About St. Albert the Great
St. Albert, our Patron Saint
Who Was St. Albert the Great?
We celebrate his Feast Day on November 15th and he is the Patron Saint of Scientists.
Known as St. Albertus Magnus or Albert the Great, (1206-1280) is surely one of the Catholic Church’s most overshadowed saints. Anyone who has been blessed by great teachers should remember Albert whenever a new school year starts. Regardless of our fields or professions, we are nowhere without our best teachers and mentors, whether they are in a kindergarten classroom or a college lecture hall.
Albert, a knight’s son, was born in Bavaria in the first decade of the 13th century and entered the Dominicans in 1223 in Padua , where he was studying in college. It was a good match: The new order needed bright young men equally dedicated to education and service just when universities were becoming the scene of intellectual action.
Albert became a Dominican novice in Cologne and, almost as soon as his own studies began, he was tapped to help his fellow students in other German cities. He was sent to Paris, the Harvard of Europe at the time, to study theology around 1241. In 1245, he became the first Dominican to earn his master’s degree in theology and immediately started teaching there.
By 1254, Albert was provincial of the Dominicans in his home territory, a position he filled for three years before resigning so he could get back to his Cologne classroom.
In 1260, Pope Alexander IV made Albert bishop of Regensburg —a job he resisted at first but accepted obedience. He resigned two years later because he didn’t feel right for the job.
Albert was first and foremost a teacher, not an administrator, and spent most of the rest of his life teaching and writing in Cologne . Albert never resisted the Church’s call to service, however. He went on a German preaching tour when another pope asked him to promote the crusades in 1263-64.
By the end of Albert’s long life, it seems clear that failing health caught up with him. When he was about 74, he died and was buried in an impressive tomb that still stands in Cologne .
Pope Gregory XV beatified Albert in 1622, but it took more than three centuries for him to be canonized a saint and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1931. A decade later, Pope Pius XII named him the patron saint of scientists.
What can Albert teach us today? Let’s draw three lessons.
- First, we should be open to truth wherever it might be found, regardless of the source. Indeed, Albert wasn’t afraid to think outside the box—regardless of who held the path to truth. He was interested in philosophy and theology, just like everyone else in his world, but he was equally taken by nearly everything else. This is why Albert is not just a Doctor of the Church, but is known as theUniversal Doctor.
- Second, and indeed more important, was Albert’s insight that earthly knowledge is not heavenly wisdom. A ton of information falls before a speck of truth. There’s something more than what we see around us right here, right now.
- This brings us to a third lesson: Teachers and students are bound to one another in a sacred trust that goes beyond papers and exams. Without students, I am not a teacher. Students and teachers must thank God each day for each other, because each pushes the other forward. Real teachers know that’s the best compliment: to be surpassed by your students, maybe even to be forgotten, but to know that you played a part for the greater glory of God.
(Taken from the August 2008 issue of St Anthony Messenger)
Please follow this link to read the article about St. Albert the Great in it's entirety: http://www.americancatholic.org/messenger/aug2008/feature3.asp