St Albert the Great : Patron of Scientists and Students (1206-1280)
“The moment he is able to in the morning, he enters into his contemplation. And it is in contemplation that he then goes to Mass. He thus allows himself in his contemplation to be led by just what the Mass of the day offers to him, for example, a visit, and seeks to illuminate the situation that occurs there in contemplation. He has a great devotion to the Mother of the Lord and sees her very much as the contemplative of the Son.”
From “Book Of All Saints” by Adrienne von Speyr
“On December 16, 1941, Pope Pius XII designated St Albert the Great as patron of all who engage in scientific studies. As such, he is the special saint for researchers, technologists, and all who engage professionally in any of the sciences, as well as of those who study science...St Albert, from his heavenly eminence, can appreciate exactly the task of scientific research. He did a great deal of it himself, not only in one subject, but in the whole field of science, which today is divided into so many specialties. St Albert’s specialty was no less than ‘everything created.’ He wrote on botany, mineralogy, astronomy, physics, chemistry, anthropology, cosmography, and other subjects. No single science escaped his attention.”
From “The 35 Doctors of the Church” by Christopher Rengers, OFM, Cap.
I cannot fully explain why, but November has always been my favorite month. It may be that that one of my mentors and a dear friend, the late poet and playwright, Fr Jim Janda, taught me to see into the beautifully muted colors of late autumn. November also begins with the Feast of All Saints, then the Holy Souls. In this month we also celebrate many saints I love, ... Andrew, Martin de Porres, Charles, Martin of Tours, Elizabeth of Hungary, Hugh of Lincoln (with his pet swan), Stanislaus, Padre Miguel Pro, Catherine of Alexandria ,Catherine Laboure’, Margaret, Gertrude, Mother Cabrini, Philippine, Dorothy Day (to name a few !) and Albert, whose feast on November 15th is exactly 40 days to Christmas.
I am full of admiration for St Albert precisely because he was interested in everything God created. It’s difficult to imagine any of the saints, engaging in such widespread interests, except St Hildegard of Bingen, also a Doctor of the Church, who died about 27 years before Albert was born. Albert is also remembered for being the teacher/mentor to St Thomas Aquinas, and defending Thomas ... “In 1277 he traveled to Paris to uphold the recently condemned good name and writings of Thomas Aquinas, who had died a few years before, and to defend certain Aristotelian doctrines that both he and Thomas held to be true... His importance for medieval science essentially consists in his bringing Aristotelianism to the fore against reactionary tendencies in contemporary theology... He was the most prolific writer of his century and was the only scholar of his age to be called ‘the Great’; this title was used even before his death.” (from the Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Now it almost goes without saying that at this very moment, there are wild, often irrational debates, about science due to the present pandemic. I wish I was scientific enough to defend a Jesuit high school and college graduate like Dr Anthony Fauci, who was born on Christmas Eve in 1940. I became aware of him during my life in New York, amidst the AIDS pandemic, when he began his work as Director of NIAID In 1984. I wish I had met him because at that time we all admired his dedication and compassion. Everything I know or have seen of him tells me he sees his work as a Vocation, informed by his Jesuit training (“a man for others”) and Catholicism. Like St Albert, Dr Fauci is interested in just about everything. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American College of Physicians, the Infectious Disease Society of America, the American Association of Immunologists, and author or coauthor, or editor of more than 1,300 scientific publications, including several textbooks. So this year, on St Albert’s Day, we give thanks for all contemplatives, doctors, nurses, scientists, pharmacists ... anyone in the field of medicine ... and all those giving their lives now, in often dangerous situations, so that we can continue to live.
Now here is the prayer for Day 1 of a novena to St Albert...
“God, You made St Albert great by enabling him to combine human wisdom and Divine Faith. Help us so to adhere to his teaching that we may progress in the sciences and at the same time come to a deeper understanding and love of You.
Fr William Hart Dominic McNichols 💮 November 2021