Dr. Bill Smart Presents on St. Albert the Great
On Sunday, March 13 Aquinas College Associate Provost Dr. William Smart gave a brief presentation to the Saint Cecilia chapter of Lay Dominicans at the Congregation’s Motherhouse in Nashville. The subject of the presentation was St. Albert the Great. Dr. Smart, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, was invited to speak and to offer a brief biography of St. Albert. In addition, Dr. Smart provided insights into St. Albert’s most meaningful achievements and contributions to Catholic history.
St. Albert the Great was a respected natural scientist even in his day. Regarded as the patron saint of scientists, St. Albert studied “everything from A to Z – from astronomy to zoology.” His scientific writings, undertaken at the request of his brother Dominicans, are voluminous and are noted for their rigor and detail. Besides the natural sciences, St. Albert was a distinguished theologian who would become the teacher of the Catholic Church’s greatest theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas. In addition to his academic pursuits, St. Albert was appointed by his brother Dominicans as prior provincial of the German-speaking provinces and, following that, was consecrated bishop by Pope Alexander IV. For these duties, St. Albert traveled extensively, walking over most of Western Europe (as riding horseback was not consistent with his Dominican vow of poverty). In all of his meetings, interactions and assignments, St. Albert was considered a skilled administrator and mediator.
In his presentation, Dr. Smart sought to reconcile these many facets of St. Albert’s life and consider them from the perspective of teaching. St. Albert’s wide range of knowledge, wry sense of humor, and even temperament are ingredients for a master teacher. In his time, St. Albert was highly sought after as a teacher, and considering the renown of this future saint, it’s easy to understand why. The best teachers don’t just know things, but they are able to draw connections between bits of knowledge, sometimes seemingly unrelated, into a cohesive whole for their students. St. Albert was quite knowledgeable about philosophy, theology and science, while simultaneously possessing intellectual patience and humility. This rare combination, especially at the university level, effectively builds a community in which students want to learn. By integrating disparate academic disciplines into a unified whole, St. Albert reflects for his students the actions of the Creator toward His creation, especially man himself. Students cannot help but to be captivated by St. Albert’s approach. Dr. Smart’s presentation was attended by approximately fifty Lay Dominicans and a few of the Dominican Sisters. A lively question and answer session followed the presentation and covered topics ranging from the theology of creation to genetics to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.