasteries in the region, as both his mother (after her widowhood) and his sister had become Norbertine Nuns.
Hermann was characterised by his child-like devotion to Mary. Late in his life, he had, under his charge, the spiritual welfare of the Cistercian Nuns at Hoven whom he served as Chaplain. There he died and was buried in their cloister.
Countless miracles were reported at his tomb – the blind were cured, physical ailments were cured and even demons fled those who were possessed and were brought to Herman’s tomb. Hermann Joseph received visits from expectant women who asked his intercession for a safe delivery. The patronage of expectant mothers has been handed down since the 17th century in the use of “touch relics”, such as brooches and clasps, which were left on the Reliquary or tomb and retrieved later and then fastened to their clothing, in the hope of a happy and safe childbirth, through the intercession of the Saint. We presume that Hermann’s prayers, both during life and after, had proved efficacious in these matters.
His body was later transferred back to Steinfeld Monastery, where his marble tomb and large picture may be seen to the present day. By custom apples are left at his tomb – in the image below the large picture (as posted above by Sir Antony van Dyck) as well as an apple, can be seen. Portions of his Relics are at Cologne and at Antwerp. His grave in Steinfeld is a pilgrimage destination – in the Middle Ages, especially by mothers, in modern times, by children and students. The Hermann Joseph Festival is held at Steinfeld on the Sixth Sunday after Easter, every year.