St. Albert the Great
Bishop Confessor, Doctor of the Church (c. 1200 - 1280)
Albertus Magnus, the eminent theologian, philosopher and scientist, was the eldest son of a military officer in Suabia, southern Germany. While a student at Padua he joined the Dominican Order. After completing his studies, he taught theology at various Universities, especially at Cologne and Paris, where he had Thomas Aquinas as a pupil and recognized his genius. St. Albert's lectures were so popular in Paris that, the University halls being unable to hold his listeners, he had to speak in the open market place.
In 1254 Albert was elected Provincial for Germany, but gave up the post after two years to resume his studies. In 1260 he accepted, at the Pope's command, the bishopric of Regensburg (Ratisbon), but resigned two years later and returned to lecturing and writing. From 1263 to 1264, as legate of Pope Urban IV, he preached the crusade throughout Germany and Bohemia. He was participating in the deliberations of the Council of Lyons in 1274 by order of the Pope, when the news arrived that this intimate friend and former pupil, St. Thomas Aquinas, had died on his way to the Council. By then 71, Albert returned to Paris and vindicated the orthodoxy of his renowned disciple, some of whose doctrines had been condemned by the university.
In the field of philosophy and theology he was the forerunner of St. Thomas Aquinas in reconciling reason with orthodox faith in the so-called Scholastic system by which our doctrines are scientifically set for the and defended. In the words of Ulric of Strassburg, he was "a man so superior in every science, that he can fittingly be called the wonder and the miracle of our time". Indeed, it was by his knowledge and writings on the natural sciences that he exercised the greatest influences, leaving behind a veritable encyclopedia of sagacious observation and descriptions. "The aim of natural science is to investigate the causes which are at work in nature", he would say. "There need be no incompatibility between science and the faith". Furthermore, it was his extraordinary knowledge and proficiency in every branch of medieval learning: astronomy, geography, climatology, physics, chemistry, agriculture, mineralogy, zoology, physiology and phrenology that earned him the title "Universal Doctor".
In his personal life Albert remained the humble Dominican, his numerous travels always made on foot. He had a childlike faith in and love of God that expressed itself in an attitude of tenderness towards the poor and unfortunate.
He died at Cologne on 15 November 1280. Beatified by Pope Gregory XV in 1622, Albert was declared Saint and Doctor by Pope Pius XI on 16 December, 1931.
Reflection :"Three are some who desire knowledge merely for its own sake; and that is shameful curiosity.. And there are others who desire to know, in order that they may themselves be known; and that is vanity, disgraceful too. Others again, desire knowledge in order to acquire money or preferment by it; that too is a discreditable quest. But there are also some who desire knowledge, that they may build up the souls of others with it and that is charity. Others, again, desire it that they may themselves be built up thereby; and that is prudence. Of all these types, only the last two put knowledge to the right use" (St. Bernard, Sermon on the Canticle of Canticles).