NOVEMBER 15, 2013

SIRAC 15:1-6 ; MATTHEW 13:47-52

SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT, known as Doctor Universalis (Universal Doctor) continues to exercise a broad influence in our world today but only a few of us know much about him beyond his name.  Since we have come together here today to commemorate his person and his work, we can honor him the better, and give greater glory to God for giving him to the Church and to the world by recalling some of the features of his character and the major details of his life.  Albert was born at a time of a marked change in European intellectual, cultural, and religious life.   He inherited from his early years the advantages of a noble, influential, and rich German family.  Aged 23, just two years after Saint Dominic died, he renounced his promising career and overcoming the strenuous resistance of his father, he entered the Dominican Order just six years after it was given Papal approval in 1217.

Albert's brilliance soon was recognized and was given full scope at the best Universities, already as a young layman at Padua in Italy.  There he encountered and absorbed some of the most advanced thinking not only in philosophy and theology but also in early science.  Shortly after his joining the young Order of Preachers, he was assigned to do further studies in Germany and eventually at the Sorbonne in Paris. After obtaining his Doctorate he was entered upon a brilliant teaching career in Germany then at Paris where Thomas Aquinas was his best known pupil and owed much to his master.  While still a student he began his extensive writing career that was to expand and continue to the end of his life.  His voluminous works include many fields.   Besides his works on spirituality, his theological and philosophical writings, he made significant contributions in botany, mineralogy and zoology so that in a History of Western Science published at the University of Chicago in 2007 his contributions are included in impressive detail.  This broad and influential academic work was but a portion of this holy religious life.  Albert was endowed with high practical and social skills so that he served as Provincial in Germany, and then was made Bishop of Ratisbonne in Germany.  Later, he returned to teaching at Cologne and continued as advisor and mediator in difficult situations.

Most notable of all, and the reason we recall his person and his work for the Church and society is his faithful witness to the Gospel and the life of prayer.  An indication of his humility, was that in his travels- though as a busy Provincial he was entitled to ride a mount- he chose to travel only on foot as was the practice for the Dominican friars.

The most significant feature of this devout religious who was gifted with mystical prayer, is that in the midst of fame and influence he remained a prayerful, simple religious to the end Like the learned scribe Jesus refers to in today's Gospel Albert was learned in new things and old.  He stored up treasure in the kingdom of heaven not only for himself but for the whole Church.  May this mass in which we commemorate his holy, dedicated life obtain for each of us the grace to imitate his ardent dedication to the service of the Church and the glory of God.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger