Monday, November 15, 2010

Memorial of St Albert the Great

"Albert, called the Great, because of his extraordinary learning, was born in Suabia, at Lauingen on the Danube, and very carefully educated from boyhood.  To further his higher studies he left his native country and went to Padua.  At the urging of blessed Jordan, Master General of the Order of Preachers, he asked admission into the family of the Dominicans, in spite of the futile protests of his uncle.  After his election to membership among the brethren, Albert was dedicated in all things to God, and was conspicuous for his piety, his strict observance of the rule, and especially for his tender and filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Always before study he spent some time in prayer.  After his profession of apostolic religion, he so regulated his schedule of life that he became an accomplished preacher of the word of God and an efficient instrument for the salvation of souls.  Soon the Order sent Albert to complete his studies at Cologne, where he made such progress in every branch of secular science that he surpassed all his contemporaries in scholarship and achievement.  In the meantime, as Alexander IV testifieth, he drank so deeply of the health-giving waters of doctrine, sprung forth from the fountain of the divine law, that his soul was flooded with their abundance.

That others might share the rich treasure of his learning, Albert was appointed professor at Hildesheim, then Freiburg, Ratisbon and Strasbourg successively.  He became the marvel of all.  During the period when he taught sacred theology in the famous University of Paris, he became world-famous, and received the degree of Master of Theology.  Examining the teachings of pagan philosophers in the light of sound reason, he demonstrated clearly that they were in fundamental accord with the tenets of the faith.  He expounded most brilliantly the thesis on the extent of the power of human understanding to comprehend divine mysteries.  How great was his genius, how brilliant his intellect, how zealously he applied himself to study until he had become learned in every branch of scholarship, especially sacred theology, is best shewn by his numerous writings.  These encompass every known subject.  Albert returned to Cologne to become president of the university conducted by his Order.  He was so successful that he became ever more widely acknowledged as an authority by the schools; his reputation for learning increased.  Among his pupils was his beloved Thomas Aquinas.  Albert was first to recognize and acclaim the greatness of that intellect.  He had a deep devotion towards the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar and composed some magnificent works upon it.  He also pointed out wider fields for the study of the mystical things of the soul.  He succeeded so well that the zeal of this great master spread far and wide in the Church.

Amid so many very important duties Albert shone as an exemplar of the religious life.  His brethren, therefore, selected him to be prior of the German province.  He was summoned to Anagni, in the presence of the Supreme Pontiff, Alexander IV to refute that William who had been impiously and arrogantly attacking the mendicant orders.  Soon after this the Pope appointed Albert Bishop of Ratisbon.  As Bishop, Albert devoted himself almost entirely to the care of his flock.  Yet he retained meticulously his humility and love of poverty.  Up to the time he resigned his see, Albert was prompt and energetic in fulfilling the duties of his episcopal office.  He ministered to the spiritual needs of souls throughout Germany and the neighbouring provinces.  He was careful that the advice he gave to those who sought his counsels was wise and salutary.  So prudent was he in settling disputes that at Cologne he was called the peacemaker.  From far distant places, prelates and princes invited him to act as an arbiter to resolve differences.  Saint Louis, King of France, presented him with some relicks of the sacred Passion of Christ, and Albert cherished them devoutly all his days.  In the second Council of Lyons he was instruméntal in bringing to a successful conclusion several weighty matters.  He taught until he was worn out with age.  His last days were spent in holy contemplation.  In the year 1280 he entered into the joy of his Lord.  By the authority of the Roman Pontiffs, the honours of the altar had long since been conferred upon Albert in many dioceses and in the Order of Preachers, when Pius XI, gladly accepting the recommendations of the Congregation of Sacred Rites, extended his Feast to the universal Church, and conferred upon the title of Doctor.  Pope Pius XII appointed him the heavenly patron with God of all those who study the natural sciences."

-- From the Breviary of St Pius X (1955 ed)

** Painting by Tomasso da Modena

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