Albert was received as a postulant by Blessed Jordan of Saxony, the immediate successor of Saint Dominic. Leaving all, and taking the vow of obedience to live a chaste and simple life, he became “Friar Albert”. Beginning all his study with prayer, he directed his whole life that he might become worthy to preach the Word of God and work for the salvation of souls. After some time in religious life studying for the holy priesthood, he became “Father Albert”. Most of his priestly life was spent teaching in Cologne, although he spent some time teaching in Paris and other places, and also some time engaged in administration and various other obediences.
Albert had a remarkably investigative, persevering, highly scientific (in a most modern sense) approach to all knowledge. His natural interest was ruled by an unlimited and intense desire to serve God. He infused this spiritual and intellectual eagerness, care, and perceptiveness into his students, the most famous of whom is Saint Thomas Aquinas. While Father Thomas dug firm foundations for a lasting scholastic philosophy and systematic theology, it was his professor, Father Albert, who did the daring initial spadework.
Saint Albertmay be referred to as the “Father of the Natural Sciences”. It was his contemporaries who dubbed him “The Great”, referring to the scope and depth of his learning. As a great natural scientist, he stands beside Friar Roger Bacon, who referred to some of Albert’s works as “original sources”.
Albert was in his own lifetime and for centuries that followed an authority on physics, geography, astronomy, mineralogy, chemistry, and biology. As a geographer he received special praise in later times for he traced the chief mountain ranges of Europe, explained the influence of latitude on climate, and gave an excellent physical description of the earth, which he demonstrated by an elaborate argument to be spherical in shape. He wrote thirty-six volumes on the natural sciences. But there were other writings. Father Albert had a great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and wrote penetratingly of it. This same devotion was characteristic of his pupil, Saint Thomas Aquinas, who composed the beautiful Mass we use today on the Feast of Corpus Christi (Feast of the Body of Christ).
In the late 1250’s Father Albert was appointed the pope’s personal theologian and canonist. In 1260 Pope Alexander IV prevailed upon him to be consecrated Bishop of Regensburg. In a few years he resigned and returned to teaching atCologneuntil 1274, the Council of Lyons. In spite of failing health and the shock of the sudden death of his former pupil,Saint Thomas,Saint Alberttook part in the Council and used all his influence in the cause of peace and reconciliation for the reunion of the Orthodox with the See of Peter.
At the age of seventy-three he died among his religious brothers in Cologne on November 15, 1280. He was beatified in 1622. On December 16, 1941, near the beginning of the nuclear age, Pope Pius XII proclaimed Saint Albert the Great to be the Patron of all Students and Researchers of the Natural Sciences.
Prayer to Saint Albert the Great
God of Truth
you endowed our brother Albert
with the gift of combining human wisdom with divine faith.
May the pursuit of all human knowledge
lead to a greater knowledge and love of you.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, you Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
Amen.God, forever and ever.