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St. Albert the Great – November 15

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Biographical selection:

Albertus Magnus, by Fra Angelico

Albertus Magnus by Fra Angelico
Albert the Great, the eldest son of the Count of Bollstädt, was born around 1206 in Lauingen, in Swabia, Germany. After a careful formation he went to study Law at the University of Padua in Italy. There he became familiar with Blessed Jordan of Saxony, General of the Dominicans, whose counsels led him to enter the Dominican Order. Soon he became known for his filial devotion to Our Lady and attention to monastic observance. He was sent to Cologne to finish his studies, earning a reputation for an erudition in the natural sciences greater than all his peers.

After completing his studies, he was sent to teach theology at Hildesheim, Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Regensburg, Strasburg and Cologne. In 1245, he was sent to the University of Paris, where he demonstrated the accord between faith and reason and between the sacred and profane sciences. The most illustrious of his disciples, St. Thomas Aquinas, would succeed him at the Sorbonne.

St. Albert retuned to Cologne in 1248 in order to direct the studies of his Order as Regent of the Studium Generale. In 1254 he was elected Dominican provincial of Germany, and in 1260 was appointed Bishop of Regensburg. He resigned the bishopric after three years, and returned to teach at Cologne.

Stained glass windos of the St. Andreas Church

Stained glass windows in the sanctuary
of St. Andreas Church
Often, he was also called to act as arbiter and peacemaker between various German Princes and Bishops. He attended the second Council of Lyons (1274), where he took an active part in the deliberations. He died in Cologne on November 15, 1280. On December 16, 1931 he was canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI.

Since the year 1300, under a stain-glass window in the Dominican church of St. Andreas in Cologne, one can read these words:

“This sanctuary was built by Bishop Albert, flower of philosophers and wise men, model of good customs, brilliant and splendorous destroyer of heresies, and scourge of evil men. Place him, O Lord, in the number of Thy Saints.

"By nature he had an instinct for great things. Thus, like Solomon, he begged God for the gift of wisdom, which intimately unites man to God, expands hearts, and raises the souls of the faithful to the heights. Wisdom taught him how to unite an intensive intellectual life with a profound spiritual life, for he was at the same time an initiator of a powerful intellectual movement, a great contemplative, and a man of action.”

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

The life of St. Albert the Great is expressed well in the description of how he excelled in these three things – he was an intellectual, a contemplative and a man of action. This made him one of the greatest figures of the Middle Ages, one of those who consolidated the Middle Ages.

The tomb of St. Albert

The Saint is buried in the Church of St. Andreas, above
God gave him the gift to be remarkable in many things. Had he shone in only one of these things, he would be a man of immortal fame. To mention just two of his intellectual accomplishments, St. Albert is considered the founder of Scholasticism, and he was the master of St. Thomas Aquinas, who in his turn brought Scholasticism to its apex. If he were only this great intellectual, he would have gone down in history for this. But he was more. He was also renowned for his religious spirit, he was a great contemplative, a great saint, which would give him all possible glory. Finally, he was also an illustrious Bishop who acquired an enormous fame in his homeland.

Why does Providence make such a brilliant man, who stands out on three different roads at the same time? It is to show that the interior life should have precedence over the others. We understand that if St. Albert had not been a man with a strong interior life, he could not have been the extraordinary scholar that he was. The interior life gives the means for a man to execute God’s will for him to perfection. Doing this, a man fully develops his natural talents. Often God gives additional charismas and extraordinary graces to those who are faithful in order to multiply their natural qualities and help them accomplish their missions.

This reminds me of a saying of Dom Chautard, the author of the famous book The Soul of the Apostolate. Once he was with Georges Clemenceau, the very revolutionary French prime-minister. Knowing that Dom Chautard was a very busy man, Clemenceau asked him: “How do you manage to do so many things in just 24 hours?” Dom Chautard answered, “It is because I pray the Rosary. If you would also pray it, you would find more time to accomplish your tasks.”

A youth sits on a modern art sculpture of St. Albert

A progressivist sculpture of St. Albert in front of the University of Cologne
It is a paradox, because to pray the Rosary takes time from other activities. Someone might think that Dom Chautard was just joking with Clemenceau. This is not true. In that apparent contradiction there is a profound truth. If we take time to develop our interior life, God will take care of the other things we need, and will multiply our capacity to accomplish what we are called to do.

This is the great truth that we learn from St. Albert’s life.

Those beautiful words written in 1300 under that stain-glass window in St. Andreas Church reveal how much the modern religious mentality has changed. Today, who would say that a saint is a “brilliant and splendorous destroyer of heresies and scourge of evil men”? Such a eulogy – which fills our souls with Catholic joy – has completely disappeared from the present day religious panorama. That this is so reveals the difference between the mentality of the Progressivism that unfortunately dominates the Church today and the true Catholic spirit. It is not difficult to see which one is the position of the Saints.

Let us ask St. Albert the Great to help us to see the full extension of the progressivist errors and combat them with the same brilliancy and splendor that he combated the heresies of his time.


Blason de Charlemagne
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Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The Saint of the Day features highlights from the lives of saints based on comments made by the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. Following the example of St. John Bosco who used to make similar talks for the boys of his College, each evening it was Prof. Plinio’s custom to make a short commentary on the lives of the next day’s saint in a meeting for youth in order to encourage them in the practice of virtue and love for the Catholic Church. TIA thought that its readers could profit from these valuable commentaries.

The texts of both the biographical data and the comments come from personal notes taken by Atila S. Guimarães from 1964 to 1995. Given the fact that the source is a personal notebook, it is possible that at times the biographic notes transcribed here will not rigorously follow the original text read by Prof. Plinio. The commentaries have also been adapted and translated for TIA’s site.

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