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"The real happiness in this valley of tears is doing God's Will in everything. Only a person who seeks happiness in this way - avoiding all worry about the difficulties, sorrows and sufferings with which one may be afflicted (or even about life itself, should God require that sacrifice of us) - will find that pleasure.”

INTRODUCTION This year 2007, the Carmelite Order (in a special way – Poland) celebrates the centenary of the death of Saint Raphael Kalinowski, a Polish Discalced Carmelite Friar. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1983, in Krakow, in front of a crowd of over two million people. In 1991, Pope John Paul declared his boyhood hero a Saint. Raphael was the first friar to have been sainted in the Order of the Discalced Carmelites, since co-founder Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591).

More than just a star in the firmament of the Carmelite Saints, St. Raphael Kalinowski’s life is very relevant to our modern times. His life before joining the order as well as his life in the Garden of Carmel are like beacon lights that could guide both the lay person with a restless yearning to find meaning in life as well as the Carmelite friar or nun eager to offer more of himself or herself to the Lord through a life of prayer and penance totally dedicated to the Church and God’s People.

HIS BIRTH and FAMILY St Raphael was born Joseph Kalinowski at Vilna in present day Lithuania on September 1, 1835, the second son of deeply religious parents, Andrew and Josephine. His mother died the same year that he was born. Three years later his father married his mother’s sister of whom were born Charles, Emily and Gabriel. The Kalinowskis prayed fervently for the union of the Eastern Church with Rome. This union and the conversion of Russia were constant petitions of Joseph throughout his life and he would invite any one ready to join him in praying for these petitions. The sanctuary of Our Lady of Mercy that still stands over the gate of the city wall at Vilna attracts many devotees. Joseph and his family too were ardent devotees of this Lady known under the Polish title of Our Lady of Ostra Brama (Gate of Defense). He always carried this picture with him all through his adventurous life. 

Youth and Education As a young boy Joseph inherited his father’s brilliance and excelled academically at the Institute of Nobles in Vilna. Here he was also grounded in fervent Polish patriotism. While still in school the persecution against the Catholic Church, the Poles and Lithuanians began. Thus for his higher education he had to go to a Russian University.

MILITARY ENGINEER Joseph enrolled at the Military School of Engineering in 1853 where three years later, he finished with the rank of Lieutenant Engineer. These were sad years for him. Being an expatriate he had to endure heavy military discipline and ruthlessness from the upperclassmen and the Russians. He faced this with his natural mildness and tolerance for both his fellow students and his professors. Joseph continued to do very well. He kept getting promoted from Lt. Engineer to Engineer Superintendent and later in 1860 Captain of the General Staff. He was also named Assistant of Mathematics at the Academy itself.

This period in Joseph’s life marked the growth of an intense spiritual life. He was drawn to an apostolate to the poor, especially the young, and he opened a Sunday school for poor youth. His longing for the union of the Eastern Church with Rome grew stronger. He must have understood here what it meant to be a true Christian for later he said, "A Religious, when being faithful to his vows, is only a Christian standing closest to Christ."

PATRIOT Three years later in 1863, the Polish insurgency erupted against Russia. A fervent patriot though he was his keen intellect saw the fatality of the situation as is evidenced in this remark against the revolt: "Poland needs to work, not to shed blood.” He added, "It was too obvious to the mind's eye what the struggle of the people without arms would be against the force of the Russian government which possessed an enormous and strong army.”

Joseph resigned his rank and commissions and left for Warsaw. Despite his desire to retire and stay out of politics he was asked to be Minister of the war against Russia for the region of Vilna. He foresaw the damaging results of this option and yet accepted the offer out of love for his country on the condition that he would never have to pronounce a death sentence against anyone. Joseph left for Vilna and established the headquarters of the rebellion in his own home, unknown to his own relatives. His inner life grew even amid these formidable circumstances. Joseph visited the Vilna churches, especially that of Our Lady of Ostra Brama, every day. This served a dual purpose. He fulfilled his duty as Minister of War by encouraging, counseling and above all, trying to prevent the worst for his fellow countrymen, and he grew closer to JESUS and Our Lady. This yearning to be more and more a true Christian – someone “standing closest to Christ” kept growing in him.

imprisonment As he had predicted, a year later here’s what is recorded in his Memoirs: "At midnight, between the 12th and 13th of March, 1864, a voice awakened me; it was the head of the city police… 'I'm sorry, I have to arrest you.' I bowed without saying a word. The Lord God in His goodness, did not deprive me of tranquility of mind.”

He was then locked up in the Dominican prison. For Joseph, this ‘tranquility of mind attended him all through the years of his imprisonment and exile – proof of a soul at rest in God. There is no record that Joseph showed any outward feelings during his imprisonment. He organized his life on the model of the religious. He notes in his Memoirs:

"I made myself an horarium for the whole day; I got up at 5:00 in the morning. My first thought was that of prayer, then meditation, and when I obtained books of meditation I had great consolation. I could hear Mass every day, but from a distance, although distinctly enough. The window of my cell opened on the courtyard which was in the form of a quadrangle, and at one side of which was the Church of the Holy Spirit, where Mass was sung early in the morning. I opened a little wicket of the window and thus could enjoy Holy Mass from beginning to end."

This is still the record of Joseph while out in the world. One cannot help feeling that he was being powerfully and yet secretly guided by the Holy Spirit.

EXILE After three months of house arrest, Joseph was condemned to death on June 2, 1864. However, for many reasons, especially the high moral esteem in which even the Russians held him, the Governor of Vilna substituted his death sentence to exile, so he would not become a martyr to the people. Yet intentionally Joseph had accepted the sentence even when he first took up the post as director of the insurrection. His death penalty was changed to ten years of forced labor in Siberia. Before leaving, his close friends gave him a copy of the Gospels, the "Imitation of Christ" and a Crucifix. He also met his spiritual director, Father Antoniewicz, with whom he corresponded throughout his exile. The date of his deportation was July 29, 1864. He describes it in his Memoirs as follows:

"It looked like a funeral…! Among us there were persons of all states and conditions of life: proprietors, doctors, contractors, workers, peasants, married women, young girls; it was like a flood that poured its water toward the far East. No priest accompanied us. We took a place in the railway cars, where we were piled one on top of the other. When the train left, moving alongside the heights that overlooked the station, flowers were dropped down on it, as at the cemetery on the tombs of the dead." One does get an insight into how ominous this experience may have been for Joseph.

The troop train traveled through St. Petersberg and Moscow to Nizni-Novgorod where the prisoners boarded boats on the Volga River for the clearing center of Perm. At Perm, Joseph discovered his brother Gabriel among the deportees. In September, they crossed the Ural Mountains, either on foot or in a kibitka (a cart drawn by horses). The Siberian winter was beginning. Many died, exhausted and frozen. They were buried by the roadside or in the snow. Joseph's Memoirs describe this exodus:

"....The city of Perm was a gathering point from where the condemned were dispersed eastward. Perm and the immense plains below the Urals and behind the Urals became a limitless cemetery of thousands of victims thrown out of the Motherland... In the prison a terrible typhus raged; without the aid of proper medication, without the salvation of the sacraments, piled up in the hospitals, our companions departed from the world." Once again his memoirs show us the heart of this young man of about 29 years of age, an accomplished civil engineer who loved his people and who loved God; who knew of how the sacraments could have been the salvation that his people were deprived of. The survivors marched for ten months, finally arriving at Ussole, near Lake Bahkel. Joseph describes the last stretch of the way thus: "The weather was rainy, the road muddy, full of holes. A good part of the way we went on foot, going along the bank and on the ice, which was already thawing and breaking into pieces; starved, weary and frozen, we arrived at the barracks of the Ussole prison." Joseph’s years in exile testify to his strength of soul.

The prisoners lived on an islet in one huge barrack where everything was done in common. The Siberian winter reached 30o-45o below zero. There was much illness. All through his years of exile, Joseph served his fellow prisoners as well as he could. Through his charity and especially by his prayer life, he became dear to them and was thought to be holy to such an extent that it is recorded as a noteworthy detail that the prisoners even added to their prayers, "Through the prayers of Joseph Kalinowski, deliver us, O Lord!"

Four years later, in July, 1868, Joseph was transferred to Irkutsk where he remained until 1874. Apparently, difficulties were not as great here, and he was apparently able to continue his scientific studies as well as to begin to study theology.

TUTOR After nine and a half years of exile, Joseph was repatriated. However, he was forbidden to settle in Lithuania. On April 10, 1874, he saw his family in Vilna and then left them for the last time. Joseph then went to Warsaw, living near his brother Gabriel. From his window he could see the church and convent of the Discalced Carmelite Friars. That the Lord was drawing Joseph more and more to Himself is strikingly clear and this detail of his window overlooking the Convent seems like another intervention of Divine Providence.

A friend in his exile, Alessandro Oskierko, offered Joseph an advantaged position of tutor to the young prince, Augustus Czartoryski. He discovered that his pupil possessed great interior richness but was of fragile health. As well as teacher, Joseph was friend, spiritual director and nurse to "Gucio," as young Augustus was called in Paris. During this time Joseph met the Discalced Carmelite, Father Augustine Mary of the Blessed Sacrament (Hermann Cohen, the celebrated Jewish pianist and convert who began the night adoration in honour of the Blessed Sacrament). Joseph admired his great musical talent but, above all, his profound spirituality which left a mark on him.

Throughout this time, Joseph's thirst for God grew. He felt as if he did not belong in his surroundings. Finally, his last tie with Gucio was broken, as the young prince was due to be introduced into society and above all, entrusted to the care of a priest. Gucio also was feeling the call to spiritual perfection. At a last retreat among the mountains of Davos in Switzerland, both teacher and pupil were touched by the Lord. The life of St Aloysius Gonzaga that Joseph gave Augustus opened the way for him to a more simple union with God. Meanwhile, Joseph had been thoroughly reading the works of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. It was after this retreat at Davos, Switzerland that Joseph resolutely decided to enter Carmel. Joseph and Augustus parted in July of 1877. After the premature death of Augustus in 1893, having been a novice with the Salesians, the Cause of his Beatification was initiated by the Church. Though it cannot be stated categorically but there is the possibility that the life of his tutor and friend did have a very salutary influence on the young prince. 

CARMELITE AND PRIEST Soon after the retreat, Joseph left for the Carmel of Linz. In a letter to an aunt of Augustus, Joseph said he was urged on by one desire - to do penance. On July 15, 1877 he left for the convent of Graz. Four years later on November 27, 1881 Joseph made his solemn profession before the Father General of the Order. He had chosen the name ‘Raphael of St. Joseph.’ He was then transferred to Poland to the only Carmelite convent of friars the Order had succeeded in keeping alive in the ancient hermitage of Czerna. There, he received the various Sacred Orders. He was ordained a priest by the Archbishop of Cracow. Soon, he was appointed Vice-Master of Novices and, in 1883, Prior of the convent of Czerna which office he occupied almost continually, alternating with that of Provincial Councilor.

Due to Father Raphael's zeal, the Polish Carmel began to thrive. Monasteries were founded at Premislia in 1884 and at Leopoli in 1888 in the Ukraine. The Monastery of Premislia was a center for devotion to the Holy Infant of Prague. The offices he held speak of a life that exemplifies. And as it is said only a great love for God brings forth true zeal. The zeal with which St Raphael lived his Carmelite life speaks amply of this truth. He continually reminded his religious: "In Carmel our principal duty is to converse with God in all our actions." He stressed continual communion with God.

In 1899, Father Raphael was named Visitator and Vicar Provincial of all of these monasteries. He also made a great contribution to the Order by his research of the convents' archives which had been dispersed during the suppressions. He found many documents on the history of individual Polish Carmelite convents; with the help of the Carmelite nuns, he published the Carmelite Chronicles of the monasteries and convents of Vilna, Warsaw, Leopoli and Cracow.

It was Father Raphael who arranged for the first translation into Polish of ‘The Story of a Soul,’ the autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a testament to his patriotism as well as his love for the little way. He wrote, "I keep my eyes fixed on eternity and in this way I obtain constancy...freedom...and a merry heart." He also wrote the biography of his friend from his Paris days, the musically gifted Hermann Cohen, Father Augustine of the Blessed Sacrament.

True to his rich Polish heritage and tradition, St. Raphael was an ardent devotee of Our Lady. He wrote, "For Carmelite friars and nuns, honouring the Most Holy Virgin is of prime importance. And we love her if we endeavour to imitate her virtues, especially humility and recollection in prayer. Our gaze ought to be constantly turned to her, our affections directed to her, ever keeping in mind the remembrance of her benefits and trying always to be faithful to her.” True to this devotion, he wrote several booklets on Our Lady: Mary Always and in Everything, Cracow 1901; and The Cult of the Mother of God in the Polish Carmel, Leopoli-Warsaw 1905.

THE LAST YEARS Like our holy founders Father Raphael used all his gifts in the service of God. Thus he made use of his professional skills as an engineer to build a junior college or vocational seminary for young men which he built in Wadowice. He began most humbly and with great difficulties, but vocations soon began to flow. Seven years after completing his first building, Father Raphael built a larger college in Wadowice and a beautiful church of St. Joseph.

Father Raphael spent his last years at this seminary where he dedicated himself to the education and formation of young men to religious life. He became noted as confessor and spiritual director. He kept praying for the conversion of Russia and union of the Eastern and Western Churches, offering his suffering and mortifications for this and inviting others to imitate him. In 1904, by order of his superiors, he began to write his Memoirs. In 1906, he was reelected prior of Wadowice. But this was to be his last year. On November 15, 1907 the day the Carmelite Order celebrates All Souls Day of their Order, Our Lord called him home. His reputation of sanctity that began during his exile in Siberia now grew and continued to spread. Pilgrims came to pray at his tomb. 14 years later, Karol Wojtyła, Pope John Paul II, the one who would canonize Father Raphael was born in the same town.

His parting message to his fellow Carmelites and to every Christian would be, "I would like to find (in your daily schedule) at least a few moments spent in doing good to others out of love for God. These few moments, almost unnoticeably used, send forth something like rays of light and comfort. They unite us with people and with God by a pure feeling mixed with tender sweetness." And the words he wrote to his sister as recorded by John Paul II in his beatification address: 'God gave Himself completely for us, and we must sacrifice ourselves to God.'

CONCLUSION Holiness, in fact, consists in love. It is based on the commandment of love....Holiness, therefore, is a particular likeness to Christ. A likeness through love. We abide in Christ through love, just as He abides in his Father through love. Holiness is likeness to Christ that touches the mystery of his union with the Father in the Holy Spirit; his union with the Father through love....From his earliest years. Father Raphael understood this truth: that love consists of giving one's soul; that in love one has to give one's self; in fact, as Christ said to the Apostles, one must 'give one's life.’” These are the words of Pope John Paul II on June 22, 1983, during his trip to Poland, while performing the solemn rite of Beatification.

This Biography has been prepared by the sisters of the Cloistered Carmel in Baroda, Gujarat - India



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