Saint Albert of Trapani
Priest of our Order
Feast Day: 7 August

Who was Albert of Trapani?

St Albert's Shrine in Dublin

Legends around St Albert of Trapani

St Albert's message for the 21st Century

Prayer of St Albert for Healing

Further Reading

Who was Albert of Trapani?
A brief biography

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 was born in the thirteenth century in Sicily which 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. The presence of Albert in the convent of Trapani on Aug. 8, 1280, April 4 and Oct. 8, 1289, is attested by several parchments of the same convent, now in the Fardelliana library of the same city. Here is also found a parchment in the date of May 10, 1296 from which his office as provincial superior is ascertained. He attended the General Chapter at Bruges in 1297, in that capacity. However, he spent the last years of his life before his death in 1307, 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 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 (vivae vocis oracido); permitted his cult, which was consequently confirmed by Sixtus IV with a bull of May 31, 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; then, in the act of overcoming the devil, or in the act of working his miracles.

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 and St Mary Magdalen de'Pazzi were especially devoted to him; the Bl. Baptist Spagnoli composed a sapphic ode in his honor. 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 fevers. His feast day is celebrated there with great ceremony on August 7th.
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.

St. Albert's Shrine in Dublin

At Agrigento in Sicily, the memory is still preserved of St Albert purifying the water of a well. This is a clear echo of the episode of the well of Jericho purified by the prophet Elisha (2 K 2:19-22); and Albert was, of course, part of the Carmelite family which originated with Elijah and Elisha. Albert’s purifying the well made its water drinkable. To this day, water is blessed on St Albert's feast (August 7th) by dipping a relic of the saint into water and reciting a prayer in which St. Albert’s intercession is asked for all who use the water, that they will gain healing of body and soul. Dr. Spratt who had lived in a priory dedicated to St. Albert in Spain, brought the devotion to Ireland. He inaugurated the well of St. Albert at the Carmelite Whitefriars Street church in Dublin City centre. This well is visited by many people each day in the lobby at the entrance to the main church. St Albert's water is used against fever and other illnesses.



Legends around St Albert of Trapani

Albert is said to have been born of Benedict degli Abati and Joan Palizi, a couple who had been childless for 26 years and who finally vowed to consecrate any child they might have to the Blessed Virgin. Albert was the fruit of that vow, and his mother honoured it by helping him enter the Carmelite Order, despite his father's later wishes for him to marry.

During Albert's early days as a Carmelite, the devil disguised himself as a beautiful young woman in order to attract the attentions of the young novice and to draw him away from the decision he had made. But Albert discovered the Tempter’s true identity, which the beauty of the girl failed to totally conceal, the devil accidentally showing his cloven hooves beneath the girl’s skirts. The novice was quick to drive the devil away, entrusting himself once again to the divine protection. There are paintings which depict Albert, in a sign of his victory, trampling a devil with feminine features but with goat's feet!

The intercession of St Albert was said to have freed the people of Messina from famine caused by a siege: some ships loaded with provisions miraculously passed through the besiegers.

Legend relates that Albert recited the entire Psalter every day, as well as the Liturgy of the Hours.

Once the saint saved three Jews from drowning near Agrigento, and on another occasion he cured a Jewish boy of epilepsy in Sciacca. In both cases the legends speak of explicit confessions of faith and subsequent baptism.

In Licata on one occasion a woman came and asked him to liberate her daughter, who was suspected of being possessed by the devil. The saint went and succeeded in freeing the daughter from the evil presence with a gesture of humility, offering the other cheek after the young woman struck him a blow.

A woman in Trapani was helped by the saint during a difficult childbirth, in which both her life and that of her child was at risk. Albert managed to comfort the young woman, who then bore her baby safely. Women turned to the saint to be cured of abscesses of the breast or fevers, especially puerperal fever, which was a cause of many deaths in childbirth in those days.

In Palermo a boy who had been blinded by his sister during a game gone tragic regained his 
sight after St Albert's intercession, and afterwards became a Carmelite. Another boy, from Lentini, was healed through the faith of his mother, who covered him with a piece of the saint’s clothing, and this boy also became a Carmelite.

When the people of Messina heard of Albert's death on August 7th 1307, they came to the little monastery and took his body in solemn procession to the Carmelite Church in the city. Then the Sicilian king and the Archbishop of Messina had Albert's body brought to the Cathedral. Controversy arose about what type of Mass was to be celebrated and then two angels are said to have appeared and begun to chant the Introit of the Mass of Confessors - "The mouth of the just man"...


Saint Albert's message for the 21st Century

Adapted from an article by Fr. Giovanni Grosso, O.Carm
Read the full article here:
http://www.carmelites.ie/PDF/AlbertTrapani.pdf

Although little factual information  is known about Albert, the collection of legends and images that have survived down the centuries tell us quite a bit about him and what matters most is their meaning: they signify to us that Albert was a man of God, who still shines for us today as a person made new by the Gospel, and permeated by God's Word.

St. Albert has often been portrayed with an open book in his hand, or with the Child Jesus in his arms. This is not by accident, for these are both iconographical attributes which indicate a preacher of the Gospel, which is precisely what Albert was. In order to be authentic proclaimers it is necessary to have encountered Jesus, and this is possible primarily through the hearing of the Word. It was his familiarity with Scripture, cultivated in lectio divina with purity of heart and openness to the transforming action of the Holy Spirit, which made St. Albert capable of proclaiming the Gospel. St. Albert is remembered for an extraordinary ability to speak to people with conviction and immediacy. He did not distract his listeners with elegant forms of preaching but stressed the vital content of the message.

Albert's life shines as an example of virtue and sincerity. His chastity became a radiant expression of a radical, definitive and complete choice for God. The purity practiced by Albert is not simply a physical fact, but primarily a spiritual reality. Albert allowed himself to be seized by God: he placed himself totally at God’s service, gave God his life and capacities, and welcomed God’s call as a gift and a commitment for life. This example is more relevant than ever in our modern world.

St. Albert also made poverty a real life-decision. Coming from a well-off family of some social standing was not an obstacle for him to embrace the poverty of Christ and his disciples. He could have made a different choice and joined the city clergy, or some abbey or canonry. Instead he chose to put himself alongside the minores, the least important people of his time and place, sharing the style and condition of their lives. There is still validity in a poor and austere life, which concentrates on the essential, without getting lost in useless things, which is committed to building authentic and non-manipulative relationships with others and with the reality around us. The Gospel poor, like St. Albert, know that they cannot count on anything except God and his grace, they accept as a gift whatever they receive from their brothers and sisters, without presuming anything, and they are thankful for it all. Evangelical poverty makes one able to see the needs of others and to respond with generosity.
   
St. Albert, the Carmelite friar, was truly a brother to many sisters and brothers who turned to him because they recognized him as a man of God, that is as someone able to reveal the grandeur of the love of God for them in delicate or difficult situations. Albert was a man of concrete and generous charity on more than one occasion, attentive to the needs of all, especially the poorest. His charitable acts can be classified under three groups: 

1. Community and problems of a social character;
2. Physical sickness;
3. Psychological or spiritual 
problems.

Albert stood beside those who had no protector, put himself at their disposal, offering a concrete and practical help to anyone in need of healing but with nowhere to turn except to God. Albert was a man of God who revealed God’s maternal tenderness in healing his weakest sons and daughters.

Today there is a quite widespread understanding of the relationship between Christians and people of other religions which is very different from the one that was normal in the past, 
even until quite recently. In the 13th century, Albert and the Carmelites considered it a point of honour to proclaim the faith to the members of the Chosen People in imitation of the Prophet (1 K 18:20-40). These days the discussion has moved on to a level of dialogue and of recognition of the fundamentals which we hold in common, of the need to work together in the proclamation of faith, but the example of St. Albert reminds us that the most basic witness is at the level of authentic, delicate and courteous charity.  He is considered, in our present times, an example of the pastoral preaching apostolate to Christians and non-Christians alike.
 
Devotion to Our Lady has developed a lot since St Albert's day, but we can still learn from his reverence of the virginity of Mary and we can understand it not merely as something physical, but as interior virtue, purity of heart, a psychological and spiritual orientation devoted exclusively to God. This in fact was one of the central points in the spirituality of St. Albert.  To be devoted to Mary, today as in the time of St. Albert, means to feel that one is accompanied and sustained in the journey of faith, on a down-to-earth path of humble and quiet charity towards one’s brothers and sisters, open to the hope of the new and full life which Christ gives us in the Holy Spirit.

Ancient Prayer for healing attributed to St Albert  

O my God, you have created the human race by your wonderful power. It is an act of your clemency that has called us to share your glory and eternal life. When the first sin condemned us to suffer death, out of your goodness you wished to redeem us through the blood of your Son, to unite us to you through our faith and your great mercy. You have brought us back from the shame of our sin; you have veiled our dishonour in the brightness of your glory. Look now and see that what you have created, giving it subtle limbs and joints and made beautiful through its immortal soul, is now subject to the attack of Satan. Be pleased Lord to reconstitute your work and heal it. May your power be glorified and may the malice of the enemy be stunned.

Prayer for the Intercession of Saint Albert of Trapani


Lord God,

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.

Amen.


Further Reading


Wikipedia listing:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_of_Trapani


Saints Online:  http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-albert-of-sicily/

TOC Philippines Blog: http://tocphilippines.blogspot.com/2009/08/st-albert-of-trapani.html

"Albert of Trapani, a saint of yesterday for today" - by Giovanni Grosso, O.Carm:
http://www.carmelites.ie/PDF/AlbertTrapani.pdf

There is a Catholic Church in Texas, USA, dedicated to St Albert of Trapani and they celebrate their 40th anniversary in 2010. Visit their website here:   http://www.stalbertoftrapani.org/


The text on this page has been taken from the "Calendar of Carmelite Saints" published by the Carmelite Friars, Singapore, from the book "Meeting God" published by The Irish Carmelites, and from the Irish Carmelites website  (www.carmelites.ie).



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