Saint of the Day – 7 August – Saint Albert of Trapani O.Carm. (c 1240-1307) – Carmelite Priest, Confessor, Preacher, Evangeliser, apostle of prayer and a devout servant of the Blessed Virgin and the Passion of Christ. He was born as Alberto degli Abati in c 1240 at Trapani, Sicily, Italy and died on 7 August 1306 at Messina, Italy of natural causes. He practised great austerities upon himself to make himself poor in the spirit of Jesus Christ and went out preaching and evangelising, he was known for working and maintaining a positive relationship with Jews as well as for his powers of healing. The saint was likewise attributed with the 1301 lifting of the siege in Messina, that could have seen hundreds die from starvation had it not been for his intervention. Patronages – Trapani, Carmelite order, Carmelite schools, Palermo Sicily.
Alberto degli Abati was born circa 1240 in Trapani, Sicily, Italy as the sole child to the nobles (of Florentine origin) Benedetto degli Abati and Giovanna Palizi. His father served as an admiral in the fleet of Frederick II of Hohensautfen. His parents – who married in 1214 – were sterile and promised that if blessed with a son he would be consecrated to the Beata Vergine Maria del Monte Carmelo. In his childhood his father had thought of arranging a marriage for him but his mother was able to remind her husband, to adhere to the vow the couple made, that he be consecrated to the Lord.
Sicily was one of the first areas of Carmelite settlement and expansion in the west. 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, on the western side of the island.
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 attended the General Chapter at Bruges in 1297, in the capacity as Superior. However, he spent the last years of his life before his death in 1307, living in a hermitage near Messina.
He was 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 date of a translation of his relics, said to have been made in the year 1309 or 1316, is uncertain. (This latter would seem more exact). Albert was among the first Carmelite saints venerated by the Order, of which he was later considered a patron and protector. Already in 1346 there was a chapel dedicated to him, in the convent of Palermo. At various general chapters, beginning with that of 1375, his papal canonisation was proposed. In the chapter of 1411 it was said that his Proper Office was ready.
In 1457 Pope Callixtus III, by verbal consent permitted his cult, which was consequently confirmed by Pope Sixtus IV with a bull of 31 May 1476. In 1524 it was ordered that his image be found on the seal of the general chapter. Moreover, the general of the Order, Nicholas Audet, wanted an altar dedicated to him in every Carmelite church . Even earlier, the chapter of 1420 had ordered that his image with a halo should be found in all the convents of the Order. With this intense and extended cult, his abundant iconography is easily understood. In it he is represented (with or without a book), first, bearing a lily, a symbol of his victory over the senses at the beginning of his religious life or with a cruvifix and the Blessed Virgin.
In 1623 one of the gates of the city of Messina was dedicated to him. He is the patron of Trapani, of Erice, of Palermo and of Revere (Mantua). St Teresa of Jesus (1515-1582) and St Mary Magdalene de Pazzi (1566-1607) were especially devoted to him, the Bl Baptist Spagnoli (1447–1516) composed a sapphic ode in his honour. His relics are spread throughout Europe. The head of the Saint is in the Carmelite church of Trapani where he is still venerated, especially as a patron against fever. His feast day is celebrated there with great ceremony on 7 August. In the last liturgical reform the rank of feast was granted for St Albert to the Carmelites and of memorial to the Discalced of the same Order.
Let us pray.
you made St Albert of Trapani
a model of purity and prayer,
and a devoted servant of Our Lady.
May we practise these same virtues
and so be worthy always
to share the banquet of your grace.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.