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Catholic Heroes… Blessed Edmund Bojanowski

July 25, 2017 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

There are many lay saints throughout the history of the Church from all different walks of life. There is the peasant girl, St. Maria Goretti, patron of young women. St. Thomas More, patron of lawyers, comes to mind when thinking of putting God before government. There are the many lay martyrs, especially in the first few centuries of the Church as well as during World War II.
Another holy man the Church honors is not only a lay person, but perhaps the only lay person who founded several religious orders.
In Grabonog, Poland, there lived a pious and wealthy family of landowners, Walenty Bojanowski and Teresa Uminska and their son Edmund who was born on November 14, 1814. They had substantial land as farmers in the village located about 275 miles west of Warsaw. More important, they were devout Catholics.
Little Edmund was a sickly child. At the age of four he nearly died. However, his parents prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary after which Edmund came back to life. Since that time, the young man, Edmund, dedicated his life to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Despite his recovery, Edmund remained weak and frail. This did not curtail his devotions and his love of the poor and his pursuit of literature. He spent many hours in eucharistic adoration, from which he received his gift of perseverance and mercy. He believed strongly in praying the rosary and even supported the Living Rosary that had been approved by the Pope in 1827. Furthermore, he meditated daily on Sacred Scripture, went to Confession weekly, and took annual retreats in the spirit of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Because of his frail health, his parents hired tutors to educate him in the home. Although he had contracted tuberculosis, at the age of 20 he left for the University of Wroclaw, about 67 miles south of Grabonog. He pursued the study of literature and language arts both at Wroclaw and then later at a university in Berlin.
Along with his innate love of literature, the political events of Europe of the early 19th century influenced Edmund’s actions as a Catholic layman. Napoleon’s sweep of Europe and particularly Poland led to a patriotic nationalism throughout the continent. In Poland this took the form not only of a political nationalism but also of a love of cultural traditions in both the cities and the rural areas. The modern nationalism also stressed the value and dignity of native languages and their cultures, disdaining the past of Napoleonic occupation.
This was the era when Polish literature flourished as well as the era of Polish music, marked by Frederic Chopin. Edmund also participated in this resurgence. He spent many hours translating old stories from both Polish and Serbian sources. He also wrote some poetry and published a book about the history of Serbia. He gleaned many of the stories from the farmers and other people he visited in the countryside.
He developed such a love for children, the poor, sick, and needy, that he spent his entire fortune on building orphanages, organizing libraries, and providing education for them. Remember he did all of this while still suffering from ill health.
In 1848 and 1849 during the cholera epidemic, he did not spare himself. For days he would tend the sick and suffering, supplying what medicines and care that he had. To assist him in building up people not only physically but also morally and culturally, he began several foundations: Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate, Sisters Handmaids of the Holy and Immaculate Virgin, Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, and the Sisters Handmaids of the Mother of God, Virgin Immaculate Conception.
The first of these was the House of Mercy. He then established other houses in Poznan, Przemysl, Wroclaw, and Debica. In 1867 he granted permission to Frances Margaret Taylor to open a religious house in England. There are now over 3,000 women continuing his work around the world. Back in Poland he was the guiding force of the St. Vincent de Paul Society which supplied so much assistance for the poor of Poland.
At the age of 50, Edmund applied to the seminary. Although he had applied to the seminary when he was a young man, his ill health prevented him from achieving his goal at that time. In his final years, he was accepted at the seminary in Gorka Duchowna, the Holy Spirit of Gniezno.
Sadly, while he was in the seminary, his health continued to decline. As he neared death, he left a last instruction to his sisters: He wished them the blessing of simplicity and communal love. They recommend the following prayer for graces through the intercession of Blessed Edmund Bojanowski:
“God, Heavenly Father, giver and source of all goodness, I implore You through the intercession of Blessed Edmund, who loved You with all his heart, placed bountiful trust in You and refused You nothing in life, to grant me the graces (here mention your petition). Confident of the intercession of the Servant of the Lord, I beseech You, that Your Servant Edmund, guardian of children and the poor and the sick becomes for the People of God, a saintly intercessor in all their needs. Amen.”
On June 13, 1999 Pope St. John Paul II made another trip to Poland. This time he would beatify the 108 Polish martyrs killed during World War II as well as Edmund Bojanowski. After remarking on the depth of Edmund’s spiritual life — a grace of God — he told how Edmund persevered beyond the humanly possible with great prudence and generosity.
Edmund had an uncommon perception of people’s needs and a burning desire that everyone should have a share in our redemption won by Christ on the cross. It seemed that Edmund anticipated the great role that the laity would play in the future Church as he undertook much of the work encouraged in the documents of the Second Vatican Council.
Pope St. John Paul II praised Edmund and the work he did for man, the homeland, and the Church.
Dear Blessed Edmund Bojanowski, what a great mentor you were to your sister servants! May we learn by your example to put aside our own sufferings and work for the greater good of mankind by serving the poorest of the poor, not only by attending to their physical needs but also by uplifting them spiritually and morally. Amen.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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