Profiles of the Saints and Feasts |
Friday, November 15, 2002:
Double Feast of Saint Albert the Great, Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church
Saint Albert the Great
Saint Albert the Great was born in the region of Ausgbourg, of parents rich in the goods of fortune in the year 1207. From the time he was a child, he manifested in his studies an unusual aptitude for the exact sciences. While he was still a boy, he had himself let down the side of a cliff to examine at close range an eagle’s nest which interested him. At the age of fifteen he was already a student of the natural sciences and the humanities at Bologna; Saint Dominic had died in that city the preceding year, 1221, and was buried in the Dominican Convent. Their house, in a suburban area of Bologna, was closely associated with the activities at the University, and students in large numbers were requesting admission to the Order.
Blessed Reginald of Orleans, Dominican, a former professor in Paris, came to preach there in the streets. The second Dominican General, Blessed Jordan of Saxony, a compatriot of Albert and a very eloquent preacher, was in Padua, and when the students of Bologna were transferred there Albert heard him at the Padua Dominican Church. He had already desired to enter the Order, but his uncle opposed to that plan a very vigorous opposition, and Albert was still very young. He dreamed one night that he had become a Dominican but left the Order soon afterwards. The same day he heard Master Jordan preach, and the Dominican General spoke of how the demon attempts to turn aside those who want to enter into religion, knowing that he will suffer great losses from their career in the Church; he persuades them in dreams that they will leave it, or else they see themselves on horseback, or clothed in purple, or as solitaries in the desert, or surrounded by cordial friends; thus he makes them fear entering because they would not be able to persevere. This was precisely Albert’s great concern, faced as he was with his uncle’s opposition. Afterwards the young student, amazed, went to Blessed Jordan, saying: “Master, who revealed my heart to you?” And he lost no time then in entering the Order at the age of sixteen, in 1223, having heard the same preacher remark to him personally that he should consider what a pity it would be if his excellent youthful qualities became the prey of eternal fires.
When he had earned the title of Doctor in theology, he was sent to Cologne, where for a long time his reputation attracted many illustrious disciples. The humble Albert, filled with the love of God, taught also in Padua and Bologna, in Saxony, at Fribourg, Ratisbonne and Strasbourg, and when Blessed Jordan of Saxony died in 1237, he occupied his place and fulfilled his functions until 1238, when the election of his successor was held. He returned then to Cologne, where he would encounter a disciple who alone among all of them would suffice for his glory — Saint Thomas Aquinas. This young religious, already steeped in the highest theological studies, was silent among the others, to the point of being called by his fellow students “the Mute Ox of Sicily.” But Albert silenced them, saying, “The bellowings of this ox will resound throughout the entire world.”
From Cologne, Saint Albert was called to the University of Paris, with his dear disciple. There his genius appeared in all its brilliance, and there he composed a large number of his writings. Later, obedience took him back to Germany as Provincial of his Order. Without a murmur, he said farewell to his cell, his books, and his numerous disciples, and as Provincial thereafter journeyed with no money, always on foot, visiting the numerous monasteries under his jurisdiction, throughout an immense territory in which were included Austria, Bavaria, Saxony, and other regions even to Holland.
He was no longer young when he had to submit to the formal order of the Pope and accept, in difficult circumstances, the episcopal see of Ratisbonne; there his indefatigable zeal was rewarded only by harsh trials, in the midst of which his virtue was perfected. When, in response to his persevering requests to be relieved of the responsibilities of a large see, Pope Urban IV restored to him the conventual peace of his Order, he was nonetheless obliged to take up his apostolic journeyings again. Finally he could enter into a definitive retreat, to prepare for death. One is astonished that amid so many labors, journeys and works of zeal, Albert could find the time to write on the natural sciences, on philosophy and theology, works which form from twenty-one to thirty-eight volumes, depending on the edition — and one may ask in which of his titles he most excelled, that of scholar, of Saint, or of Apostle.
He died, apparently of fatigue, at the age of seventy-three, on November 15, 1280, and his body was buried in Cologne in the Dominican church. He had to wait until December 16, 1931 for the honors of canonization and the extension of his cult to the universal Church. Proclaiming his holiness, Pope Pius XI added the glorious title, so well merited, of Doctor of the Church. From time immemorial, he has been known as Albert the Great.
Sources: Saint Albert le Grand, textes et études, translated and with a preface by Albert Garreau (Éditions Montaigne: Paris, 1942); Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l’année, by Abbé L. Jaud (Mame: Tours, 1950).
Saturday, November 16, 2002:
Double Feast of Saint Gertrude, Abbess and Mystic
Proper of the Saints:
EPISTLE: Corinthians 10: 17-18; 11: 1-2
GRADUAL: Psalms 33: 5, 15-16
GOSPEL: Matthew 25: 1-13
Saint Gertrude of Eisleben is the most celebrated of several Saints of the same name, and for this reason the ancient authors named her Gertrude the Great. She was born in the year 1264 of a noble Saxon family, and placed at the age of five for education with the Benedictines of Helfta. She dwelt there as a simple religious, very mistrustful of herself, under the direction of an Abbess having the same name as herself. The Abbess’ sister was Saint Mechtilde of Hackeborn; and she was the mistress and friend of the young Saint Gertrude, who consulted her excellent teacher whenever she was tempted by vain and useless thoughts, or troubled by doubts suggested by the ancient enemy.
Saint Gertrude learned Latin in her youth, as in those days was customary for persons of her sex who consecrated themselves to God, and she wrote Latin with unusual elegance and force. She also had an uncommon knowledge of Holy Scripture and of all the branches of learning having religion as their object; but one day Our Lord reproached her with having too great a taste for her studies. Afterwards she could find in them nothing but bitterness; but soon Our Lord came to instruct her Himself. For many years she never lost His amiable Presence, save for eleven days when He decided to test her fidelity. Prayer and contemplation were her principal exercise, and to those she consecrated the greater part of her time.
Zeal for the salvation of souls was ardent in the heart of Gertrude. Thinking of the souls of sinners, she would shed torrents of tears at the foot of the cross and before the Blessed Sacrament. She especially loved to meditate on the Passion and the Eucharist, and at those times, too, could not restrain the tears that flowed in abundance from her eyes. When she spoke of Jesus Christ and His mysteries, she ravished those who heard her. One day while in church the Sisters were singing, I have seen the Lord face to face, Saint Gertrude beheld what appeared to be the divine Face, brilliant in beauty; His eyes pierced her heart and filled her soul and flesh with inexpressible delights. Divine love, ever the unique principle of her affections and her actions, was the principle by which she was crucified to the world and all its vanities.
She was the object of a great number of extraordinary graces; Jesus Christ engraved His wounds in the heart of His holy spouse, placed rings on her fingers, presented Himself to her in the company of His Mother, and in her spirit acted as though He had exchanged hearts with her. All these astonishing graces only developed her love for suffering. It was impossible for her to live without some kind of pain; the time she spent without suffering seemed to her to be wasted.
During the long illness of five months from which she would die, she gave not the slightest sign of impatience or sadness; her joy, on the contrary, increased with her pains. When the day of her death arrived in 1334, she saw the Most Blessed Virgin descend from heaven to assist her, and one of her Sisters perceived her soul going straight to the Heart of Jesus, which opened to receive it. Saint Gertrude is one of the great mystics of the Church; the book of her Revelations, recorded out of obedience, remains celebrated. In it she traces in words of indescribable beauty the intimate converse of her soul with Jesus and Mary. She was gentle to all, most gentle to sinners; filled with devotion to the Saints of God, to the souls in purgatory, and above all to the Passion of Our Lord and to His Sacred Heart.
Reflection: No preparation for death can be better than to offer and resign ourselves constantly to the Divine Will, humbly, lovingly, and with unbounded confidence in the infinite mercy and goodness of God.
Sources: Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l’année, by Abbé L. Jaud (Mame: Tours, 1950); Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).
SUNDAY, November 17, 2002:
Semi-Double Feast of the 26th Sunday After Pentecost and the Traditional Feast of Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus, Bishop and Confessor.
Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus
Saint Gregory was born in the Pont, of distinguished parents who were still engaged in the superstitions of paganism. He lost his father at the age of fourteen, and began to reflect on the folly of idolatry’s fables. He recognized the unity of God and was becoming disposed to accept the truths of Christianity. His father had destined him for the legal profession, in which the art of oratory is very necessary, and in this pursuit he was succeeding very well, having learned Latin. He was counseled to apply himself to Roman law.
Gregory and his brother Athenodorus, later to be a bishop like himself, had a sister living in Palestine at Caesarea. Not far from that city was a school of law, and in Caesarea itself, another which the famous Origen had opened in the year 231 and in which he was teaching philosophy. The two brothers heard Origen there, and that master discovered in them a remarkable capacity for knowledge, and more important still, rare dispositions for virtue. He strove to inspire love for truth in them and an ardent desire to attain greater knowledge and the possession of the Supreme Good; and the two brothers soon put aside their intentions to study law. Gregory studied also in Alexandria for three years, after a persecution drove his master, Origen, from Palestine, but returned there with the famous exegete in 238. He was then baptized, and in the presence of a large audience delivered a speech in which he testified to his gratitude towards his teacher, praising his methods, and thanking God for so excellent a professor.
When he returned to his native city of Neocaesarea in the Pont, his friends urged him to seek high positions, but Gregory desired to retire into solitude and devote himself to prayer. For a time he did so, often changing his habitation, because the archbishop of the region desired to make him Bishop of Neocaesarea. Eventually he was obliged to consent. That city was very prosperous, and the inhabitants were corrupted by paganism. Saint Gregory, with Christian zeal and charity, and with the aid of the gift of miracles which he had received, began to attempt every means to bring them to the light of Christ. As he lay awake one night an elderly man entered his room, and pointed to a Lady of superhuman beauty who accompanied him, radiant with Heavenly light. This elderly man was Saint John the Evangelist, and the Lady of Light was the Mother of God. She told Saint John to give Gregory the instruction he desired; thereupon he gave Saint Gregory a creed which contained in all its plenitude the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. Saint Gregory consigned it to writing, directed all his preaching by it, and handed it down to his successors. This creed later preserved his flock from the Arian heresy.
He converted a pagan priest one day, when the latter requested a miracle, and a very large rock moved to another location at his command. The pagan priest abandoned all things to follow Christ afterwards. One day the bishop planted his staff beside the river which passed alongside the city and often ravaged it by floods. He commanded it never again to pass the limit marked by his staff, and in the time of Saint Gregory of Nyssa, who wrote of his miracles nearly a hundred years later, it had never done so. The bishop settled a conflict which was about to cause bloodshed between two brothers, when he prayed all night beside the lake whose possession they were disputing. It dried up and the miracle ended the difficulty.
When the persecution of Decius began in 250, the bishop counseled his faithful to depart and not expose themselves to trials perhaps too severe for their faith; and none fell into apostasy. He himself retired to a desert, and when he was pursued was not seen by the soldiers. On a second attempt they found him praying with his companion, the converted pagan priest, now a deacon; they had mistaken them the first time for trees. The captain of the soldiers was convinced this had been a miracle, and became a Christian to join him. Some of his Christians were captured, among them Saint Troadus the martyr, who merited the grace of dying for the Faith. The persecution ended at the death of the emperor in 251.
It is believed that Saint Gregory died in the year 270, on the 17th of November. Before his death he asked how many pagans still remained in the city, and was told there were only seventeen. He thanked God for the graces He had bestowed on the population, for when he arrived, there had been only seventeen Christians.
Devotion to the blessed Mother of God is the sure guarantee of faith in Her Divine Son. Every time we invoke Her, we renew our faith in the Incarnate God, we reverse the sin and unbelief of our first parents, and we establish communion with the One who was blessed because She believed.
Source: Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 13.
Monday, November 18, 2002
Double Major Feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul
Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul