This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November 15 -- Feast of Saint Albertus Magnus

Let's open and close with trivia questions.

Q: What German theologian was listed by Dante as being among the great lovers of wisdom in the Heaven of the Sun, and listed by Mary Shelley as one of the influences on Victor Frankenstein?

I'm hoping the answer is obvious.  And just to pile the lauds up, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Terry Pratchett, and Walter M. Miller Jr. all tip their hats to him in their writings.

Boots the Bishop, stealing a little book time.
Albertus Magnus (Albert the Great) was a Dominican friar, scientist and philosopher who endured three years as Bishop of Regensberg.  I mention the bishop stint only to show just how strict he was on himself.  As bishop, he was expected to administer a sizable diocese, but as a Dominican, he was forbidden (I guess) to ride a horse.  So he walked everywhere, earning himself the nickname Boots the Bishop among his flock.  Apparently, this was more affectionate than derisive, which probably also sheds some light on Albert's personality.  And maybe on why being a bishop didn't agree with him as much as preaching and studying.  It was good of the Pope to accept Boots' resignation so he could get back to his pulpit and his books.

Albert wrote thirty-eight volumes on logic, geography, botany, astronomy, astrology, mineralogy, theology, chemistry, zoology, physiology, phrenology, and music.  Some of the Doctors of the Church get singled out as the Doctor of something special, like Charity, Love, or Evangelizing.  Albert alone hold the title The Universal Doctor.

He might have been the most thorough natural scientist since Aristotle, on whose work he built his studies.  He included the works of Arab scholars in his studies, and pursued occult knowledge as well as spiritual and empirical knowledge.  He is credited with discovering the element arsenic and with exploring the photosensitive properties of some chemicals.  He advanced the study of ornithology and offered remedies for healing injured falcons (a very common problem in his day).

Albertus, busted.
Of course he also had some spurious scientific findings.  A blogger named D. A. Thomas says that Albert had recipes and nostra (nostrums?) for love charms, for healing poor vision and poor hearing, for enchanting mirrors, and more.  You can read about it here.  There's a legend that he actually found the Philosopher's Stone and gave it to his pupil Thomas Aquinas, but of course Aquinas predeceased him so one would have thought he'd have gotten in back.  Whatever happened to it, no one seemed to know where it was for a century or more until Nicholas Flamel found it and then gave it to Dumbledore for safe keeping. 

Q: Albertus Magnus College, founded in New Haven, Connecticut by the Dominican Sisters, has what animal as its athletic mascot? 

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