Thursday, November 19, 2015


Raphael of St. Joseph Kalinowski, O.C.D.  (September 1, 1835 – November 15, 1907) was a Polish Discalced Carmelite friar inside the Russian partition of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in the city of Vilnius. He was a teacher, engineer, prisoner of war, royal tutor, and priest, who founded many Carmelite monasteries around Poland after their suppression by the Russians.

Kalinowski was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1991, the first man to be so recognized in my former community of Discalced Carmelites since Saint John of the Cross. Today, November 19, is his feast day.

For what it's worth, Pope (now himself Saint) John Paul II grew up in the town where Raphael Kalinowski died and was buried. The young Karol Wojtyła used to visit the tomb and once approached the friars about entering the Order. He was told to look elsewhere, and we all know the rest of the story. Nonetheless, he remained a great devotee of the Carmelites, wrote his doctoral dissertation on St. John of the Cross and canonized and beatified a number of holy friars and nuns of the Order that had refused him entry..

Because of Raphael Kalinowski's opposition to the Russian partition -- that is what led to his stint as a prisoner of war --, he was considered a Polish hero, although there are those who say he was really a Lithuanian hero. Whether this all had anything to do with the canonization, I leave to your own reflection.

A slightly personal sidelight on this story is that Fr. Raphael Kitz (of St. Joseph) was once my student master. When he was a student in Rome in the late-fifties/early-sixties, he was given a rosary that had belonged to the then-not-yet-canonized Polish friar who bore the same name in religion. Like me, Raphael Kitz was a convert to Catholicism, and his family was Lutheran. When his father died, Raphael, in a fit of filial devotion or something, put the Kalinowski rosary into the coffin with his father. We used to tease Raphael that if people prayed at his father's grave and miracles were worked by Kalinowski because his rosary was there, people might think that the miracles were the result of the prayers of the Lutheran Mr. Kitz, and this would lead to confusion among the faithful.

Maybe you have to be Catholic to find that story amusing.

1 comment:

Ur-spo said...

I found it amusing.