S’Mary’s World: The Albertines

The Albertine Order of St. Mary’s-without-the-Arm grew by necessity from the logic of colonial survival.

From the Day of Landing, 1 December of year 1 YOE, it was clear to Prefect Consolmagno Higgins and his followers on the Our Lady of Loreto that the new colony of S’Mary’s World would be unable to maintain the technological level planned for and expected by the framers of the Articles of Colonization. Much of the Loreto‘s materiel and many of her passengers were killed in the catastrophe that drove her off her route; and in any event, the planners were assuming the arrival of four more colony ships at five year intervals, followed by a sporadic stream of trading ships. The plans were designed to allow for the loss of up to one ship en route, but made no provision for a single ship on its own. The colonists had a certain degree of materiel, tools that would make it possible for them to survive for at least a few years; but given time the tools would wear out, and break down, and there was no immediate prospect for replacing them. The high technology of Old Earth was not sustainable on S’Mary’s World given the small population and complete lack of infrastructure. It was necessary to gear down, to adopt simpler low-tech ways, if the colony was to be viable.

But Prefect Higgins preferred to plan for success. The population was small, but would grow. Local resources would be discovered. Earth technology could be regained, if knowledge of it was not lost. From the beginning, then, Prefect Higgins gave first priority to the preservation of the Loreto‘s Archives, and to the technology required to access them, and he appointed Fr. Dennis Petroushka, OSB, to oversee this effort. Around him Fr. Petroushka gathered a cadre of like-minded men and women, to build a safe repository for the Archives, to curate their contents, and to disseminate knowledge from them, as and when the colony was ready to make use of it.

Many of the members of this cadre were tertiaries of various religious orders, including many third-order Dominicans and Benedictine oblates. They were blessed with a strong sense of calling, and the group soon adopted St. Albert the Great as their patron due to his diligent pursuit of encyclopedic knowledge. In a short time the Prefecture formally recognized them as the Order of St. Albert the Great, and they became known to the other colonists as the Albertines.

The Church has always produced such foundations in time of need, and the nature of these foundations has always been determined by the needs of the time. In the opening years of the Times of Exile the need was for a larger population to work the land. Every settlement needed to be self-sufficient. Moreover, there were few priests or other consecrated religious; virtually all of the colonists were married couples. Thus, the Albertines were what has since come to be known as a Lay Communal Order, an order of married couples and families living a communal life. The Master of the Order was and is a priest, however, and as the colony grew and prospered the Albertines saw an increasing number of vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated celibate life.

The result was a community of families and singles living a kind of Benedictine life of prayer and work according to a modified Benedictine rule. The work consisted of building, farming, study (for some must keep the knowledge alive), curation (to determine what was needed soonest by the colony at large), manufacture of paper and ink, and copying of books for use by other colonists. Over time the scholarly work (and all interaction with the Archives proper, understood as the Order’s digital assets from the Loreto) fell more and more to the celibate singles, most of whom were children of married Albertines, while the families saw to the life and upkeep of the order.

By dint of hard work and dedication, the Albertines prospered throughout the Hard Times. Sons and daughters of members of the order frequently joined the order themselves; and some, educated by the community, went forth to be teachers or pastors in the new settlements spreading outward from the first settlement, Loreto. As a result, Albertine science and spirituality became the intellectual backbone of S’Mary’s World right up to the Wars of Irreligion.

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photo credit: Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts via photopin cc

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