Feast day: August 7
Prayer to St Albert
O spotless lily of purity, St Albert,
through the merits of thy ever perfect stainlessness,
which rendered thee in life so dear to God
and made thee be called ‘saint’
by the angles shortly after death,
we pray thee with our whole heart
to obtain for us grace
whereby we may become able, through sincere repentance,
to clothe ourselves anew with the garment of holiness lost by sin,
and to wear it unsullied until death.
May we, by imitating as in us lies,
the innocence of thy holy life,
reach in safety our heavenly home
and receive from God that prize
which he has prepared for those who love him.
St Albert of Sicily is one of the many famous saints of whom very little is known, the so-called “Lives” being merely collections of pious legend. He belongs to the thirteenth century and to the first period of Carmelite settlement and expansion in the west. He was born in Trapani in Sicily. This island was an obvious choice for the Carmelites, coming west from Palestine, in which to make a foundation. Young Albert appears to have been attracted by the newcomers, and entered the Order at Trapani. After his ordination, Albert was sent to the priory at Messina, also in Sicily, and this was the main centre of his life’s work.
St Albert typified the new kind of Carmelite that adaptation to the west produced, a man of prayer and penance, a lover of solitude, but also a man engaged in study and in the active apostolate. There were many Jews living in Sicily at this time, and Albert seems to have made them a special object, and been successful in making converts. He is also said to have written books, though none survive, and he is regarded as patron of Carmelite studies. The Order recognised his many and outstanding abilities. He was elected Provincial of Sicily and attended the General Chapter at Bruges in 1297, in that capacity. However, he spent the last years of his life before his death in 1306, living in a hermitage near Messina. Recognised as a wonder worker during his lifetime, miracles and cures continued to be attributed to Albert’s intercession after his death. His cult spread quickly through the whole of the Order.
The celebration of his feast, on 7th August, was introduced into the Carmelite rite in 1411. Like the Dominican, St Vincent Ferrer, St Albert is one of the saints to have blessed water in his honour. A legend attributes the custom to St Albert himself. A relic of the saint is dipped in the water and a prayer said in which St Albert’s intercession is asked for all who use the water; that they will gain healing of body and soul thereby. Dr Spratt who had lived in a priory dedicated to St Albert in Spain, brought the devotion back to Ireland, and to the new Whitefriar Street church, in which he inaugurated the well of St Albert.