Reprinted from Magnificat (www.magnificat.com)
Credible Witness: Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete
By Heather King
“What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people…capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life.” Porta Fidei 15
Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete (1941—2014), physicist, spiritual advisor, and theologian known for his wit and warmth, authored the essay collection God at the Ritz: Attraction to Infinity (2002).
Albacete was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, one of three sons. After graduating from a Catholic high school in Puerto Rico, he majored in physics and aerospace science at the Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C.
He worked for seven years at a Maryland weapons facility, then broke off a wedding engagement and began studying for the priesthood at Theological College, the national seminary of CUA. He was ordained in 1973 at the age of thirty-two, became an assistant to the Archbishop of Washington, and was assigned three years later to be a guide during a visit by then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla.
The two became friends, bonding over their love for theater and literature. After Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II in 1978, Albacete also became a friend and confidant to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI.
Yet he seemed uninterested in his personal advancement. Notoriously rumpled, perpetually late, a negligent returner of phone calls and emails, Monsignor loved good food, drink, and conversation, and had both a magnificent capacity for friendship and a glorious sense of humor.
But Monsignor Albacete was anything but superficial. Celibacy, he came to understand, “is the radical, outward expression of the poverty of the human heart, the poverty that makes true love possible by preventing it from corrupting into possession or manipulation,”
Of the victims of 9/11, he observed: “Their humanity. That was their offense. That was the object of their hatred. This was hatred of the human.”
In God at the Ritz, he considered religion, politics, and sex. Those who suffer, he insisted, “are the ones who truly transform the world. They are the true revolutionaries on behalf of human dignity.”
He appeared on public television, debated atheist journalist Christopher Hitchens, and helped establish a New York branch of the lay Catholic organization Communion and Liberation, founded by Monsignor Luigi Giussani, now a Servant of God.
Monsignor Albacete died at seventy-three of complications of Parkinson’s disease.
Two years earlier, he had observed in a talk: “Every Mass…is like the sign at the house of Mary in Nazareth that has the well-known proclamation of the Gospel, Verbum caro factum est, ‘the Word became flesh,’ but in that place there’s one little word added to it that’s different—hic, namely ‘here.’ ‘Here the Word became flesh.’ ‘Here.’”