SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT (1206-1280), bishop and Doctor of the Church – Patron saint of scientists and philosophers
Today, the Church honors Saint Albert the Great (or as he is also known – Albert Magnus), a 13th century German Dominican who decisively influenced the stance of the Church toward Aristotelian philosophy.
Today’s students of philosophy know him as the teacher of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Albert’s attempt to understand Aristotle’s writings established the climate in which Thomas Aquinas developed his synthesis of Greek wisdom and Christian theology. But Albert deserves recognition on his own merits as a curious, honest and diligent scholar.
Albert was born in 1206 in Lauingen an der Donau, Swabia (now part of modern Germany), the eldest son of a powerful and wealthy German military nobleman. He was educated in the liberal arts in Padua, Italy and Paris, France. Despite fierce family opposition, he entered the Dominican novitiate in 1223.
His unceasing interests prompted him to write a compendium of all knowledge: natural science, logic, rhetoric, mathematics, astronomy, ethics, economics, politics and metaphysics. His explanation of learning took twenty years to complete. “Our intention”, he said, “is to make all the aforesaid parts of knowledge intelligible to the Latins.”
He achieved his goal while serving as an educator at Paris and Cologne, as Dominican provincial general and even as bishop of Ratisbon for a time, striving earnestly to establish peace among peoples and between cities. He defended the mendicant orders (monks and religious who depended directly on the charity of people for their needs) and preached the Crusades in Germany and Bohemia.
While continuing to do what he loved best – teaching on the sacred and secular sciences, in addition to his personal research – Bishop Albert died on November 15, 1280 in Cologne, Prussia, and was buried in Cologne in the Dominican church of Saint Andreas. He was canonized a saint in 1931 by Pope Pius XI, as well as being elevated to the honor of Doctor of the Church.
Saint Albert’s openness to the ultimate Truth led him to a life of holiness. His characteristic curiosity prompted Albert to probe and search deeply for wisdom within a philosophy the Church warmed to with great difficulty during his day.
We commemorate his feastday on November 15.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Albert the Great)
“God our Father, You endowed Saint Albert with the talent of combining human wisdom with Divine faith. Keep us true to his teachings that the advance of human knowledge may deepen our knowledge and love of You.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”