09 May 2011

Blessed Niccolò Albergati

Born in 1375 in Bologna, Italy; it appeared that Niccolò Albergati was going to have a career in Law. He received his Law degrees in Bologna but Divine Providence had other plans for Niccolò. While visiting the Carthusian Charterhouse in Bologna, a storm prevented him from leaving. Because of his delayed departure he decided to sit in on the hour of Matins. This liturgical hour along with Lauds and Vespers are the three hours from the Divine Office which the Carthusians pray in community, except on Sundays and Solemnities when all the hours, except Prime, are prayed in community. Otherwise, all other hours normally are prayed by the monks in the solitude of their cells.

The soon to be a lawyer, Niccolò Albergati, however, became absorbed by the monks' singing of Matins and he was so impressed that he asked if he could stay and enter the community. He made his profession and would be ordained into the priesthood. He was an excellent monk and in 1407 was elected as Prior after twelve years of residing with the Bologna community.

Ten years later came the news that no Carthusian likely wants to hear. Bologna was in need of a bishop and Niccolò was elected by the city magistrates. He did, however, turn it down stating that he would only accept the episcopate if the Reverend Father of the Carthusian Order told him to do so. The Reverend Father of the Order at that time was Dom John Griffenberg who consulted the community at Bologna which felt that Dom Niccolò would be a worthy bishop. Thus he became the Bishop of Bologna but never abandoned his monastic lifestyle even though he was no longer in the cloister. He continued to wear his habit along with the hair shirt and remained faithful to the fasts and abstinences of the Carthusian Order.

In his spiritual life, he was said to have an exemplary interior life and would spend long nights in prayer. The Carthusian Order refers to Blessed Niccolò as a true son of Saint Bruno.

His life as bishop would eventually expand beyond Bologna as two popes would require his service. In 1426 he was made a cardinal. His titular Church was Santa Croce in Rome.

His life in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church was certainly more visible than most Carthusians would ever experience but Blessed Niccolò never lost his simplicity and humility.

A very trying time in his life would have Niccolò fleeing Bologna and taking refuge with the Carthusians in Florence. The people of Bologna rebelled against him and it was something they would eventually repent of which at the insistence of Pope Eugene IV, returned Niccolò to his duties in the diocese of Bologna.

He died on May 9, 1443 in Siena while accompanying the pope on diplomatic business.

Certainly what we can learn from Blessed Niccolò Albergati is the need and the will to remain faithful to our spiritual life and our commitment of service to the Lord while still having other cares and duties in the world.

Blessed Niccolò Albergati, pray for us!