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St. Raphael of St. Joseph Kalinowski

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A man described as a “living prayer” by those who knew him, Saint Raphael was born Joseph Kalinowski on September 1, 1835, of a noble Polish family in Vilnius, in modern-day Lithuania. His mother having died only two months after he was born, Joseph became very close to his stepmother, Victoria, who was a deeply religious woman and helped him return to his faith after he had lost it during his adolescence. A bright young man, he became a military engineer and worked on important construction projects in Poland. He lived a charitable and prayerful life while he was a busy young adult, although he was not yet as devout a Christian as he would later become. His life started to change in 1863, when Poland began its insurrection against Russian rule. At first opposed to this insurrection, affirming that there was no need to shed blood to obtain freedom, he later decided, while in Warsaw, to participate, on the condition that his position wouldn’t involve condemning anyone to death. It was during this involvement that he resolved to dedicate his life to the service of God.

In 1865, after being arrested for his participation in the insurrection, Joseph was sentenced to ten years of forced labour in the salt mines of Siberia, a sentence that was later changed to exile. In Siberia, he underwent physical and moral sufferings, which purified his spirit and prepared him for the apostolate he would one day carry out. All those in exile with him were amazed at the virtue he displayed, especially his patience, his readiness to assist those around him, even to the point of depriving himself of necessities in order to ease the sufferings of others. He was also admired for his deep prayer life and exceptional devotion to Our Lady. Even at times of extreme cold, he never skipped his daily meditation. Those around him had such faith in his prayers that they even included this petition when reciting the litany of the Saints: “Through the prayers of Kalinowski, deliver us, O Lord!” When his sentence was completed, Joseph returned to Warsaw, and there he became the tutor of Prince August Czartoryski. Joseph took great care to form the soul of this young man, and his efforts paid off, since Prince August would later become a Salesian, and is now a Blessed.

On July 15, 1877, Joseph entered the Discalced Carmelite Order at Linz, Austria. He couldn’t enter in Poland because the only Polish monastery, Czerna, was part of the Austrian province. He took the name Brother Raphael of St. Joseph. He made his solemn profession on November 27, 1881, and was ordained to the priesthood on January 15, 1882. After his ordination, he became vice-master of novices, and the following year was elected prior of the convent of Czerna, an office he kept for almost the entire remainder of his life. He also served remarkably well in other important positions such as provincial councilor, confessor, and director of the Discalced Carmelite nuns in Krakow, Poland.

Through his fervour and pastoral efforts, Father Raphael renewed and spread the Carmelite Order and the Teresian spirit throughout Poland, becoming a true missionary for this part of the world. This renewal included the Carmelite nuns, friars, and the Third Order, all of which flourished under his care. He wanted the renewal to have a solid basis in the things that sustained him in his own spiritual life: prayer, silence, and recollection. He showed great zeal for ecumenism, and a fervent desire for the unity of all Christians. On November 15, 1907, Father Raphael died of tuberculosis in Wadowice, Poland.

The feast day St. Rapahel of St. Joseph Kalinowski is celebrated by the Carmelite Order on November 19.