St. Albert’s Day



Today we celebrate the feast of St. Albert the Great , bishop, teacher, theologian, and patron saint of scientists. While he is now known best as the teacher and defender of St. Thomas Aquinas, in his day St. Albert was the better-known scholar. He is renowned as the first Catholic to "baptize" the works of Aristotle, and his work paved the way for Aquinas' theology. The modern claim that the medieval Church was somehow anti-science does not hold up when examining the works of St. Albert, who built on the foundations of classical scientific knowledge with his well-documented observations and experiments. In addition to writing treatises on almost every field of knowledge, he somehow found time to serve as the Bishop of Regensburg (our present Holy Father's former university), Dominican provincial, Papal legate, and official theologian to the Council of Lyons, while also teaching at several universities and helping preach the Crusades.

We now know him as "the Great," although he originally gained this appellation by accident. His family name, De Groot, was translated into Latin as Magnus. When his writings appeared under the name Albertus Magnus, readers assumed that this was because of his great reputation, and the name stuck. Although he was not officially canonized until 1930, St. Albert is a Doctor of the Church, and is known as "Doctor Universalis", the "teacher of all that there is to know."

The name Albert, an Old Saxon name meaning "noble and bright", is shared by at least nine other saints and beati. In addition to its saintly heritage, the name Albert has been popular among scientists (Einstein being the most famous) and royalty. In fact, two currently reigning European monarchs are named Albert II: the King of the Belgians and the Prince of Monaco.

There has never been an English king named Albert, although several English princes bore the name, most notably Queen Victoria's husband Albert, the Prince Consort. When Prince Albert died young, the Queen in her grief asked that no future king take that name, so as not to detract from the memory of her beloved. Therefore, their son and her heir Prince Albert Edward took the name King Edward VII at his coronation in 1901. Thirty-five years later, Victoria's great-grandson Prince Albert Frederick unexpectedly became king, when his brother King Edward VIII abdicated after less than a year on the throne. This Prince Albert chose the name King George VI.

Why do I know all this? Only because I have a young son called Albert, and today is his Saint's Day.



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  • Guest

    Thanks for the great post, Brendan.  The feast of St. Albert has a special resonance in our home too this year, as Peter Albert Leonardi was welcomed into the world on August 15.