Monday, November 15, 2010

Two St. Alberts - The Cheese Factory - Working the Land - In Memoriam

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Albert the Great , bishop, teacher, theologian, and patron saint of scientists. While he is now known best as the teacher and defender of St. Thomas Aquinas, in his day St. Albert was the better-known scholar. He is renowned as the first Catholic to "baptize" the works of Aristotle, and his work paved the way for Aquinas' theology.

The modern claim that the medieval Church was somehow anti-science does not hold up when examining the works of St. Albert, who built on the foundations of classical scientific knowledge with his well-documented observations and experiments. In addition to writing treatises on almost every field of knowledge, he somehow found time to serve as the Bishop of Regensburg (our present Holy Father's former university), Dominican provincial, Papal legate, and official theologian to the Council of Lyons, while also teaching at several universities and helping preach the Crusades.

We now know him as "the Great," although he originally gained this appellation by accident. His family name, De Groot, was translated into Latin as Magnus. When his writings appeared under the name Albertus Magnus, readers assumed that this was because of his great reputation, and the name stuck.

Although he was not officially canonized until 1930, St. Albert is a Doctor of the Church, and is known as "Doctor Universalis", the "teacher of all that there is to know" (

The name Albert, an Old Saxon name meaning "noble and bright", is shared by at least nine other saints and beati, including the sainted bishop Albert of Liege, who, I discovered, is the patron of the parish where eastern Ontario's wonderful cheeses (and curds) are made [they were served everywhere with every meal during our visit!]

Here is a brief account of St. Albert of Liege on the occasion of the parish visitation this past weekend and yesterday's Confirmations:

Fichier:Archduke Albert with His Patron Saint, Albert of Louvain by P.P. Rubens (1640).jpg

St. Albert, cardinal, bishop of Liège, d. 1192 or 1193, was a son of Godfrey III, Count of Louvain, and brother of Henry I, Duke of Lorraine and Brabant, and was chosen Bishop of Liège in 1191 by the suffrages of both people and chapter.

The Emperor Henry VI violently intruded his own venal choice into the see, and Albert journeyed to Rome to appeal to Celestine III, who ordained him deacon, created him cardinal, and sent him away with gifts of great value and a letter of recommendation to the Archbishop of Rheims, where he was ordained priest and consecrated bishop.

Outside that city, soon after, he was set upon by eight German knights of the Emperor's following, who took advantage of the confiding kindness of the saintly bishop, and stabbed him to death.

The date of his martyrdom is given variously as 24 November, 1193 (Moroni), 23 November, 1192 (Hoefer), while the Bollandists, placing it in the latter year, give 21 November as its precise date, this being also the day on which the saint's feast is kept.

His body reposed at Rheims until 1612, when it was transferred by the Archduke Albert of Austria to the church of the Carmelite convent, which he had just founded at Brussels. The relics of this strenuous defender of ecclesiastical liberty were, by permission of the Holy See, shared with the cathedral of Liège, in 1822.

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From Thursday evening until noon Sunday, Abbe Daniel Berniquez and I were engaged in the Canonical Visitation of Paroisse Ste. Euphemie, Casselman and Paroisse St. Albert in the town with the same name.

A fuller report on these visits, with photos will follow, in French, later this week. Meantime, we can't omit photos, during this week in which the Church honours two saintly Alberts, of the cheese co-op in St-Albert and the children confirmed there yesterday morning:

The confirmands pose with Pastor abbe Joseph-Lin Eveillard in the sacristy before Mass

Founded in 1894, the factory has been a co-operative for over 60 years

Parishioners pose with their pastor in front of the cheese factory store

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The visit to St. Albert and Casselman put me in touch with the life of the farmers in our archdiocese. This come across particularly when "les cultivateurs" come forward to receive Holy Communion or give greetings after Mass with their large hands that have worked the land.

Abbe Daniel and I took some time on Friday afternoon, between engagements, to walk around St. Albert. We were in awe as we watched the hundreds of Canada geese flying in formation southward for winter climes.

We cast our gazes down to the farmers' fields with their deep furrows cut into lands being prepared for next year's plantings; and spontaneously the refrain from the psalmist came to both of our minds, "those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy!"

In a way, that is how we see our own ministry in reaching out to members of communities that were once solidly committed to the practice of the faith but whose successor generations practice hardly at all. The challenges of the "new evangelization" are truly here among us!

How, we were asked often, and we ask ourselves, can we prepare the ground for active Catholic lives of faith in the children being initiated into the sacramental life of the church when traditional supports are hard to find, even non-existent? 

Our meetings with the elderly, with high school and elementary pupils, their teachers, the members of parish committees--all this energy is directed to making the Lord better known, so that he may be loved more completely and followed more closely in joy.

Musing in such a vein, I was struck when reading the Holy Father's Angelus address of yesterday, in which, on a Sunday that consitutes Italy's Thanksgiving Day, he spoke of re-emerging interest in agriculture.

Herewith part of the Pope's message:

"This Is the Moment for the Reevaluation of Agriculture"

In the second reading in today's liturgy the Apostle Paul stresses the importance of work in a person's life. This aspect is also recalled by the "Day of Thanksgiving," which is traditionally celebrated in Italy on this second Sunday of November as a day of giving thanks to God at the end of the harvest season.

Even if the in other geographical areas the times of cultivation are naturally different, today I would like to follow the lead of the words of St. Paul for some reflections, especially on agricultural work.

The current economic crisis, which has also been addressed recently in the meeting of the so-called Group of 20, must be taken in all its seriousness: It has numerous causes and sends a powerful message about the need for a profound revision of the model of global economic development (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," No. 21). It's an acute symptom that is added to other more grave and already well-known ones, such as the continued imbalance between wealth and poverty, the scandal of hunger, the ecological emergency and the problem of unemployment, which has now become general. In this context a strategic re-launching of agriculture appears decisive.

In fact, the process of industrialization has sometimes overshadowed the agricultural sector, which, while it too has drawn benefit from modern technologies, has nevertheless lost importance, with notable consequences, even at the cultural level. I believe that this is the moment for the reevaluation of agriculture, not in a nostalgic sense, but as an indispensable resource for the future.

In the current economic situation, the temptation for the more dynamic economies is that of chasing after advantageous alliances that, nevertheless, can have harmful effects for poorer states, prolonging situations of extreme mass poverty of men and women and using up the earth's natural resources, entrusted to man by God the Creator -- as Genesis says -- that he might cultivate and protect it (cf. 2:15). Moreover, despite the crisis, in countries that have long been industrialized, lifestyles marked by unsustainable consumption -- which have damaging effects for the environment and the poor -- still continue.

It is necessary, then, to point in a truly unified way to a new balance between agriculture, industry and services, so that development be sustainable, and no one go without bread and work, and so that air and water and the other primary resources be preserved as universal goods (cf. "Caritas in veritate," 27).

To this end, it is essential to cultivate and spread a conscious ethic that is adequate to the challenges of the present time: Everyone should educate themselves in more wise and responsible consumption; personal responsibility along with the social dimension of rural activities, based on perennial values, such as hospitality, solidarity, the sharing of the toil of labor, should be promoted.

Not a few young people have already chosen this path; many graduates return to dedicate themselves to the agricultural enterprise feeling that they are responding not only to a personal and family need, but also to a "sign of the times," to a concrete sensibility for the "common good."

Let us pray to the Virgin Mary that these reflections can serve as a stimulus to the international community, while we give our thanks to God for the fruits of the earth and the work of man.

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In the month of remembering the dead, I recall today my own father (born Cupids, NL, January 22, 1906-died, Montreal, QC, November 15, 1970), who was called home by the Lord forty years ago today.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen. 

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