Blessed Albert of Sarziano
(Beato Alberto di Sarziano)
Confessor, First Order
Albert, of the illustrious family of Bertini, was born in Tuscany in 1384. At the age of fifteen he was entrusted to the Franciscan Fathers that he might pursue his studies with them. Among his professors was the celebrated Bartholomew of Pisa, who died in 1401 at the age of one hundred ten years.
Favored by God with extraordinary talent, Albert soon distinguished himself among his fellow students. Withal, he remained so humble and devout that at the age of twenty he asked his professors for the habit of the order.
After his ordination he was permitted to continue his studies, and soon became so proficient that he ranked among the most eminent scholars of Italy, especially in the knowledge of Latin and Greek. He was equally well educated in theology and was particularly interested in the science of the saints, in virtue and perfection.
In 1414 he met St Bernardine of Sienna, and became a whole-hearted supporter of the latter’s promotion of strict observance of the rule. His first and greatest care now was to make himself pleasing to God. With the consent of his superiors, and despite his great learning and zeal for souls, he continued to live in holy seclusion for seven years more, devoting his time to prayer, to practices of penance and to religious study. During an entire year he accompanied St Bernardine on his missionary journeys, and only then did he take up the task of preaching.
The times were turbulent when Blessed Albert of Sarziano entered upon his apostolic labors. The Turks were rapidly advancing toward the West; Italy was in constant dread of their arrival. Moreover, the Greeks who had fallen away from the Church of Rome, were the cause of much worry to the Apostolic See. Within the bosom of the Church, antipopes, who always found adherents, rose against the lawful representative of Christ. Also, there was the continual strife between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, between the pope and the imperial factions, especially in northern Italy, so that city was armed against city, and frequently one group of citizens rose up against another group. In so disturbed a period, rebellion and barbarity, godlessness and indecency overrode all bounds.
Albert perceived that it would be necessary to undertake his work armed, so to say, with fire and sword. In forceful terms he denounced the vices of the times, and most eloquently did he portray the punishments of divine justice. It was as though the trumpets of the last judgment had sounded. Crowds gathered from all sides to hear him, and no church was large enough to accommodate the concourse of people, which at times reached the number of fifty or sixty thousand. Conversions were numerous, and not infrequently of a very remarkable nature. Factions were reconciled with each other; those who had been enemies of the Church returned to her; sinners desisted from their evil ways. Wherever good will was in evidence, Albert manifested tender sympathy with the weaknesses of men.
In Venice a man came to Blessed Albert of Sarziano and told him about his evil life, saying that he would gladly be converted, but it seemed impossible to get rid of his vices. The missionary encouraged him and imposed upon him the simple injunction to assist daily at holy Mass and to give an alms. A few days later, the poor sinner returned, made a contrite confession and began to lead a Christian life.
When Pope Eugene IV learned of the influence which Blessed Albert of Sarziano exercised over the hearts of men, he sent him as his envoy to Greece, and later to Egypt, Armenia, Ethiopia, and India, in all of the places he accomplished much good for the Church and for the salvation of souls. Sometimes God confirmed his works by miracles.
After successfully filling many offices in the order, Blessed Albert of Sarziano died on the feast of the Assumption of Our lady, August 15, 1450. St John Capistrano saw his soul take its flight to heaven. Although the title of Blessed has been conferred on him in popular devotion, this cult has not yet been confirmed by the Holy See.
*from The Franciscan Book of Saints, by Fr. Habig, OFM
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