St. Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem
[Compiler of the Rule of the Carmelites.] HE was born at Castro di Gualtieri, in the diocess of Parma, and of a noble Italian family. After having laid a solid foundation of learning and piety, and acquired a great reputation by his skill in the canon and civil laws, he put on the habit of a canon regular in the monastery of Mortura in the Milanese, and, thoughvery young, was in a short time after his profession chosen prior, and, three years after, bishop of Bobio. Whilst his humility found excuses to decline this dignity, the church of Vercelli falling also vacant, that city had the happiness to carry him off, and see him, by compulsion, placed in its episcopal chair. For twenty years he never ceased to procure the advantage of the flock committed to his charge, and by humility and sanctity raised to the highest degree the splendour of the see which he adorned. He was chosen by Pope Clement III. and the Emperor Frederic I., surnamed Barbarossa, umpire of their differences. Henry VI., successor to Frederic, created him prince of the empire, and granted many favours to his church. He was employed by the pope in several commissions of the highest importance. In 1204, died Monachus, the eleventh Latin patriarch of Jerusalem: and the Christians in Palestine who, in their desolate condition, stood extremely in need of a person whose consummate prudence, patience, and zeal, might be to them both a comfort and a support, moved by the great reputation of Albert, earnestly besought him to fill the vacant chair. Pope Innocent III. expressed great joy at their choice, being full of compassion for their situation and dangers, and called Albert to Rome, that he might receive the confirmation of his election, and the pall. The holy man obeyed the more readily, because this dignity at that time exposed him only to persecutions and afflictions, not without a prospect of martyrdom. He embarked in a Genoese vessel in 1206, and landed at Aeon, in which city he resided, Jerusalem itself being in the hands of the Saracens. To his labours and persecutions he added the practice of assiduous mortification, and made prayer the chief employment of all his retired hours. His sanctity procured him the respect and veneration of the infidels themselves. Besides many other pious establishments and holy works of which he was the author, he became the legislator of the Carmelites, or White Friars. On Mount Carmel lived certain anchorets, who regarded the Prophet Elias as their founder and model, because he made that mountain the place of his retreat, 1 as did also Eliseus. 2 One Bertheld formed these anchorets into a community: and Brocard, superior of these hermits, in 1205, or rather, as Papebroke proves, in 1209, addressed himself to the patriarch Albert, beseeching him to prescribe them a rule. 3 The holy man drew up the constitutions of this Order, in which the friars are enjoined to abide in their cells day and night in assiduous prayer, as it becomes hermits, unless they are otherwise lawfully occupied: to fast from the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross till Easter, except on Sundays: perpetual abstinence from flesh: to employ themselves in manual labour: keep silence from Vespers till Tierce the next day, &c. But several additions were made to this rule, and mitigations introduced by commissioners appointed by Innocent IV. in 1246. The White Friars did not wear a scapular before St. Simon Stock, in 1285, and began to use a mantle and hood in 1288. This Order being in its origin eremitical, hence among the barefooted Carmelites every province has a desert or solitude, usually for three or four hermits, who lead there very austere lives; but after one year return again to their convent, or go to some other desert, with the leave of superiors. 1
Albert was called into the West by Pope Innocent III. that he might be present at the general council of Lateran, which met in 1215: but before he left Palestine, he was assassinated whilst he assisted at a procession of the holy cross, on the feast of its Exaltation, September 14th, 1214, at Aeon, by an impious wretch whom he had reproved and threatened for his crimes. He is honoured among the saints by his Order on this 8th day of April. See the Memoirs collected by Papebroke, t. 1, p. 769; also Exhibitio Errorum quos Dan. Papebrochius suis in notis ad Acta Sanctorum commisit, per Sebast. a S. Paulo. Coloniæ Agrippinæ, 1693, 4to. Item, Examen Juridico-Theologicum Præambul. Sebastiani a S. Paulo ad Exhibitionem Errorum Dan. Papebrochio ab illo Imputatorum, Auctore Nic. Rayæo, cum Responsionibus Dan. Papebrochii, Antwerpiæ, 1698, four vols. in 4to. Helyot, Hist. des Ordres Relig. t. 1; and Stevens, Monast. Anglic. t. 1, p. 156. 2
Note 1. 3 Kings xviii. 19, 20. 42.
Note 2. 1 Kings iv. 25.
Note 3. Some writers have endeavoured to prove that from Elias, and his successors the sons of the prophets, an uninterrupted succession of hermits had inhabited mount Carmel down to the time of Christ and his apostles; and that, having embraced early the Christian faith, they continued their succession to the twelfth or thirteenth century, when having obtained this rule they introduced their Order into Europe. The learned Papebroke, a continuator of the Acta Sanctorum commenced by Bollandus, treated this claim to so high an antiquity as chimerical, and dated the origin of the hermits of mount Carmel only in the twelfth century. The contest grew so warm, that the affair was laid before the popes Innocent XI. and XII. But neither of them chose to declare whether the monuments, produced in favour of the succession aforesaid, were decisive or not. And the latter, by a brief dated the 29th of November, 1698, enjoined silence on that subject for the time to come.
Alan, the fifth general of the Carmelite friars, finding Palestine a troublesome residence under the Saracens, sought to obtain for his Order some foreign settlements, and soon procured convents to be founded in Cyprus and Sicily. Soon after the year 1200, certain Englishmen, who had embraced that order, were brought over from Syria by Sir John de Vasey, lord of Alnwick in Northumberland, a great baron in those days, when he returned from the holy war. He founded their first house at Alnwick, and they soon procured convents in Ailsford, London, Oxford, and other places. This Order has at present thirty-eight provinces, besides the congregation of Mantua, which has fifty-four houses under a vicar general, and the congregations of the barefooted Carmelites in Spain and Italy, which have their own generals: on which see the life of St. Teresa.
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume IV: April. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. April 8.