St Albert

Patriarch of Jerusalem (entered heaven this day in 1214)

Dear Al,

I don’t know why you are surprised at the challenges you’re facing as a Resident Assistant. Did you think it would be all fun and games?  I guess it could be, if you didn’t take your responsibilities seriously, but since you have always been a diligent person, it is only to be expected that you will run into plenty of obstacles as you try to reconcile the contradictory interests of your charges.  I only hope you don’t end up like St Albert.

Albert was a model priest: learned, charming, prayerful, dedicated, outgoing, understanding, diplomatic – so much so that he was made Bishop of Vercelli (northern Italy) when he was only 35.  His holiness and effectiveness were soon well known among the clergy and people throughout the peninsula.  Earlier in the century, Christians from Europe had retaken Jerusalem from the Seljuk Turks who had conquered it in the 10th century.  The Christians then installed European bishops as leaders of the Church there, taking over from the Byzantine patriarchs who had long held the reins.  But in 1187 the Muslims conquered Jerusalem again, and the Latin patriarch and Christians had to flee the city, transferring the “diocese” to a city in Palestine called Akka.  Throughout these years, the Latin Patriarchs had hardly been exemplary clerics, so when Albert’s predecessor died, the king personally petitioned Pope Innocent III to send them Albert, Bishop of Vercelli, someone known to be holy.  Reluctant to part with such a saintly prelate, the Pope nevertheless granted the request.  St Albert embarked for the Holy Land and took on his new responsibilities with characteristic dedication (it probably wasn’t easy for him though, leaving his home diocese for a foreign one full of unfamiliar problems).  For nine years he struggled mightily (and successfully) to keep the peace among the several rival factions of Europeans, between the European leaders and their followers (they were always mad at each other for something), and between the European Christians and the native Orthodox believers – all this in addition to ongoing diplomacy and evangelization of the surrounding Muslims.  Both Church and civil affairs benefited from his patience, prudence, and selfless objectivity.  On the side, he also wrote up a rule of life for the Carmelite monastery there, giving a definitive structure to that great spiritual movement.

Unfortunately, even St Albert couldn’t please everyone.  He made an enemy of a high-ranking fellow in Akka whom he had to depose from his position of head of the Hospital of the Holy Ghost.  The rankled hospitaller nursed his resentment until it erupted during a procession led by Albert on the feast of the Triumph of the Cross.  He attacked the saint and stabbed him to death.

If you ask St Albert to support your efforts at peacemaking and reconciliation among the unruly members of your residence, perhaps he will help you achieve success like his, but without suffering such violent consequences.


Uncle Eddy

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