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Catholic Heroes… St. Raphael Kalinowski

November 22, 2018 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

There are many terms we use in our language which are clichés. We hear people say that somebody “kicked the bucket,” meaning that he has died, or “I’ll send you to outer Mongolia,” meaning that they will ship you so far away no one will find you.
Fr. Kalinowski not only went to a place just north of “outer Mongolia,” but he was forced to walk there as a prisoner of the Russians.
Andrew Kalinowski, the assistant superintendent professor of mathematics, and his wife, Josephine Polonska, welcomed their second son into the world on September 1, 1835 in the city of Vilna, the capital of modern-day Lithuania. At his Baptism they gave him the name Joseph. His mother died shortly after his birth so, as was common at that time, Andrew married his wife’s sister Sophie, who then had three more children.
Sophie and Andrew were married only ten years before Sophie also died and Andrew married again. By his third wife, Sophie Puttkamer — who was only 17 at the time of the marriage — he had four more children. His third wife then cared for all of these children.
At the age of eight, Joseph was sent to the recently opened Institute for Nobles in Vilna, where his father was a professor and oversaw much of his son’s education. Joseph received the highest honors for his academics at the institute.
Beginning in 1851 Joseph then attended the School of Agriculture at Hory-Horki for two years. Because the Russians strictly controlled all the opportunities for higher education, Joseph then joined the Russian army, facilitating his acceptance into the Nicholayev Engineering Academy. The army quickly promoted him to second lieutenant in 1856.
The following year he served as an associate professor of mathematics. From 1858-1860 he worked on designing the Odessa-Kiev-Kursk railway. In 1862, he was still serving in the Imperial Russian Army when he was promoted to captain. They sent him to Belarus, even though he sympathized with the Poles who were being oppressed by the Russians.
After being a Russian soldier for nearly six years, Joseph resigned his commission in 1863. He did this so that he could return to Poland where he accepted the post of minister of war for the January Uprising. This uprising began on January 22, 1863 because the young Poles resented being conscripted into the Imperial Russian Army. The rebels were greatly outnumbered, and thus were soon captured, with the protagonists being either executed or sentenced to hard labor in Siberia.
Since Joseph had formerly been a captain in the Russian army his crime was all the more serious for organizing the rebellion. The judge sentenced him to death, but his father’s influence managed to commute the sentence to serving ten years of forced labor in Siberia. The Russians also feared that because of Joseph’s popularity, he might be more dangerous dead than alive, as the people would honor him as a martyr for their cause.
Joseph and the other rebels had to walk to their destination in Siberia. Over rough terrain, through the mountains and bitter cold, the prisoners trudged for over 6,200 kilometers to Sibirskoye near Irkutsk, Siberia. Joseph was one of the few who survived this death march, which took nine months.
Throughout the journey and the following years in the labor camp, Joseph sustained himself and his fellow prisoners with the devout life instilled in him by his father and stepmothers. He encouraged the men with his prayer, serenity, and patience. His unusual stamina and great love for his fellow prisoners provided the men with something to emulate as well as something to inspire them to look beyond their present sufferings.
After completing his ten-year sentence, Joseph left Irkutsk in 1873, finally making his way back the 6,200 kilometers to Warsaw. He soon found employment tutoring the 16-year-old Prince Czartoryski. When the young man contracted tuberculosis two years later, Joseph took the young man around Poland and all over Europe to find a cure. For a few years the two traveled to France, Switzerland, and Italy where they met John Bosco.
Joseph’s holiness assisted the prince in his journey of faith. Eventually, John Bosco accepted Gucio, as they came to call the prince, into the Salesians in 1887. (The prince was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in 2004.)
In the meantime, Joseph returned to Vilna, and opened a Sunday school. Once again, he experienced the Russian oppression of the Poles, especially in the state’s persecution of the Catholic Church.
In 1877, Joseph entered the Carmelite priory in Linz, Austria. Here the Carmelites gave him the name of Brother Raphael of St. Joseph — the name of Joseph was one given to men in honor of the first convent founded by St. Teresa of Avila.
He spent the next five years studying theology and was ordained on January 15, 1882. Raphael had traveled halfway around the world on foot, and he had traveled around Europe. He accomplished much already, but there was even more he would do.
Within a year he had become the prior of the monastery at Czerna near Krakow. As a Carmelite priest, Raphael continued to excel at his vocation. He founded a monastery near Przemysl in 1884 and another in Lvov in 1888. Furthermore, he established many other Catholic foundations throughout Poland and Ukraine, including the well-known monastery in Wadowice, Poland.
Many sought Fr. Raphael. His superiors trusted him to carry out his numerous responsibilities with great perception. The lay faithful sought him for his help in reforming their lives and growing in holiness through the Sacrament of Confession.
Eventually, Fr. Kalinowski also contracted tuberculosis. He bequeathed his mission to his Carmelite brothers and sisters at this time. He then returned to the monastery in Wadowice that he had founded and died of the disease on November 17, 1907.
Although he had been buried in the Wadowice cemetery, the pilgrims who came to his grave caused so much destruction that his remains were transferred several times until he is now buried at a chapel in Czerna.
Fr. Kalinowski was beatified in 1983 in Krakow by his fellow countryman, Pope St. John Paul II, who also canonized him on November 17, 1991 in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. His feast day is November 19.
Dear St. Raphael Kalinowski, how you loved with your whole heart and all your being! You sustained your fellowman through harrowing experiences of suffering and persecution, never losing your faith in God. Help us by your compassionate intercession to obtain the graces of patience and perseverance as we learn to love not only those dear to us, but also our enemies. 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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