“He must grow greater; I must grow less.”–John 3:30
Tomorrow is the feast day of St. Albert the Great, the famous teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. The Dominican friar was a genius scholar and scientist, and indeed the patron saint of scientists! (His wide range of expertise, from botany, biology, mineralogy, to philosophy, theology, and logic, and especially his commitment to experimentation rather than the mere acceptance of the claims of others, as the most sure way to knowledge of the natural world, gives the lie to popular claims that the Church is anti-science!) His work in popularizing the philosophy of Aristotle and in rehabilitating it from the erroneous commentaries of Averroes and others, as well as his work at systematizing the Catholic faith leading to the advent of Scholasticism, led his contemporaries to begin calling him “the Great” even during his lifetime, and for the Church to recognize him as one of her Doctors.
And yet the humble friar, who refused to even ride a donkey through his diocese of Ratisbon when he served as its bishop, is known principally to us today as the professor who taught St. Thomas Aquinas, and who, after Thomas’ early death, spent his own remaining years extolling his pupil and defending his theological legacy against charges of unorthodoxy. In the end, the real genius of the man who wrote treatises on the subject of friendship is that he lived out what he taught, and recognized the greatness of others, allowing their stars to shine brighter even by fading himself into relative obscurity. May we, in honouring St. Albert, strive for that same generous humility that makes him truly Great.