Italian, Dominican Tertiary
Memorial : 11 May
7 May (Dominicans)
BLESSED ALBERT was born of poor and virtuous parents at the little town of Villa d'Ogna, near Bergamo in Italy. When only seven years old, he began to practise penance and charity, fasting three days in the week and giving the food of which he deprived himself to the poor. His childhood and youth were spent in innocence and yet he practised severe austerities. During his hard labour in the fields he kept himself in continual recollection of spirit, making use of all the sights and sounds of nature as so many steps to raise up his mind and heart to God. In obedience to the wishes of his father, he married a young peasant girl, with whom he lived for many years in perfect concord. She even began to imitate him in his exercises of piety. But, on the death of his father, her dispositions underwent a sudden change and thenceforth she became a continual trial to him. She would bitterly reproach him for wasting, as she expressed it, so much of his time in prayer, as well as for his profuse liberality to the poor. In this latter respect it must be owned Blessed Albert's conduct was somewhat trying, as he would occasionally give away the very dinner which had been prepared for themselves and their labourers. More than once, however, God made good the loss by miracle; and the holy man, by his unalterable sweetness, patience, and silence under this vexatious domestic persecution, doubtless gained for himself a great treasure of merits.
Some powerful nobles having seized his little property, Albert, who by this time had become a widower, left the neighbourhood and settled at Cremona, where he earned for himself the title of "the diligent labourer." God was sometimes pleased to reveal the sanctity of His servant by miracles. Angels in human form came to help him in his work, thus enabling him to increase his earnings, almost the whole of which he distributed to the needy. One day he was carrying a barrel of wine to the house of a poor woman, when it accidentally slipped from his shoulder and broke to pieces on the road. "King of Glory, come to my assistance!" exclaimed the holy man, according to his wont in all difficulties. Then he collected the broken pieces of wood, adjusted them in their proper places, and collected the spilt wine with his hands so that not a drop was lost. Not content with bestowing on the poor all that he could spare from his wages, he often solicited alms on their behalf.
His lodgings were near the Dominican Convent, and he placed himself under the direction of the Fathers, and received the habit as a Tertiary. Thenceforth he devoted his time and strength almost entirely to the service of the sick poor, visiting them, rendering them the lowliest services, assisting them by his prayers in their last agony, and accompanying their remains to the grave. He even succeeded in founding a hospital. Blessed Albert exercised himself in these works of charity for a long time, until he understood it to be the will of God that he should undertake the life of a pilgrim, in which he spent several years. He is said to have visited the Holy Land once, the sanctuaries of Spain and in particular Saint James of Compostella eight times, and Rome nine times. He travelled in silence, wrapt in meditation or beguiling the monotony of the way by singing hymns or reciting psalms; and he may be said to have faithfully observed the precept of praying always. As he was returning to Cremona after these pilgrimages and was already almost at the gates of the city, he had to cross the river Po. The ferryman rudely refused to admit him into his boat without payment and the servant of God had no money. Then Blessed Albert cast his mantle on the waters and embarking upon it reached the opposite bank in safety.
Having settled down once more in the home of his adoption, he devoted himself especially to the service of poor pilgrims. In spite of his own extreme poverty, he lodged them under his roof, waited upon them with the same reverence he would have rendered to Christ Himself, conducted them to all the sanctuaries of the city, and then gave them an alms to enable them to continue their journey.
At length, worn out by his labours, he fell sick and asked for the Last Sacraments. The priest delaying to come, the Bread of Angels is said to have been brought to him by a white dove, which suddenly appeared in his room. Clasping his crucifix in his hands and covering it with kisses, he breathed forth his soul to his Creator on the 7th of May, A.D. 1279, being in the sixty-fifth, or, according to some writers, the seventy-fifth year of his age. When preparations were made for his interment in the cemetery, it was found impossible to penetrate the earth, so that it became necessary to carry the sacred remains to the church, where, beneath the very spot where the holy man had been wont to pray, a vault was found ready prepared, of the existence of which no one had previously been aware. Here the body was laid with great honour, the Bishop himself performing the funeral service.
Benedict XIV. approved the immemorial veneration paid to Blessed Albert, and gave permission for Mass and Office to be celebrated in his honour in the Dominican Order and by the clergy of the dioceses of Bergamo and Cremona.
O God, who wast pleased that Blessed Albert, Thy Confessor, should shine with singular sanctity in a lowly condition of life, grant that we may so tread in his footsteps as to be worthy to obtain his rewards. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.