At Wednesday’s General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the life and doctrine of St. Albert the Great, an early teacher of the Dominican Order who had the privilege of tutoring St. Thomas Aquinas. As the Pope explains, it was St. Albert who inspired St. Thomas to dedicate his intellectual life to reconciling the truths of Aristotle’s philosophy with the divine truths revealed to us by Christ. Thus in the 13th century, the Pope notes, were faith and reason brought together to develop one true theology, or as St. Albert called it, an “affective science.” Below is the full text of the Holy Father’s address.
GENERAL AUDIENCE ADDRESS
March 24, 2010
Dear brothers and sisters,
One of the greatest teachers of Medieval theology is St. Albert the Great. The title “great” (magnus) with which he has passed into history, indicates the vastness and depth of his doctrine, which he coupled with holiness of life. But already his contemporaries did not hesitate to attribute excellent titles to him; one of his disciples, Ulrich of Strasbourg, described him as “wonder and miracle of our age.”
Born in Germany at the beginning of the 13th century, he was still young when he went to Italy, to Padua, seat of one of the most famous universities of the Middle Ages. He dedicated himself to the study of the so-called liberal arts: grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music, that is, of the general culture, manifesting that typical interest for the natural sciences, which would soon become the favorite field of his specialization. During his stay in Padua, he frequented the church of the Dominicans, whom he later joined with the profession of religious vows. The hagiographic sources lead one to understand that Albert matured this decision gradually. The intense relationship with God, the example of holiness of the Dominican Friars, the listening of sermons of Blessed Giordano of Saxony, successor of St. Dominic in the leadership of the Order of Preachers, were the decisive factors that helped him to overcome every doubt, overcoming also family resistance. Often, in the years of youth, God speaks to us and indicates the plan of our life. As for Albert, so for all of us, personal prayer nourished by the Word of the Lord, the frequenting of the sacraments and the spiritual guidance of enlightened men are the means to discover and follow the voice of God. He received the religious habit from Blessed Giordano of Saxony.
After his priestly ordination, the superiors sent him to teach in several centers of theological study adjacent to monasteries of the Dominican Fathers. His brilliant intellectual qualities enabled him to perfect the study of theology in the most famous university of the time, that of Paris. From then on St. Albert undertook that extraordinary activity of writer, which he would then follow for his whole life.
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