My Encounter With Our Lady of Guadalupe: “Somewhere I have never travelled” by e. e. cummings

Previous: I.  My New Age Background

But I saw no book by Lobsang Rampa, Sitchin, Licauco, or Casteneda.  I saw something else: a picture of a lovely lady on a book’s front cover.  I did not hear angels telling me, “Tolle lege,” or “Take and read,” as what happened to St. Augustine; but I took the book anyway.  The book is entitled, “A Handbook on Guadalupe” by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (1997).

At first glance, I instinctively know that the picture of the Lady could not be a painting.  I am a pastel painter but not a professional.  I do not use brush.  I use crayon pastels like crayons, but I mix them using baby oil and cotton.  I see blue shadows cast by the yellow sun.  I see green and yellow in the human skin.  I intersect parallel lines at vanishing points.  I scale pictures using boxes and triangles.  I sense symmetry.  I see beauty.  Yet a true artist I am not, for  I do not know human anatomy.  I do not know the names of the muscles and how they are attached to the bones.  I do not know the golden ratios that describe the human form.  I am only a copyist and in this I am content.  But if I see a masterpiece, I know it truly is.

The picture is not a painting.  How can anyone draw such loveliness that even the words of e. e. cummings fail:

    somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
    any experience,your eyes have their silence:
    in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
    or which i cannot touch because they are too near
    your slightest look easily will unclose me
    though i have closed myself as fingers,
    you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
    (touching skilfully,mysteriously) her first rose
    or if your wish be to close me, i and
    my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
    as when the heart of this flower imagines
    the snow carefully everywhere descending;
    nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
    the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
    compels me with the color of its countries,
    rendering death and forever with each breathing
    (i do not know what it is about you that closes
    and opens; only something in me understands
    the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
    nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

Call it love at first sight.  I bought the book.

III. Book Review: Handbook on Guadalupe
IV. Biblical Iconography of Our Lady of Guadalupe
V. Rediscovery of My Catholic Faith

A Hobbit’s Tale: a Testimonial to Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J.

Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J. was transferred to Ateneo de Davao University last summer 2008 after spending decades at the Ateneo de Manila University and the Manila Observatory. He celebrated his 50 years as Jesuit last 23 Nov 2007. A tribute was given to him in his 69th birthday last 23 June 2008 and an endowment fund was launched in his honor to fund the studies of a physics major from the province (see p. 14 of the Loyola Schools Bulletin 2008, June-July, vol. 4, no. 1).

To commemorate his departure, I wrote last 12 June 2008 the following piece:

I.  Gandalf

I first met Fr. Dan during the summer of my senior year in physics. It was a cool afternoon but I am sweating. It was difficult to follow his footsteps because he walked in yardsteps. But I caught up with him, at last, in the corner corridor of third floor of Padre Faura Hall.

“Father,” I said, while trying to catch my breath. “I want to learn geometric algebra.”

Fr. Dan looked down at the wide-eyed hobbit awaiting his word. He took a doctor’s prescription paper from his pocket and began his lecture.

“The number i,” he said, “is both an imaginary number and a vector rotator.”  He drew a cross, a direction, and an i. He then gave me the paper and left.

The next morning he gave me a book: “Multivectors to Clifford Algebra in Electrodynamics” by Jancewicz.

“This is a good introduction,” he said.

Indeed it is. It took me an hour to understand each equation, a day to read each page, and a month to finish Chapter 0. I skimmed through the other chapters: they are too advanced for me. So I closed the book. With my little background, I then began to read other books and articles on geometric algebra, reading only what I can understand—an equation here, a paragraph there. Tolle lege. Take up and read, as the little angel advised St. Augustine. I toiled. After a year, I finished my thesis on electromagnetic energy-momentum, written in courier font by hand and inserted in a maroon slide folder—there were no binding rules then. That was in 1997.

After college, I don’t know what to do. I was thinking of going to Los Banos to do research in Dr. Muriel’s Institute on Microphysical Fluid Dynamics. When I told Fr. Dan about my plan, he told me that I may learn many things there, but in two years I may not get a degree. He accompanied me to the third floor of Faura—the research office used to be there—and gave me application forms for the Philippine Council for Advanced Science and Technology Research and Development (PCASTRD) scholarship. I was accepted. In two years, I finished my thesis on polarized light—typewritten, double-spaced. But because I did not follow the graduate school style, my manuscript was returned. And from that time I learned how to turn on the computer. That was in 1999.

II. Cambridge Tales

In January of 2001, while I was still teaching at the University of St. La Salle in my hometown in Bacolod City, Fr. Dan emailed me that there is a geometric algebra conference in Cambridge University, England. I sent my manuscript on the Hestenes spacetime algebra for polarized light to the organizers in Cavendish Laboratory. It was accepted.

Fr. Dan sponsored my trip. It was my first international flight, my first international conference. I took a train from the London airport and passed by some square patches of green fields and yellow grain amidst rolling mounds and hills.

“Hobbiton Station,” the train announcer said.

I looked at the window, but I saw no hobbits.

“Maybe they are hiding in holes,” I thought.

I left the train at Cambridge Station and set my first foot on medieval soil. I saw distant castles enshrouded in mist. I passed by King’s College. I walked on Silver Street. I saw churches, lots of churches—strong as stone, tall as towers—glories of once Catholic England. I bumped into one of them, but the sign in the big black door reads: Anglican. I walked farther and found another one: it’s a pub. Across its large glass window stood a statue of an angel holding an empty font, while white men tasted spirits and drained draught. The last church I went to was old and weathered, yet stands still as a proud witness to the centuries past: the Church of St. Mary and the English Martyrs. (Is it the same as the Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs?) I entered. It was dark and empty.

In the conference I met many creatures great and small. There was Hestenes himself, a large man with full gray beard.

“Are you the guy from the Philippines,” he asked in a deep, gruff voice.

“Yes,” I said. And I shook hands with the giant of geometric algebra.

He was glad that I came. I sent him my M.S. thesis before for his comment and he suggested that I attend this meeting.

There was Baylis of Canada, a thin old man, smaller than I.

“Are you Baylis of Pauli algebra and polarized light?,” I asked.

“O,” he gasped, and his surprised eyes sparkled. “That’s right. That’s right,” he said, and laughed like a little old elf.

And there was Sommen of Belgium, bearded and stocky—strong enough to wield an axe .

“You know,” he said, as he brandished his mug over his protruding belly, “I love to give lectures that make my students sleep.”

In the last evening of the conference, I did not join the farewell party. I felt sleepy. Cambridge summer chilled my bones and British humors cracked my lips. I went to my room and covered myself with four furry blankets. My watch said it’s 8:00 p.m. but the sun refused to sleep. I longed for home.

III.  Monk Hobbit

In Summer of 2002, I went back to Ateneo, upon Fr. Dan’s advice. A new Ph.D. in Physics program had just been opened. I entered the doctorate, thinking I will be headed for cloud studies. I worked as graduate assistant for two years, a faculty for three years, a graduate assistant again for another year, and a consultant for a summer to support myself. Under Fr. Dan’s supervision, I was able to write some conference papers, journal articles, and book chapters. But I am not still done with my dissertation. This is already my seventh year. It’s now 2008.

To help me finish fast, Fr. Dan directed me a month ago to my monastery: a bare brick building amidst a field of flowering grass, beside a forest of undying trees, under the loving gaze of heaven, in full view of the setting sun. It is the Manila Observatory’s Ionosphere building, the former office of Fr. Badillo, the little prince of Philippine physics with an asteroid named after him. I now sit on his swivel chair as I count sunrises and sunsets through a lone open window. Behind my desk are stacked some remnants of the bygone years: a large magnifying glass, an aircon turned icemaker, and a 386 computer with 5 ¼ inch floppy drive. A wooden crucifix hangs near the window, on top a dusty portrait of the Sacred Heart. When the window darkens, I know it is night. And I leave.

Fr. Dan is leaving. To where he is going I cannot follow. Hobbits have holes, birds have boughs, but the son of Ignatius has no place to call his home. Forever he is a pilgrim and a priest, in the Company of Jesus, in obedience to the Pope. His mission is universal as the Church is Universal: all peoples, all places, all times. How can the halls of Faura hold him? How can the grass of M. O. bind him? The rule of realms is not his, but worthy souls that are in peril as the world now stands, those are his care. And he shall not wholly fail in his task if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair and bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For he is a steward, too. He is Gandalf. He is Fr. Dan.

Farewell Fr. Dan. You will surely be missed.

How Our Lady of Guadalupe Snatched Me from New Age

I.  My New Age Background

II.  My Encounter with with Our Lady

III.  Book Review: The Handbook on Guadalupe

IV.  Biblical Iconography of Guadalupe

V.  Rediscovery of My Catholic Faith

Mama also taught me how to read other Catholic books.  I read her messages in the Marian Movement of Priests.  I read the books of Scott Hahn and learned of his conversion story.  I read Fr. Leo Trese‘s “The Faith Explained.” I read the Catechism.  But my favorite book is on Dogmatic Theology lent to me by a friend.  How simple to state are the Catholic dogmas–Jesus is the Son of Man,  Mary is the Mother of God–yet how many church doctors, how many councils, how many centuries have to pass before these dogmas can be understood and explained. And the mystery of the dogma deepens.

I read books, blogs, magazines, newspapers, pamphlets–anything that I could get my hands on to learn more and more about the Catholic Church.  (I also occasionally read articles against the church and the pope, but I have to pray beforehand and read the Catechism afterwards—shots of vaccine against a virus.)  Now, I am reading the “Confessions” of St. Augustine and the “Summa Theologiae” of St. Aquinas.  But because of my physics background, I only read the physics parts: relativity of time in Augustine and optics in Aquinas. The rest I skipped. But somehow in the process I get a glimpse of their theology.

And Mama led me to her Son.  I learned to value the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance.  I learned to pray the rosary as a meditation on the life of Christ.  I learned to pray the chaplet of the Divine Mercy.  I studied a little Latin.  And someday when I have enough money, I’ll buy my first 1962 missal and unearth the treasures of the ancient mass.

I do not know why our Protestant brothers hate Mama very much.  Is it because she is beautiful?  Is it because Christ honored her as his mother by lavishing her with all the graces that the Angel Gabriel addresses her as “Full of Grace”?  Or is it because they haven’t yet felt the love of mother?  They have God as Father.  They have Christ as Brother.  But they have no Mother.  “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5)– this is the only command from our Mother.  As the moon reflects the light of the sun, so does Mary shines in splendor with the light of Christ. In the darkest night, Mary guides us with the light of Christ and she prepares us for the dawn of His Coming.


A year after my graduation in college, my mother died.  She died due to kidney failure—a complication of diabetes.  But before she died, I visited her in Bacolod.  She cannot anymore recognize me.  My sister took the handbook of Guadalupe and showed it to my mother. My mother said, “Toto, Toto.”  That was my name my mother calls me.  And she only knew my name because of Guadalupe.  Maybe she is saying Christ’s last words on the cross: “Woman, behold your son.”   My mother did not leave me orphan.  She entrusted me to Our Lady, to Our Mother, to Our Mama.

I love you Nanay.  I love you Mama.

Gregor Mendel the Augustinian Abbot

We know Gregor Mendel as the Austrian scientist who cross-bred pea plants to determine the law of how genetic traits of the parents, such as  tall and short, are passed on to their offsprings.  But he is not only the Father of Heredity.  As a parish priest ordained in 1847, he was also the father of his parish.  And as an Augustinian monk elected abbot by his fellow monks at the age of 47, he was also the father of his monastery[1]:

The new abbot was a very popular man. He received a good living and used much of it to entertain friends. Festival days were marked by open house to which the entire village was invited. Christmas was celebrated in a memorable manner; food and drink were enjoyed by all. Mendel was known to be charitable although he avoided publicizing his gifts to troubled villagers.

In spite of his gentleness he ended his life in dispute with the government. The legislature had passed a bill in 1874 that called for the taxation of church property in order to increase the salaries of the parish priests.

Mendel agreed that the state needed the money for this purpose and offered to send a voluntary contribution. He regarded the law as repressive, however, and stubbornly refused to concede that the state had any right to tax the church. The government would not accept the voluntary contribution but reasserted its demands. The struggle went on without result until his death, but it embittered Mendel, causing him to turn on anyone who tried to reason that the laws must be obeyed.[2]


[1] Philip Cane, Giants of Science (Pyramid, New York, 1959), pp. 194-200. See p. 196-197.

[2] Ibid., p. 197.

San Ignacio: Noon at Ngayon

(St. Ignatius: Then and Now)

by Fr. Jett Villarin, S.J.

Based on a talk delivered at the Klima Conference Room, Manila Observatory,
Ateneo de Manila University Campus, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, Philippines

28 July 2008

I.  Bukas

Before talking about St. ignatius then and now (noon at ngayon), let me start first with tomorrow (bukas) because Ignatius always begins his Spiritual Exercises with the end, the purpose of human life, as stated in his introductory section, the Principle and Foundation:

Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by means of doing this to save their souls.[1]

This thinking about the end helps us to test the spirits, to discern.  Ignatius listed four methods for discernment.  The first is the rational way: what are the pros and cons?  The second is to imagine someone like you asking for advice regarding the same problem: what will you say to him?  The third is to imagine you are laid in a funeral: what will other people will say about you?  And the fourth is to imagine you are in front of our Lord on Judgement Day: what will He say to you?[2]

II. Noon

A. Conversion

Ignatius was born in a Spanish aristocrat family.  To be Spanish then is to be Catholic, and Ignatius was raised Catholic: son of the Church, servant of the Crown.

In 1521, Ignatius’s was tasked to defend the city of Pamplona against the French.  The Spaniards were already losing and the most sensible thing to do was to surrender.  But he would not, and he continued to rally his men, exhorting them to fight, even after a cannonball smashed his leg.  The French admired his courage.  They placed him in a stretcher and brought him home.

In his home Ignatius asked for books on chivalry: kings and knights, honor and courage, love and death.  But there were no books to read except the Bible and the Lives of the Saints.  Reluctantly, he read them.  He read about Love dying on the cross.  He read about courage before fire, rack, and sword. He read about a kingdom that is not of this world.  And his eyes were opened: What would it profit him if he gains the whole world yet suffer the loss of his own soul?  Or what exchange shall he give for his soul?[3] Ignatius got up from his mat and left.  No king shall he now serve except the King of Kings.  No kingdom shall he now aspire for except that of Heaven.

Ignatius went on a pilgrimage and passed by the town of Manressa.  He planned to stay a there few days, but he ended up staying for ten months.  He exchanged his rich clothes for that of a pilgrim and offered his sword to his Lady, the Blessed Virgin, as a pledge of love, devotion, and service.  In a cave he contemplated his sins and confessed them to a priest—day after day, week after week, month after month—not sparing one sin, however small.  His scruples he could hardly get past.

Beside a river, Ignatius had a vision: he saw God laboring in the world.  He then understood that God wanted him also to labor in the world, outside the walls of his cloister.  Where will he go?  To labor in the world requires competence and this can only be acquired by studying.  So Ignatius left his cave and travelled to Europe’s best university: the University of Paris.

B. Jesuits

Ignatius wanted to become a priest.  And to be a priest, he must study Latin.  The University of Paris, however, did not group students according to age but to ability.  So Ignatius, vassal of kings and captain of men, suffered himself to be seated with little lads learning Latin.  He was thirty-five.

In University of Paris Ignatius met two of his future companions: Peter Fabre and Francis Xavier.  Blessed Peter Faber became the Apostle of Germany at the rise of the Protestant Reformation and the eve of Council of Trent, winning many souls back to the Catholic Faith[4].  St. Francis Xavier became the Apostle of the Indies, converting thousands to Christianity in India, Malacca, Moluccas, and Japan[5];.  Faber died in the hands of Ignatius at forty; Xavier, in China’s Shangchuan Island at forty-six.  Both died in their labors.  Ignatius did not become a missionary like his two friends, but he sat in his office as the Jesuit Superior General in Rome, directing his highly-trained legions loyal and obedient the Pope, in the conquest of the world for Christ, for the salvation of souls.

After Ignatius’s death, the Jesuits numbered a thousand; now, four and a half centuries later, about twenty thousand[6]. The first Jesuits worked in hospitals; some preached in public squares. To train future priests, seminaries were built, which grew into universities. Many Jesuits became university professors; some confessors to kings; others organizers of the peasants. Where the need is greatest, there are the Jesuits.

Unlike Dominicans and Franciscans, the Jesuits do not wear a monk’s habit but the garb of diocesan priests: a black cassock, as Ignatius required[7].  The cassock may be tainted with scandal in Ignatius’s time—and even now, at the outbreak of clerical sexual abuse.  But wear it they must.  To wear the cassock is to be a sign of contradiction.  To wear the cassock is to carry a cross.  Where the scandal is greatest, there are the Jesuits.

III. Ngayon

A. Jesuits’s Global Mission

The Jesuit mission is global.  Did not God labored in the world?  Did not Christ commanded his apostles to preach the Gospel throughout the world?[8] As Ignatius said, “Our vocation is to travel through the world and to live in any part of it whatsoever.” [9] Because Ignatius wanted to deal with the universal good, which is always the greater good, the Jesuit Superior General Kolvenbach said that the mission for Ignatius could not be anything but the mission of a universal apostolic body, gifted with global apostolic availability.[10]

In the 35th General Congregation, the second decree is entitled A Fire that Kindles Other Fires: Rediscovering our Charism.[11] The fire here is the fire of the Society’s original inspiration, the fire whose heart is Christ.  Jesuits know who they are by renewing their love for Christ:

There [at La Storta], “placed” with God’s Son and called to serve him as he carries his cross, Ignatius and the first companions respond by offering themselves for the service of faith to the Pope, Christ’s Vicar on earth.  The Son, the one image of God, Christ Jesus, unites them and sends them out to the whole world.  He is the image at the very heart of Jesuit existence today; and it is his image that we wish to communicate to others as best as we can.[12]

Carrying the image of Christ as a banner, the image of the Sacred Heart aflame[13][14], the Jesuits ventured into the remotest corners of the world—Miguel Andrade (1624) crossed the heights of Himalayas in search for Tibet[15]; into the crossroads of ideologies—Miguel Pro (1927) was shot in Mexico as he raised his hands in imitation of Christ, shouting, “Viva Cristo Rey!”[16]; and into the frontiers of science—Christopher Clavius (1612) formulated the Gregorian system of leap years that we still use today.[17]

Today the new context that the Society of Jesus live is marked by “profound changes, acute conflicts, and new possibilities.”[18] In the words of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, as quoted in the 35th General Congregation:

Your Congregation is being held during a period of great social, economic and political change; of conspicuous ethical, cultural and environmental problems, of conflicts of all kinds; yet also of more intense communication between peoples, of new possibilities for knowledge and dialogue, of profound aspirations for peace. These are situations that deeply challenge the Catholic Church and her capacity for proclaiming to our contemporaries the word of hope and salvation.[19][20]

The Church needs the Jesuits.  The Church relies on the Jesuits.  The Church turns to the Jesuits.  And Benedict XVI quoted Paul VI’s 1974 address in the 34th General Congregation[20]:

Wherever in the Church, even in the most difficult and extreme fields, at the crossroads of ideologies, in the social trenches, there has been and there is confrontation between the burning exigencies of man and the perennial message of the Gospel, here also there have been, and there are, Jesuits.

B. Manila Observatory

Let me end my talk with three challenges for the Manila Observatory, as the Jesuit presence here diminish:

    1. Interdisplinarity. We cannot anymore work in isolation—physicists, chemists, biologists, engineers, economists, managers. The present problems in climate, for example, require an interdisciplinary approach.
    2. Solutions. Monitoring is not enough: we can monitor rainfall, pollution, temperature, and sea levels forever. We need solutions. We have to engage the government and other insititutions to craft better policies.
    3. Love. We must cultivate our love for Christ. At the end of our life, the Just Judge will ask us only one question, the same question he asked Peter [21]:“Do you love me more than these?” And to which we hope to reply, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.”


Disclaimer: I transcribed this talk from my notes and my memory of Fr. Villarin’s words. I added some notes, quotes, and references for clarity. –Quirino M. Sugon Jr. email:

About the Author:  Fr. Jose Ramon “Jett” T. Villarin, S.J., is the present president of Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines.  He is an Assistant Professor of the Department of Physics at the Ateneo de Manila University and is a member of the Manila Observatory’s Board of Trustees.   He finished his Ph. D. in Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology and is a member of the American Geophysical Union.


[1] George E. Ganss, The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius: A Translation and Commentary, 2nd Indian Ed. (Gujaratsahitya Prakash, Anand, Gujarat, 1992), p. 32.

[2] Ibid., pp. 77–79.

[3] c.f. Mt 16:26.

[4] Suau, Pierre, “Bl. Peter Faber.” The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 11. (New York, Robert Appleton Company, 1911) 12 Dec. 2008 <>.

[5] Astrain, Antonio, “St. Francis Xavier,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 6 (New York, Robert Appleton Company, 1909). 12 Dec. 2008 <>.

[6] ”Jesuits acknowledge drop in vocations,” Catholic News Agency (10 May 2006). 12 Dec. 2008 <>

[7] James Martin, S.J., “Father General: Out of Habit,” In All Things, a blog of The America Magazine (posted 2008-03-08 19:28:00.0). 12 Dec 2008 <>

[9] Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, “Opening talk of the Father General,” in Loyola 2000: Corresponsible in Service of Christ’s Mission (Press and Information Office, Rome, 22 September 2000). 12 Dec. 2008 <>

[10] Ibid.

[11]“A fire that kindles other fires: Rediscovering our charism,” Decree 2 of the 35th General Congregation (7 March 2008). <>

[12] Ibid., Article 3.

[13] It was during the octave of Corpus Christi, 1675, probably on 16 June, when Jesus said to Sr. Mary Margaret Alacoque, “Behold the Heart that has so loved men…. instead of gratitude I receive from the greater part (of mankind) only ingratitude …..” and asked her for a feast of reparation of the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi, bidding her consult Father de la Colombière, then superior of the small Jesuit house at Paray.  The mission of propagating the new devotion was especially confided to the Society of Jesus. Jean Bainvel. “Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910). 12 Dec. 2008 <>.

[14] “As I express the wish that the 50th anniversary will give rise to an ever more fervent response to love of the Heart of Christ in numerous hearts, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, Most Reverend Father, and to all the Religious of the Society of Jesus, who are still very active in promoting this fundamental devotion.” Letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI on Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Encyclical ”Haurietis Aquas” to the Most Reverend Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus (Vatican, 15 May 2006). 12 Dec. 2008 <>

[15] In 1624, the Portuguese Jesuit Antonio de Andrade, became the first European to cross the Himalayas. China History Forum (posted by Southern Barbarian 9 Jul 2006). 12 Dec. 2008 <>

[16]“Miguel Pro,” Wikipedia. 12 Dec 2008 <>

[17] “Christopher Christopher Clavius, S.J. and his Gregorian calendar,” (Mathematics Department, Fairfield University, Fairfield CT). 12 Dec 2008 <> (broken link)

[18] “A new context for mission,” in Decree 3 of the 35th General Congregation (7 March 2008). See Ref. [11].

[19] Ibid.

[20] Pope Benedict XVI, “Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Fathers of the General Congregation of the Society of Jesus” (Clementine Hall, Thursday, 21 February 2008). 12 Dec 2008 <>

[21] c.f. Jn 21:15–19.

Feast of St. Albert the Great

Today, November 15, is the Feast of St. Albertus Magnus, my patron saint.  Here are some excerpts about him from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Known as Albert the Great; scientist, philosopher, and theologian, born c. 1206; died at Cologne, 15 November 1280. He is called “the Great”, and “Doctor Universalis” (Universal Doctor), in recognition of his extraordinary genius and extensive knowledge, for he was proficient in every branch of learning cultivated in his day, and surpassed all his contemporaries, except perhaps Roger Bacon (1214-94), in the knowledge of nature. Ulrich Engelbert, a contemporary, calls him the wonder and the miracle of his age

The influence exerted by Albert on the scholars of his own day and on those of subsequent ages was naturally great. His fame is due in part to the fact that he was the forerunner, the guide and master of St. Thomas Aquinas, but he was great in his own name, his claim to distinction being recognized by his contemporaries and by posterity. It is remarkable that thisfriar of the Middle Ages, in the midst of his many duties as a religious, as provincial of his order, as bishop and papal legate, as preacher of a crusade, and while making many laborious journeys from Cologne to Paris and Rome, and frequent excursions into different parts of Germany, should have been able to compose a veritable encyclopedia, containing scientific treatises on almost every subject, and displaying an insight into nature and a knowledge of theology which surprised his contemporaries and still excites the admiration of learned men in our own times. He was, in truth, a Doctor Universalis. Of him it in justly be said: Nil tetigit quod non ornavit; and there is no exaggeration in the praises of the modern critic who wrote: “Whether we consider him as a theologian or as a philosopher, Albert was undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary men of his age; I might say, one of the most wonderful men of genius who appeared in past times” (Jourdain, Recherches Critiques).