St. Albert of Jerusalem, Bishop and Lawgiver of Carmel (Feast)
Saint Albert was born towards the middle of the 12th century in Castel Gualtieri in Emilia, Italy. He entered the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross at Mortara, Pavia, and became Prior there in 1180. In 1184, he was named bishop of Bobbio, and the following year he was transferred to Vercelli which he governed for twenty years. During this period, he undertook diplomatic missions of national and international importance with rare prudence and firmness: in 1194, he effected a peace between Pavia and Milan and, five years later, also between Parma and Piacenza. In 1191, he celebrated a diocesan synod which proved of great value for its disciplinary provisions which continued to serve as a model until modern times. He was also involved in a large amount of legislative work for various religious orders: he wrote the statutes for the canons of Biella and was among the advisers who drew up the Rule of the Humiliates.
In 1205, Albert was appointed Patriarch of Jerusalem and a little later nominated Papal Legate for the ecclesiastical province of Jerusalem. He arrived in Palestine early in 1206 and lived in Acre because, at that time, Jerusalem was occupied by the Saracens. In Palestine, Albert was involved in various peace initiatives, not only among Christians but also between the Christians and non-Christians and he carried out his duties with great energy. During his stay in Acre he gathered together the hermits on Mount Carmel and gave them a Rule. On 14th September 1214, during a procession, he was stabbed to death by the Master of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, whom Albert had reprimanded and deposed for his evil life.
Albert's message for the 21st Century
Window of St Albert from Terenure College Friars, nuns and lay people in the Carmelite Order all over the world are very familiar with the Rule of St. Albert. Over the centuries it has been read, reflected on and interpreted in many different ways. The flexible nature of the Rule gives great scope for living it out in the monastery, the active apostolic life or even in the busy life of a working family person! The great variety of Carmelite ways of life in existence today testifies to this.
Although we know little about the details of Albert's life, he still brings a message to today's world from the spirit he has left us in the Carmelite Rule. The words of Scripture seem to flow almost unconsciously from Albert's pen - he was so steeped in the Word of God that it penetrated his very thinking. This is a marvellous example that Albert gives to Christians today - to live every moment of life out of the Word of God and Gospel values.
Albert can be an inspiration to those in leadership roles, especially within the Church. He did not impose all his own ideas on the group of hermits who came to him - he listened to what they told him about their way of life, and he adapted it and gave it structure. By this he shows us his qualities of wisdom and discernment. In the instructions he gave to the first Carmelites, he is careful not to be too demanding or rigid - he stresses the importance of common sense in interpreting what has to be done. This openess and flexibility gives a great "human feel" to the Carmelite Rule.
However, Albert was not a timid man - he held his convictions and views and was not afraid to express them when necessary. We see this in the circumstances of his violent death resulting from his criticism of the behaviour of his murderer.
Hymn to St Albert
Albert, you shine before us
Legislator, Shepherd true,
Hear in love the hymns of homage
Which your children sing to you.
Messenger of peace and concord,
Careful to foresee all need,
You instructed all your faithful
Zealously by word and deed.
From your virtues this whole country
Shines with many a precious gem;
Most of all your mem'ry's fragrance
Clings about Jerusalem.
So renowned that Church, so honoured
When you worked as pastor there,
Carmel's hermits asked for precepts
To define a life of prayer.
We are grateful to you, Father,
For the Rule which we profess,
Apt to guide each one in Carmel
To the heights of holiness.
With your Rule to give us increase
Fruit abundant may we see,
When with you we praise in heaven
God eternal, One in Three.
Margarita of Jesus, OCD
Prayer to St Albert
you have given us a Rule of Life
according to the Gospel
to guide us on our journey
towards perfect love.
Help us always to keep watch
at our prayers, to live in
allegience to Jesus Christ,
and to serve him
faithfully until death.
Through Christ Our Lord.
help me to live
according to the Gospel.
and to be faithful to Jesus Christ,
Help me to follow my own
vocation, to keep praying and
reflecting on God's Word, until
one day I may enjoy the
eternal life of glory with Him.
Through Christ Our Lord.