“Whatever is known by two ways instead of one is better grasped, hence what is known by faith and reason is better understood than that known only by faith.” ~ Saint Albert the Great
Today our church celebrates the prolific Bishop and Doctor of our Church, Saint Albert the Great, a Dominican who lived in the 13th century https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=144.
The Venerable Pope Pius XII, a man who in his own right is finally and quite justly on the path to membership amidst the ethereal Communion of Saints, declared Saint Albert the Patron Saint of students and natural sciences. Pius XII’s predecessor Pope Pius XI described Saint Albert the Great as having “an insatiable thirst for truth, a patient, tireless energy of inquiring into natural phenomena, a vivid imagination joined to a tenacious memory, and an esteem for the wisdom of the past.”
Known as the Universal Doctor due to his wide range of scholarship and knowledge, Saint Albert wrote 38 volumes on a multitude of wide ranging subjects. He wrote about friendship, love, logic, theology, justice, law, geography and astronomy. He conducted much scientific research, research that he allowed to lift his heart and mind to God. This was quite unique at the time and remains an important reminder to all of us that we ought to unite all of our endeavors to God in a similar fashion. God is the author of all truth. Our studies, whatever they may be ~ the sciences, theology, music, economics, or art history just to name a few ~ should always lead our hearts and mind to God and his unchanging and everlasting truth.
As a gifted teacher, what joy it must have brought Saint Albert to see his star pupil, none other than Saint Thomas Aquinas, use his gifts to bring such great clarity to many key tenets of our faith https://discover.hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/The-Radiance-That-Never-Ceases.
As author Tom Hoopes points out in his essay The Student is the Teacher’s Masterpiece, “Michelangelo’s Pieta in Saint Peter’s in Rome is widely considered his masterpiece; Dante’s is The Divine Comedy. Saint Albert the Great’s masterpiece is undoubtedly his student, St. Thomas Aquinas.” A teacher cannot realistically expect to have a student as exceptional as Saint Thomas Aquinas, but Saint Albert nonetheless understood that every teacher can create “masterpieces” by forming students in Christ’s image. God took it from there, as he so often does (Luke 18:27, Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27).
Saint Albert the Great was an ardent believer in the systematic use of reason. True to his words as captured in the quote that kicks off today’s Reflection, he believed in the use of this God-given gift of reason, put into use not only so that we can better understand God’s Revelation but that we can better hand off these teachings to others in a way that is timeless and more clearly understood.
Of this harmony between faith and reason, Saint John Paul II would go on to say that “Faith and reason are as the two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.” This and many other great pearls of wisdom regarding this sublime and virtuous symbiotic relationship can be found in his Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_14091998_fides-et-ratio.html.
On matters pertaining to theology, it was Pope Benedict XVI who pointed out that Saint Albert the Great defined theology as “‘emotional knowledge,” that which “points out to human beings their vocation to eternal joy, a joy that flows from full adherence to the truth.” By way of quiet contemplation, faith and reason can indeed be reconciled. In this all-too-noisy, perpetually distracted world we live in, may we always carve out precious moments of true solitude wherein we come to a deeper and more profound understanding of the truth.
…..and in turn pass on the fruits of our contemplation.
“O God, who made the Bishop Saint Albert great by his joining of human wisdom to divine faith, grant, we pray, that we may so adhere to the truths he taught, that through progress in learning we may come to a deeper knowledge and love of you.” ~ Amen