St. Raphael Kalinowski, OCD
born: September 1, 1835
professed: November 27, 1881
ordained: January 15, 1882
died: Novmeber 15, 1907
feastday: November 19
Centenary of the death of St. Raphael Kalinowski, OCD
Letter from Fr General Luis Aróstegui to the Provinces of Krakow and Warsaw on the First Centenary of the death of St Raphael Kalinowski (1907-2007)
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Teresian Carmel,
This present year, 2007, is the one hundredth anniversary of the death of St Raphael of St Joseph, (Józef Kalinowski), and you are celebrating it in a fruitful manner by different cultural and spiritual events. I would like to unite myself to your celebrations by means of this letter to you, the contents of which will be made known to the whole Order.
Raphael Kalinowski, a Carmelite in heart and mind, was born at Vilna on 1st September 1835 and returned to the house of the God of life on 15th November 1907 at Wadowice. He was inscribed in the list of saints by the then Holy Father, John Paul II, on 17th November 1991 during the Eucharist celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. His sanctity, confirmed by the Church, is the guarantee that the Saint found and realized in full the mission entrusted to him by Divine Providence. For us, this signifies that, while taking into account perhaps errors and obstacles, we can and ought to have the faith that it is possible for us to reach the goal that the Lord has kindly marked out for us and renews.
The saints are accessible to us at every moment without limits of time and place. But anniversary commemorations take on special importance when the community turns its gaze on the saint and allows itself to be inspired and queried by him, welcoming the questions that apply to one’s own identity and mission.
The experience and teaching of Christ Jesus, concerning the dignity of human persons and their eternal destiny to life in the communion of the Holy Trinity, represents for the Church, for all of us, the enduring basis underlying the changeable events of humanity. It is a life that realizes itself in the mission to transform and improve the world, both physical and spiritual, so that it might become an inviting place for the growth of humanity in communion.
"We cannot doubt that God, in his mercy, has assigned to everyone a duty to be accomplished in this world. If you want to become a saint, to become perfect, carry out faithfully your duties” - wrote St Raphael Kalinowski.
During his hard life, he did not have freely at his disposition ready replies to the questions that assailed him, on the value of the suffering caused by his deportation to Siberia and separation from those he loved, for the profound crisis of faith that excluded him from the life of the Church for a certain period of his life, on the excruciating human fates he experienced in exile and elsewhere, on the future of his own nation. Far from surrendering to passivity, he sought light in intimacy and events and remained listening for signs and voices.
This humble attitude of listening allowed him to glimpse the challenges that stood out in his life, in which he gradually found help from God as light and energy for good, as well as the deep interior thrust to do good to many people, to help those who had lost their way, to comfort the desperate, to reawaken dignity by means of education, to share what little he had.
St Raphael Kalinowski was a born educator. He was instinctively so in the workplace and in deportation, and afterwards as a private tutor, then in the Minor Seminary at Wadowice, which he founded. This attitude of his, together with a spontaneous welcoming quality and the empathy he possessed in accompanying the human and spiritual growth of people, we see deeply developing itself in his devotion to the sacrament of penance and spiritual direction. He felt himself the custodian of divine mercy and therefore received penitents with affection, gentleness and zeal.
In the events of his life, he experienced in many ways the division among Christians and the sad lot of those who were discriminated against and persecuted. He felt this division as “the greatest enemy of our society”. He entered Carmel to serve Christ and to work for unity of the Church, an intention that was his constant companion right to the end. God in his goodness "will still permit me, by his grace, to work through the Carmel of Our Lady for unity of the Church”. “Sacred unity! Holy union! At present this same word fills the heart with pain, but at the same time it set light to the flame of hope”.
I wish to underline with pleasure that he had at heart the restoration of the Polish province of the Order, which had been so flourishing in the past, and which also was the origin of the Lithuanian province. It was therefore necessary to encourage new foundations. But a true and deep restoration meant for him nothing less than regaining the memory of the past. For this reason he set out to search for and save these documents and to publish the chronicles of some of the monasteries and convents. In the same way he saw the need for Carmel and its spirituality to take root and above all to draw near to the spiritual needs of people, to present the events and the more famous figures of the Polish Carmel. Modestly, he is a representative of the Order’s tradition of printing. Along the same lines, among many other initiatives, he organized the Secular Order and confraternities for the laity.
It is well-known that, as a mature young man, he was a patriot of his homeland that had been wiped from the list of nations. He was against the shedding of blood, because he was convinced that his country “had need of sweat rather than the shedding of blood; already too much had been poured out”. He actively collaborated in the insurrection, with the intention of saving human life. For this he was arrested, condemned to capital punishment which was mitigated to ten years of forced labor in Siberia. I make mention of these well-known facts to record simply his human and evangelical attitude, and the fact he never renounced his convictions on what was just regarding the rights of people, a conviction that included yearning for the union of the people, and above all, yearning for communion with God in prayer and in eternity.
His was a dramatic life: for the external events in which he took part, and none the less for the interior journey of the Saint. His activity, manifold and zealous, his commitment to others, faithful and caring right to the end, found its source and mysterious unity in the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation, in filial devotion to Mary and continuously in silent prayer.
To fulfil one’s own mission in life, there is a need to listen to the voice, born of a Christian conscience, in the midst of the social, cultural and religious situations of our own concrete life. Then, for certain, mission cannot be separated from suffering, from the capacity of spiritual sacrifice. This capacity is the measure of the authenticity of our sentiments and our proposals. In every case, this should be a suffering that is assimilated and made peaceful in prayer.
I nourish the hope that, in our world of rapid and deep change, and of dissension and drama, the awareness and prayerful meditation of the message of St Raphael Kalinowski would represent for us a stimulus for accepting and verifying, with truth and joy, our call to the tradition of Carmel. His courage in searching, his perseverance, his ability to relate with comprehension and compassion, his attentiveness to surrounding needs, the natural union of contemplation and action are some of the characteristics of what he hands down to us.
Rome, 20th July 2007
Very Rev. Fr. Luis Aróstegui Gamboa, OCD - Superior General