Archive for the ‘Saints of the 1250s’ Category

Feast of St. Hedwig of Andechs and Blessed Gertrude of Trzebnica (October 16)   2 comments

Above:  Family Tree of St. Hedwig of Andechs

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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SAINT HEDWIG OF ANDECHS (1174-OCTOBER 15, 1243)

Silesian Roman Catholic Princess of and Nun

Also known as Saint Hedwig of Silesia

Alternative feast day = October 15

mother of

BLESSED GERTRUDE OF TRZEBNICA (CIRCA 1200-DECEMBER 1268)

Roman Catholic Abbess

Her feast transferred from March 17

One of my goals in the continuing process of renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to emphasize relationships.  That is my rationale for merging the feasts of St. Hedwig of Andechs and Blessed Gertrude of Trzebnica, not that I need one, given that the Ecumenical Calendar is my project.

These saints came from nobility.  St. Hedwig was a daughter of Berthold IV, Duke of Merania (reigned 1185-1204)St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) was on her nieces.  St. Hedwig, born in Castle Andechs, Bavaria (now Germany), married Prince Henry I “the Bearded,” Duke of Silesia (r. 1201-1238) and the Duke of Greater Poland (r. 1231-1238) when she was 12 years old.  The couple had seven children, including Blessed Gertrude of Trzebnica (c. 1200-December 1268).  Blessed Gertrude, betrothed to Count Palatine Otto of Wittelsbach, who died prior to the wedding day, became a nun instead.  St. Hedwig, a widow from 1238, founded hospitals, helped orphans, and cared for the sick.  She gave away her fortune before becoming a nun in the convent at Trzebnica, where Blessed Gertrude was the abbess.

St. Hedwig died at the abbey at Trzebnica, Silesia (now Poland), on October 15, 1243.

Pope Clement IV canonized her in 1267.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF HENRY USTICK ONDERDONK, EPISCOPAL BISHOP, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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O God, by whose grace your servants Saint Hedwig of Andechs and Blessed Gertrude of Trzebnica,

kindled with the flame of your love, became burning and shining lights in your Church:

Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline,

and walk before you as children of light;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Acts 2:42-47a

Psalm 133 or 34:1-8 or 119:161-168

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Matthew 6:24-33

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 723

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Feast of Robert Grosseteste (October 9)   1 comment

Above:  Robert Grosseteste 

Image in the Public Domain

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ROBERT GROSSETESTE (CIRCA 1168-OCTOBER 9, 1253)

English Roman Catholic Scholar, Philosopher, and Bishop of Lincoln

This project, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, is an exercise in the Great Man (and Woman) School of History.  I make no apology for this.  Social History and Cultural History have their vital roles to fill in historical analysis, but I remain a devotee of the emphasis on the great people–those who have made their marks on the world.

Grosseteste, born circa 1168, was a Christian intellectual and a bishop.  He, educated at Oxford and perhaps at Paris, also, taught at Oxford prior to 1209.  Our saint, a priest, held various ecclesiastical position through 1232.  He resigned all but one–Prebendary of Lincoln–that year.  The former Chancellor of Oxford University (circa 1215-1221) taught at the Franciscan house of studies, Oxford, from 1224 to 1235.  Then he became the Bishop of Lincoln.

Grosseteste had a fine mind.  He, an Aristotelian with Neoplatonist influences, translated works of Aristotle and some ancient saints, wrote commentaries on the Bible and works of Aristotle.  Our saint, whose life ended as the worst outbreak of the Black Death was ending and the Renaissance was about to begin, was an active encourager of the spread of knowledge–philosophy, science, mathematics, and the Bible.  He accepted truth, as he recognized it, regardless of its source or manner of transmission.

Grosseteste, author of theological and devotional works, was a pious bishop who took his spiritual responsibilities seriously.  He was a man of his time, for he affirmed the supremacy of the Church over the state.  This opinion caused some political problems for him.  Grosseteste also had political conflicts with various bishops and at least one Pope; our saint was an uncompromising critic and opponent of ecclesiastical corruption.

Grosseteste died in Buckdon, Buckinghamshire, England, on October 9, 1253.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND SAINT JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SCHOLAR, PHILOSOPHER, AND BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF WILFRED THOMASON GRENFELL, MEDICAL MISSIONARY TO NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

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O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Robert Grosseteste and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRODEGANG OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDMUND KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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Feast of St. Bonaventure (July 15)   4 comments

Above:  St. Bonaventure

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT BONAVENTURE (1217-JULY 15, 1274)

Second Founder of the Order of Friars Minor

Born Giovanni di Fidanza

St. Bonaventure was one of the most influential Medieval Roman Catholic theologians.

The traditional birth year given for St. Bonaventure has been 1221.  However, Dr. Ewert Cousins, Professor of Theology at Fordham University, as well as translator and editor of the St. Bonaventure volume (1978) for the Paulist Press’s Classics of Western Spirituality series, cited scholars who insisted on 1217 instead.

Giovanni di Fidanza, a native of Bagnoregio (near Viterbo), Italy, was a son of Giovanni di Fidanza (Sr.), a wealthy physician, and Maria di Ritello.  Circa 1234 the 17-year old saint matriculated at the University of Paris, where he studied under the great Franciscan scholar Alexander of Hales.  Our saint joined the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans) in 1243 and became Bonaventure.  His theological teachers until their deaths in 1245 were Alexander of Hales and John of La Rochelle.  Afterward St. Bonaventure’s theological teachers were Eudes Rigaud and William of Middleton.

St. Bonaventure embodied intellectual rigor, Roman Catholic piety, and Franciscan simplicity.  He, a Bachelor of Scripture in 1248 and a Master of Theology in 1253/1254, lectured on the Bible in 1248-1250 and led the Franciscan school in Paris from 1253/1254 to 1257.  Then our saint became the Minister General of the Order of Franciscans Minor, after Pope Alexander IV had ordered John of Parma, suspected of heterodoxy, to resign.  As the Minister General for 17 years St. Bonaventure became the “Second Founder” of the order, balancing foundational principles with the necessity of adaptation to changing circumstances.  Our saint never wanted to be a bishop, so he rejected offers until 1273, when Pope Gregory X ordered him to become the Cardinal Archbishop of Albano.  St. Bonaventure, a famously humble man, kept a papal representative bearing news of the appointment waiting; the Minister General was washing dishes.

St. Bonaventure also liked to think and write profoundly.  He wrote prolifically.  Works included biographies of St. Francis of Assisi, theological treatises. lectures, and Biblical commentaries.  Titles included The Soul’s Journey into God and The Tree of Life.  (Jesus was the Tree of Life.)  Elevation into the episcopate and the College of Cardinals greatly reduced the time St. Bonaventure had to write.

St. Bonaventure died on July 15, 1274, while attending the Second Council of Lyons, which dealt with the unification of the Eastern and Western Churches.  Prelates from across the Christian world mourned him.

The Roman Catholic Church has honored St. Bonaventure.  Pope Sixtus IV canonized him in 1482.  Pope Sixtus V declared our saint a Doctor of the Church in 1588.

The legacy of St. Bonaventure has continued to enrich the Church and the world.  One vehicle has been the Order of Friars Minor.  Furthermore, his writings have continued to be available, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAW KUBSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Almighty God, you gave to hour servant Saint Bonaventure

special gifts of grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus:

Grant that by this teaching we may know you,

the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7

Psalm 119:89-96

1 Corinthians 3:5-11

Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 721

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Feast of St. Celestine V (May 19)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Celestine V

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT CELESTINE V (1215-MAY 19, 1296)

Bishop of Rome

Also known as St. Peter Celestine

Pietro di Murrone preferred that the conclave had never elected him Pope.  He, Supreme Pontiff for five months and eight days, was eager to leave the office and the unholy politics associated with it behind.

Pietro di Murrone was a monk by nature.  He, the eleventh child of southern Italian peasants, entered the world in 1215.  Our saint joined the Order of St. Benedict when he was 17 years old.  Pietro, later ordained a priest at Rome, eventually became a hermit at Mount Majella, taking St. John the Baptist as his model.  The hermit attracted followers, however.  The result was the Celestines, a suborder of the Benedictines with 600 monks and 36 monasteries in May 1296.

After Pope Nicholas IV died on April 4, 1292, the Papacy remained vacant for 27 months while the College of Cardinals deadlocked.  Meanwhile, international politics came to bear on the Cardinals.  King Charles II (by title the King of Sicily but really the King of Naples; reigned 1285-1309) sought to regain control of Sicily for his southern Italian kingdom.  (He was ultimately unsuccessful.)  The College of Cardinals elected Pietro, who had no idea he was even a candidate and had no desire for the position, Pope on July 5, 1294.  They hoped that he would be the “angel Pope” who would solve many problems.

The 79-year-old monk was not a magical “angel Pope,” however; there was no such person.  He accepted election only reluctantly.  St. Celestine V, consecrated on August 29, 1294, became the unhappy puppet of Charles II, who was no holy man.  Our saint, residing in Naples, not Rome, did show some initiative as Pope.  He, for example, favored the Celestines and allowed the radical Franciscan Spirituals to live as hermits under the Rule of St. Francis.  St. Celestine V wanted to resign then to return to Mount Majella, to live as a monk again.  He concluded that being the Pope was dangerous both to his soul and to the Roman Catholic Church.  Our saint resigned on December 13, 1294, but he did not return to Mount Majella.

The next Pope was Boniface VIII, elected on Christmas Eve 1294.  The former Benedetto Cardinal Caetani was, according to J. N. D. Kelly, author of The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (1986),

singularly unsympathetic, combining exceptional ability with arrogance and cruelty, insatiable acquisitiveness for his family and insensitive contempt for his fellow-men; feared and hated, he could not keep a friend.

–Page 210

Boniface VIII did not permit St. Celestine V to enjoy liberation as a monk.  The new Supreme Pontiff ordered the arrest of his reluctant predecessor, who had to become a fugitive for a time.  St. Celestine V spent his final nine months incarcerated in the tower of Castle Fumone, east of Ferentino.  He died, aged 81 years, on May 19, 1296.

Boniface VIII had troubles of his own.  He, having threatened to excommunicate King Philip IV “the Fair” of France (reigned 1285-1314), found himself that monarch’s prisoner for two days in 1303.  Boniface VIII, having decided not to excommunicate Philip the Fair after that, died later in 1303.  Philip the Fair, seeking to twist the proverbial knife into the corpse of the legacy of Boniface VIII, petitioned the French Pope Clement V (in office 1305-1314), an Avignon Pope, to canonize St. Celestine V as a martyr.  Clement V canonized his reluctant predecessor, but as a confessor, in 1313.

The political nature of the canonization of St. Celestine V need not delegitimize it.  One can recognize Pietro di Murrone as a holy man who found himself transformed into a pawn and who took the proper course of action–to resign.  One can respect a man for finding the courage to quit when that was the right decision.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 30, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HUGH O’FLAHERTY, “SCARLET PIMPERNEL OF THE VATICAN”

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLUS THE CENTURION, MARTYR

THE FEAST OF PAUL SHINJI SASAKI, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF TOKYO; AND PHILIP LENDEL TSEN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF HONAN

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O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich:

Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we,

inspired by the devotion of your servant Saint Celestine V,

may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Song of Songs 8:6-7

Psalm 34

Philippians 3:7-15

Luke 12:33-37 or Luke 9:57-62

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 722

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Feast of Sts. Ludmilla of Bohemia, Wenceslaus I of Bohemia, Agnes of Prague, Clare of Assisi, Agnes of Assisi, and Hortulana of Assisi (March 2)   Leave a comment

premyslid-dynasty-coat-of-arms

Above:  Coat of Arms of the Premyslid Dynasty

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT LUDMILLA OF BOHEMIA (CIRCA 860-SEPTEMBER 16, 921)

Duchess of Bohemia and Martyr

Her feast transferred from September 16

grandmother of

SAINT WENCESLAUS I OF BOHEMIA (907-SEPTEMBER 28, 929)

Duke of Bohemia and Martyr

His feast transferred from September 28

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SAINT AGNES OF PRAGUE (1205-MARCH 6, 1282)

Bohemian Princess and Nun

Also known as Saint Agnes of Bohemia

Her feast day = March 2

Alternative feast days = March 6 and June 8

corresponded with

SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI (JULY 16, 1194-AUGUST 11, 1253)

Foundress of the Poor Clares

Her feast transferred from August 11

Alternative feast days = August 12, September 23, and October 3

sister of

SAINT AGNES OF ASSISI (1197-NOVEMBER 16, 1253)

Abbess at Monticelli

Her feast transferred from November 16

daughter of

SAINT HORTULANA OF ASSISI (DIED CIRCA 1238)

Poor Clare Nun

Also known as Saint Ortulana of Assisi

Her feast transferred from January 2

Alternative feast days = January 5 and August 18

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One of my purposes in renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to emphasize influences and relationships.  This post, with family functioning as the connective tissue, is consistent with that goal.

St. Methodius (circa 815-885), a great missionary bishop, converted Duke Borivoj I of Bohemia (reigned 867-889) and his wife, St. Ludmilla of Bohemia (circa 860-921) to Christianity.  The sovereigns’ attempts to convert their subjects prompted much opposition, even an exile.  Their oldest son, Spythinev I (reigned 894-915), preceded his younger brother, Vratislaus I (reigned 915-921), who seems to have died during a pagan uprising, in power.  The Dukes of Bohemia at the time had to contend with the domestic policy issue of Christianity vs. paganism and the foreign policy issue of whether to align the duchy with the East or with the West.  These issues created much turmoil in Bohemia.  Vratislaus I’s widow was Drahomira (circa 877 or 890-died after 934), daughter of a pagan chief.  She had made baptismal vows on her wedding day yet did not take them seriously.

Two princes–both of them minors–stood to succeed to the throne.  St. Ludmilla, who supervised the education of St. Wenceslaus I (907-929), her grandson, served as regent for him briefly until Drahomira ordered her assassination and took over as regent.  Drahomira instituted a program of persecuting Christians.  The following year, however, St. Wenceslaus I reached the age of majority, assumed power, exiled his mother, and reversed her policies.  He also allied the Duchy of Bohemia with Germany, which sent enough priests to serve in long-vacant parishes.  Our saint’s reign was brief, for his brother, Boleslav I “the Cruel” (reigned 929-972), ordered and participated in his assassination at a church door in 929.

Centuries later, when the same dynasty still governed Bohemia, another Wenceslaus I (reigned 1230-1253) wielded power as the King (not Duke).  He was a kinsman of St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231).  The king had a sister, St. Agnes of Prague (1205-1282), who avoided a series of arranged marriages and became a nun.  She built a Franciscan hospital on land her brother (the King of Bohemia) donated.  St. Agnes also founded the Confraternity of the Crusaders of the Red Star to staff the hospital and its clinics.  In 1234, with the help of St. Clare of Assisi, with whom she corresponded for about 20 years, St. Agnes founded the Convent of St. Saviour, Prague.  (St. Clare sent five nuns.)  St. Agnes became the abbess of that abbey.  The good works to which she devoted herself included cooking for other nuns and mending the clothes of lepers.

St. Clare of Assisi (1194-1253) also came from a privileged family and devoted her life to serving God in the poor.  She was a daughter of Count Favorino Sciffi of Sasso-Rosso and St. Hortulana of Assisi (died circa 1238) and a sister of St. Agnes of Assisi (1197-1253).  St. Clare also preferred monastic life to an arranged marriage.  In 1212 the 15-year-old saint made her vows before St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1226) and founded the Poor Clares, who lived austerely and helped the poor.  A few weeks later, her younger sister, St. Agnes of Assisi, joined her.  Both monastic vocations prompted strong opposition in certain relatives, who eventually became resigned to the fact of their monastic lives.  St. Clare led the order, partially a family matter, for the rest of her life.  St. Agnes founded Poor Clare communities.  She also became the abbess at Monticelli in 1221.  The widowed St. Hortulana joined the order too.  St. Agnes also tended to the dying St. Clare, whom she followed in death shortly after her older sister’s demise.

Families are, when they function as they ought to do, nurseries of faith and kindness.  One might wonder what kind of man St. Wenceslaus I might have become without the positive influence of his grandmother.  One might also recognize that Sts. Clare and Agnes of Assisi learned their faith at home and in church, and that they influenced their mother in turn.  One might also wonder if St. Agnes of Prague would have been as successful in her vocation without the aid of her brother (the King of Bohemia) and St. Clare of Assisi.

May we support and encourage each other in our vocations from God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 1, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS

THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS:  THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS

WORLD DAY OF PEACE

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Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth:

Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by the fellowship of love and prayer,

and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy.

We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit,

and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 2:7-11

Psalm 1

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Matthew 25:1-13

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 726

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Feast of St. Margaret of Cortona (February 22)   Leave a comment

st-margaret-of-cortona

Above:  St. Margaret of Cortona

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT MARGARET OF CORTONA (1247-FEBRUARY 22, 1297)

Penitent and Foundress of the Poor Ones

St. Margaret of Cortona, born at Laviano, Umbria, in 1247, was a daughter of a farmer.  Her mother died when our saint was seven years old.  Eventually St. Margaret’s father remarried; his second wife thought of our saint as a nuisance.  For nine years St. Margaret was the mistress of a nobleman of Montepulciano, whose child she bore.  Our saint, interpreting her lover’s murder by brigands in 1274 as not only an unfortunate event but a message from God that she should never have entered into that relationship, became a penitent.  When she attempted to return to her father’s home, he turned her and his grandchild away.  Fortunately, the Franciscans at Cortona, Tuscany, took them in.  Nevertheless, St. Margaret continue to have affairs.  She also felt self-loathing after each liaison.

Eventually, however, St. Margaret turned a spiritual corner.  She began to take care of sick women.  Then she cared for poor women without charge while she lived on alms.  In 1777 our saint became a Franciscan tertiary.  She had an intense prayer life and reported ecstasies.  In 1286 St. Margaret gathered a congregation of women (the Poor Ones) around her to care for the sick poor.  She also founded a hospital at Cortona, preached against vice, and had a devotion to the Eucharist and the Passion.  Despite her reformed life, marked by a plethora of good works, St. Margaret remained a target of much malicious gossip.

St. Margaret died at Cortona on February 22, 1297.  She was either 49 or 50 years old.  Pope Leo X beatified her in 1516.  Pope Benedict XIII canonized our saint in 1728.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF HENRY USTICK ONDERDONK, EPISCOPAL BISHOP, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made

us one with your saints in heaven and on earth:

Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always

be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer,

and know ourselves to be surrounded by

their witnesses to your power and mercy.

We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom

all our intercessions are acceptable through your Spirit,

and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 2:7-11

Psalm 1

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Matthew 25:1-13

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 726

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Feast of Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas (January 28)   14 comments

Royal 19.A.ix,  f. 4. detail

Royal 19.A.ix, f. 4. detail

Above:  Master and Scholars, by Gautier de Metz

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT (CIRCA 1200-NOVEMBER 15, 1280)

Roman Catholic Theologian and Bishop of Ratisbon

His feast transferred from November 15

teacher of

SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS (1225-MARCH 7, 1274)

Roman Catholic Theologian

His feast = January 28

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These two saints, both Doctors of the Church, influenced the course of Roman Catholic theology.

St. Albert the Great, a.k.a. St. Albertus Magnus, born in Lauingen, Bavaria, circa 1200, came from German nobility.  He studied at Bologna and Padua before entering the Dominican Order in 1222.  The the saint studied then lectured in theology in Dominican houses in Germany.  In 1241 St. Albert relocated to Paris, where he began his study of the works of Aristotle.  There, from 1245 to 1248, he was a chair of theology.  In Paris the saint also met and taught St. Thomas Aquinas, allegedly a “dumb ox.”  St. Albert knew better, though.

Aquinas, born at Roccasecca, Italy, in 1225, came from Italian nobility.  When he was five years old his parents sent him to study at the monastery of Monte Cassino; they intended for him to become the abbot there.  At the age of 15 years Aquinas began to study at Naples, where he became interested in joining the Dominican Order.  His family, alarmed by this possibility, kept him under house arrest for 15 months.  Eventually, though, the saint became a Dominican in 1244.  He studied under St. Albert the Great at Paris from 1245 to 1248.  St. Albert introduced Aquinas to the works of Aristotle.

St. Albert’s project, which Aquinas took up also, was the question of the relationship between faith and reason, especially in the context of Aristotelian philosophy.  Both saints considered Christianity and Aristotelian philosophy to be compatible.  Islamic scholars had preserved the works of “the Philosopher,” as Aquinas referred to him, and translated them into Arabic.  The Latin translations of Aristotelian works were not direct translations from Greek; they were translations from Arabic.  Aristotelian philosophy contradicted Platonist philosophy, favored by luminaries such as St. Clement of Alexandria and Origen, who lived about a millennium earlier.  Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas found Aristotelian philosophy helpful regarding Christian doctrine, especially Transubstantiation.  This approach proved controversial during the lifetimes of both saints.

Teacher and pupil moved from Paris to Cologne, where St. Albert founded a new Dominican gymnasium generale, in 1248.  At Cologne the two saints parted company; Aquinas returned to Paris as a lecturer in 1252, and St. Albert began a three-year-long stint as the Provincial of the German province of the Dominican Order the following year.

Aquinas taught and wrote for the rest of his life.  He became a Doctor of Theology in 1256.  Three years later he left to teach in Italy, specifically at Anagni and Orvieto (1259-1265), Rome (1265-1267), and Viterbo (1267-1269).  He spent three years (1269-1272) again, before returning to Naples (1272-1274).  He halted work on the Summa Theologica in December 1273.  Aquinas concluded:

I cannot go on….All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what has been revealed to me.

–Quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York, NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 50

Aquinas died on March 7, 1274, en route to the Council of Lyons, which St. Albert attended.  The main achievement of that council was the brief union (1274-1289) of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

St. Albert was also busy between 1256 and 1274.  For a time he served as a judge in disputes between ecclesiastical and secular parties.  Then, for two or three years, he was the Bishop of Ratisbon; he restored order to the administration of that diocese.  St. Albert resigned that post.  In 1263 and 1264 he preached the Eighth Crusade in Germany.  (I make no excuses for the Crusades, for the concept of warfare as prayer is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.)  Finally, St. Albert lived in a series of Dominican houses, the last one being at Cologne, starting in 1269.

The catalog of St. Albert’s writings included treatises and biblical commentaries.  He composed commentaries on the Gospels, Job, and some of the Hebrew prophets.

St. Albert died at Cologne on November 15, 1280.  The Roman Catholic Church dubbed him “the Great” in the 1300s, beatified him in 1622, and canonized him in 1931.

As great as St. Albert was, Aquinas was greater, at least in the estimation of the Roman Catholic Church.  The Dominican Order imposed his teachings on its members in 1278, just four years after he died.  His canonization in 1323 vindicated Aquinas fully.

I am aware of a variety of well-informed positions within Christianity regarding Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas.  I know, for example, that Holy Mother Church embraced Thomistic theology thoroughly for centuries and that Thomism remains a prominent strain within Roman Catholicism.  I also know of the appeal of Thomism, with its respect of the intellect and human reason, for me.  Furthermore, I know that the great Reformed missionary and theologian Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998), no intellectual slouch, objected to what he considered a false dichotomy.  According to Newbigin and those who embrace his position, certainty cannot exist apart from faith, so reason cannot exist apart from faith all knowledge depends upon the assumption (via faith) that x, y, and z are accurate.  (I know that this statement applies to Euclidian geometry.)  Perhaps that proposition is correct.  Regardless of the truth of that matter, one should honor Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas for bringing their intellects to matters of faith and for not being afraid of new (to them) knowledge, as their Platonist forebears Sts. Clement of Alexandria and Origen did.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HILEY BATHHURST, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF PETRUS NIGIDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN EDUCATOR AND COMPOSER; AND GEORG NIGIDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

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Almighty God, you have enriched your Church with singular learning and holiness of your servants

Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas:

Enlighten us more and more, we pray, by the disciplined thinking and teaching of Christian scholars,

and deepen our devotion by the example of saintly lives;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 7:7-14

Psalm 119:97-104

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 195

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