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Raphael Kalinowski

(1835—1907)


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Carmelite friar (1835–1907).

Born at Vilnuis (now in Lithuania) the son of a Polish professor of mathematics, Raphael went to study zoology, chemistry, agriculture, and apiculture perforce in a Russian University, first at Hori Horki, then at St Petersburg in the Academy of Military Engineering. In 1857 he graduated and the next year was employed in planning the railway line from Kiev to Odessa. This was postponed indefinitely in 1860. During these years he rediscovered religion: his transfer to Brest-Litovsk enabled him to found a Catholic Sunday school, in which he taught the children.

A Polish uprising against the Russians took place in 1863, which he joined for patriotic reasons even though it seemed doomed to failure. Resigning from the army, he was appointed ‘minster of war’ for Vilna. Arrested by the Russians in 1864, he was condemned to death, commuted to ten years hard labour in Siberia, the journey to which, on foot, took nine months and resulted in very many deaths. He was released in 1873; again he taught children and adults with the help of a Polish priest, but he realized that his future would be in a monastery. The long years of deprivation had profoundly changed him: his appearance, his brother said, spoke of his recollection and continual union with God.

Three years as tutor to a Polish family in Paris followed, but in 1877 he joined the Carmelites at Graz (Austria). He studied philosophy and theology at Gyor (Hungary) and was ordained priest at Czerna near Cracow, then the only Polish Carmelite house still open, in 1882. His talents were soon recognized and he was appointed prior in Czerna, then in Wadowice, and vicar-provincial for the Carmelite nuns. He wished to revive the Carmelite Order in Poland through a fresh emphasis on prayer and spiritual direction. Long before most people he also harboured ecumenical hopes and plans. In 1907 he died at Wadowice; a cult arose at once because so many were convinced of his holiness. He was beatified in 1983 during Pope John Paul's visit to Poland, and canonized by him in 1991. Feast: 15 November.

B.L.S. xi, 128–30; Bibl. SS., vii. 1038; see also Monk Matthew O.D.C.C., Saint from the Salt Mines (1986).

Subjects: Christianity.


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