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St. Raphael Kalinowski, O.C.D. (1835-1907)

Welcome to INSPIRING LIVES, a series on lives of Saints in the catholic church from around the world. In this series we bring you those saints who are canonized by Pope John Paul II. Saints are holy people who lived ordinary lives in extraordinary ways. Each saint the Church honors responded to God's invitation to use his or her unique gifts. These saints are examples of great holiness and virtue, and they invite us to follow their paths to holiness. Their unique stories inspire us to be rooted in our faith. God calls each one of us to be a saint. As Pope Francis þ wrote on 21 November 2013, ‘to be saints is not a privilege of the few, but a vocation for everyone’. God calls each one of us to be a saint.
Today we listen to the heroic life Saint Raphael Kalinowski, O.C.D. He was canonized on 17th November 1991 at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
Listen: RealAudioMP3
St. Raphael Kalinowski was the son of a prominent professor of mathematics, Andrew Kalinowski, and Josepha Polonska Kalinowski. He was born on 1st September 1835, in Vilna, Russian Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania), and at baptism received the name Joseph. Having received his earliest education at home, at nine he entered the local College of the Nobility, where his father taught, graduating at 17 with a gold medal to his credit. Raised in devout Catholicism, Joseph even at that point felt called to the priesthood. On his father's advice, however, he chose to go to a university first.
Finding a university was no easy task for a young Pole in those days. When Russia took over Poland and Lithuania in 1795, she had closed all independent Polish universities, so the only universities available were Russian. Young Joseph picked the Institute of Agronomy in Hory Horki, Russia, where he studied zoology, chemistry, agriculture and apiculture (raising bees). During the years 1853-1857, he continued his studies at the Academy of Military Engineering at St Petersburg, obtaining his degree in Engineering, and the rank of Lieutenant. Immediately afterwards he was named Lecturer in Mathematics at the same Academy. In 1859, as a lieutenant in the Russian Engineering Corps, he was sent to supervise the designing and building of a railway line between Kursk, Kiev and Odessa. Work on the railroad project was postponed in 1860. Lieut. Joseph was reassigned to the fortress at Brest-Litovsk.
In 1862 he was promoted to captain on the general staff. His three years at the fortress were disturbing, however. He felt the heavy hand of Russia, especially toward Poles and the Catholic Church in Poland. Nevertheless, he started a Catholic Sunday School, teaching there himself, and he limited his own expenditures so as to be able to assist the poor of the area.
In 1863 the Polish insurrection against their Russian oppressors broke out. Kalinowski was in a difficult position. He knew the revolt was doomed to failure, but he approved its purpose, and he believed that if he joined the rising he might be able to limit somehow the damage that would certainly occur. He therefore resigned from the Russian army, cast his lot with the insurgents, and was named their minister of war for the Vilna region, on the understanding that he would not have to pronounce a death sentence on anybody. During the next ten months of the rebellion, he spent his time doing what he could to save lives.
On 24th March 1864, he was arrested. Three months later they condemned him to death, but since he was well-known and popular, and might even be called a martyr if executed, they commuted his sentence to ten years of hard labor. On June 29, 1864, he set out on the nine-month trek on foot to Siberia, one of a long line of exiles bound for what he described as ‘a vast cemetery for tens of thousands of victims’.
Joseph was in Siberia for nine years. These were days of profound religious change for him. He became a spiritual leader, looked up to by all the fellow prisoners for strength and consolation. Becoming good friends with a priest whose parish was all Siberia, with him he prepared the children of the prisoners for their first Communion. Meanwhile he was himself preparing for what he now realized was his vocation, to enter a monastery.
On his release in 1873, he first went home, and then sought to carry out his resolution to become a religious. But since he was forbidden to settle in Lithuania, and since most Polish monasteries had been suppressed, he went to Paris. Repatriated in 1874, he accepted the post of tutor to the Venerable Servant of God, Augusto Czartoryski, His influence on the young prince was such, that Augusto discovered his true vocation as priest and religious. He was received into the Salesians by their founder, Saint John Bosco, in 1887.
After serving as a tutor for three years, Joseph Kalinowski finally went to join the Carmelites at Graz in Austria. Having made his novitiate there and received the religious name Raphael of St. Joseph, he did his theological studies in Hungary. Then he went to Czerna near Krakow, the only Carmelite house then in Poland, and was ordained a priest on 15 January 1882.
On a firm foundation of constant prayer and self-denial, he embraced an apostolate designed to liberate his oppressed fellow-citizens spiritually while they struggled for political and religious liberation. He thus became a strong influence in the revival of the Polish Carmelites. Among his apostolic programs, he laid great stress on the sacrament of penance. In fact, he spent so much time hearing confessions that he came to be called a ‘martyr of the confessional’. Eastern-rite Christians were numerous in his homeland. Father Raphael was not only attentive to the Ukrainian Catholics but also, in an ecumenical spirit, to the local Orthodox.
Overcome by fatigue and suffering, and held in great respect by all the people, he gave his soul to God, 15th November 1907, at Wadowice in the monastery founded by himself. He was buried in the monastery cemetery, at Czerna, near Krakow.
During his life and after death, he enjoyed a remarkable fame for sanctity, even on the part of the most noble and illustrious of people. The Ordinary Process for his eventual beatification, was set in motion in the Curia of Krakow during the years 1934-1938, and later taken to Rome where in 1943 was issued the Decree concerning his writings. His cause was introduced in 1952. From 1953-1956 the Apostolic Process was carried out, and the Congregation proceeded to the discussion on his virtues.
Pope John Paul II, on the 11 October 1980, promulgated the Decree on the heroicity of his virtues. After the approval of a miraculous healing, the Holy Father beatified Father Raphael Kalinowski at Krakow on 22nd June 1983.
As the fame of his miracles was increasing, the Curia of Krakow in 1989, set in motion the Canonical Process to investigate the extraordinary healing of a young child. The discussions of the doctors, theologians and cardinals, were brought to a happy conclusion. On 10 July 1990, the Holy Father John Paul II, approved the miracle for the canonization.
Following the Consistory of 26 November 1990, Pope John Paul II canonized Blessed Raphael Kalinowski on Sunday, 17 November 1991. On that occasion, the Pope, himself a native of Wadowice, presented this incarnation of Polish patriotism and Catholicism as a model to all Christians in the universal Church.
You have been listening to INSPIRING LIVES, a weekly series based on the lives of Catholic Saints from around the world, brought to you by Vatican Radio’s English Service for South Asia. By P.J. Joseph SJ


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