SAINT ALBERT CHMIELOWSKI (1845-1916), religious brother and founder
Today, the Church honors the life of Saint Albert Chmielowski, whose spirituality was one of the influencing factors which affected and supported the spiritual life and vocation of Father Karol Wojtyla in the 1940’s.
Albert was born into a wealthy and aristocratic family on August 20, 1845 in Igolomia (near Kraków), Poland. He was christened Adam, and was the eldest of four siblings.
He initially studied agriculture in order to manage the family estate, but became involved in politics at an early age. Adam lost a leg fighting in an insurrection against Czar Alexander III at the age of eighteen. After regaining his health and returning to Kraków, he became a popular artist, and his talent in the subject led him to study in Warsaw, Munich, and Paris.
A kind and compassionate person, Adam was always deeply aware of human suffering, and felt called to help those in need. Realizing that God was calling him to a life of service, he returned to Kraków in 1874, determined to dedicate his talents to the glory of God. Instead of continuing his work as an artist, he decided to care for the poor and became a Secular Franciscan.
In 1887, Adam founded the Brothers of the Third Order of Saint Francis, Servants of the Poor, taking for himself the name Albert, and the Order became known as the Albertines or the Gray Brothers because of the habit [religious garment] they wore. Then, in 1891, he founded a community of Albertine Sisters, known as the Gray Sisters.
The Albertines organized food and shelter for the poor and homeless of any age or religion. Brother Albert preached on the great crisis that results from a refusal to see and aid those who suffer in society.
In 1949, Pope St. John Paul II, who was at the time a young Father Karol Wojtyla, wrote a well-received play about Brother Albert called “The Brother of Our God”. Saint John Paul II later said that he found great spiritual support for his own vocation in the life of Brother Albert, stating, “I found in him…[an] example of leaving behind the world of art, literature, and the theater, and in making the radical choice of a vocation to the priesthood.”
Brother Albert died of natural causes in Kraków on Christmas Day, 1916. He was canonized a saint on November 12, 1989 by Pope St. John Paul II at Saint Peter’s Square in Rome.
We commemorate his feastday on June 17.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org and vatican.va/news_services)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for Holy Men ~ ministering to the underprivileged)
“Lord God, You teach us that the Commandments of Heaven are summarized in love of You and love of our neighbor. By following the example of Saint Albert in practicing works of charity, may we be counted among the blessed in Your Kingdom.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”