Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite Calendar, we celebrate the feast of St. Albert the Great, Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church. The feast is II Class and therefore contains a full set of propers for the entire office. At Lauds, the Psalms of Sunday are prayed.
It is truly remarkable to me to think that it was not until the early 20th Century that the Universal Church raised this saintly teacher to the altars of the Church. Nevertheless, his sanctity and spirit are a model for all Christians, but in particular for Dominicans, given the broad scope of his erudition.
The responsory at 1st Vespers, when the feast is celebrated as First Class, is:
℟. The blessed Mechtilde saw Albert and Thomas entering heaven like two noble princes; great angels when before them, * and thus they came before the throne of God. ℣. The words they had written were seen inscribed on their robes in letters of gold. - And thus they came. - Glory. - Before the throne of God.
From the "Martyrology of the Sacred Order of Friars Preachers":
At Cologne, St. Albert surnamed the Great, at One time Bishop of Ratisbon, and confessor, of the Order of Preachers. Radiant by the holiness of his life, by his zeal for the salvation of souls, and by his surpassing doctrine, he enlightened the Church. Pope Pius XI declared him to be a Doctor of the Universal Church (and Pius XII constituted him patron before God of students of the natural sciences).
From “Short Lives of the Dominican Saints” (London, Kegan Paul, Trench, and Trübner & Co., Ltd., 1901):
This distinguished man was born at Laubing in Swabia, on the banks of the Danube, about A.D. 1203. He was of noble parentage and sent to study at the University of Padua, where, however, he made little or no progress, being naturally dull and incapable of learning. But, in spite of his incapacity for human science, Blessed Albert made rapid advances in the science of the Saints and would willingly have devoted all his time to prayer and meditation. He was specially fond of praying in the Dominican church; but his uncle, who had charge of him, and who feared that he might be led to enter the Order, exacted from him a promise not to set foot in that church for a stated time. The promise was faithfully observed, but the youth continued to practice the devotion of the Rosary, which he had learnt from the Friars, earnestly imploring our Blessed Lady to obtain for him light to know the way in which God willed that he should serve Him and save his soul. One day, when he was thus praying before her image, she appeared to him surrounded by light, and gave him the assurance of her continual patronage and of his eternal salvation, provided he should enter the Order of Preachers, of which she had obtained the institution from her Divine Son. As soon, therefore, as he was free from the engagement entered into with his uncle, he received the habit from the hands of Blessed Jordan of Saxony and was immediately sent to study at Cologne.
Here Blessed Albert found himself the companion and brother in religion of some of the most distinguished learned men of the day; and, being himself of very dull parts, the humiliating contrast filled him with confusion and discouragement. He was even on the point of giving up his vocation and abandoning the Order, when his Heavenly Mother once more came to his aid in a prophetic dream. It seemed to him that he was in the act of escaping from the Convent, when he found his way barred by some ladies of noble aspect, who, having inquired into the cause of his flight, led him to the feet of one who appeared to be their Queen and bade him ask her for the help he needed. Albert accordingly entreated Mary to take pity on him, and to obtain for him an illuminating grace to understand philosophy, which was then the subject of his study. The Mother of God condescended to his request, bidding him devote himself henceforth to prayer and study in the Order to which she had called him. He awoke to find himself no longer the same man, and the world very soon heard of the fame in every branch of science of "Albert the Philosopher." He became distinguished for his proficiency in natural science as well as in philosophy and theology. Indeed, his profound mastery of physical science in a day when such subjects were but little studied, gained for him among the vulgar the reputation of being a magician, in which character he figures in the popular tales and ballads of Germany. So deeply did he penetrate into the secrets of nature, that his humility became alarmed, and he prayed earnestly to his Heavenly Mother that she would not suffer his learning to be hurtful to his soul, and that he might use it solely for the glory of God. Our Lady once more appeared, and consoled him, promising him that his faith should not fail, and predicting that, in token of his wisdom being a heavenly gift, it should all be taken from him in the midst of a public disputation some time before his death.
After teaching in several of the convents of Germany, Blessed Albert was sent to Paris, where such vast crowds flocked to hear him that he was obliged to deliver his lectures in the open air on a spot afterwards called "Place Maubert," i.e. the square of "Maitre (Master) Albert."
After the death of Blessed Jordan he governed the Order in the capacity of Vicar-General until the election of Saint Raymond. He then returned to Cologne, and soon afterwards had as his disciples Saint Thomas Aquinas, Blessed Ambrose of Siena, Blessed James of Mevania, and other distinguished men. When a virulent attack was made on the mendicant Orders by the jealous hatred of William de Saint Amour, Blessed Albert took a leading part in the defense. He ruled the German Province of the Order with great firmness and prudence, and maintained regular observance with the utmost strictness. Pope Urban IV. made him Bishop of Ratisbon, in which office he showed himself a true father of the poor and a faithful shepherd of the flock. After a time, by his earnest entreaties, he obtained permission to resign his dignity and retired into his beloved Convent of Cologne. He was compelled, however, to leave his solitude in order to take part in the General Council of Lyons, A.D. 1274, after which he returned to Cologne to resume his life of prayer, study, and teaching.
Roman sarcophagus, containing the relics of St. Albert the Great,
in the crypt of the Dominican St. Andreas church in Cologne, Germany.
In the year 1277, in the midst of a public lecture, the holy old man suddenly lost the thread of his argument and found himself unable to proceed. Recognizing the fulfilment of the words spoken to him by our Blessed Lady long years before, he related to his astonished audience the history of his life, telling them how all his extraordinary intellectual gifts had come to him through Mary's intercession, and that their present failure was a sign of his approaching death. The three remaining years of his life were entirely consecrated to exercises of devotion; and, having received the Last Sacraments, he died without an illness, seated in his chair, surrounded by his Brethren, on November 15, A.D. 1280. He was beatified by Clement X.
O God, you have made the blessed Albert, your bishop and doctor, great in subjecting human wisdom to divine faith; grant to us, we beg of you, so to tread in teh footsteps of such a master, that we may enjoy the perfect light in heaven. Through our Lord...