Back in October 2007, I traveled to Lithuania to spend a week with my relatives.  My cousins Liliana, Aidas, and Vitas showed me a side of Lithuania I never would have seen on my own.

One day, while walking through the capital city of Vilnius, Liliana brought me to Vilnius University, the oldest university in the Baltic States and Liliana’s alma mater.  Within the walls of the university stood St. John’s Church (Šv. Jonų Bažnyčia).

St. John's Church in Vilnius

St. John’s Church in Vilnius

SOURCE:  St. John’s Church in Vilnius (Vilnius, Lithuania); photographed by Stephen J. Danko on 21 October 2007.

Saint John’s Church in Vilnius is the place where Saint Rafał Kalinowski was baptized.  Born on 01 September 1835, he was baptized on 09 September 1835 with the name Józef, the second child of the Polish nobles Andrzej (Jędrzej) Kalinowski and Józefa Połońska (m. 1832).  Józef’s brother Wiktor (b. 1833) had been born in Vilnius two years earlier.

Birth and Baptismal Record of Józef Kalinowski - 1835

Birth and Baptismal Record of Józef Kalinowski – 1835

SOURCE: Šv. Jonų Bažnyčia (Vilnius, Wilno Gubernia, Russian Empire), “Vilniaus Šv. Jonų RKB gimimo metrikų knyga [Church Registry Books of St. John’s Church, Vilnius],” page 104, entry 226, Józef Kalinowski, 09 September 1835; digital images, ePaveldas ( : accessed 19 November 2011).

Young Józef’s mother died within a few days of his birth.  Józef’s father married Wiktoria Połońska (m. 1838), the sister of his deceased wife Józefa.  Wiktoria gave birth to three children:  Emilia (b. 1840), Karol (b. 1841), and Gabriel (b. 1845).  When Józef was nine years old, his stepmother Wiktoria died.  Józef’s father married again, this time to Zofia Puttkamer (m. 1848).  (Zofia was the daughter of Maria Wereszczak, the first great love of famed Polish/Lithuanian poet Adam Mickiewicz).  Andrzej and Zofia had four children:  Maria (b. 1848), Aleksander (b. 1851), Monika (b. 1851), and Jerzy (b. 1859).

At the time Józef was born, Vilnius was part of the Wilno Gubernia of the Russian Empire.  He attended university in St. Petersburg and, after graduation, Józef was appointed a lieutenant in the corps of engineers in Russia.  His resigned his commission with the Russian military in 1863 and joined the insurgents against the Russian government in the January Uprising.  After the failed uprising, Józef was condemned to death, a sentence that was commuted to ten years of hard labor in Siberia.

After his release from Siberia, Józef joined the Carmelite Order in Graz, Austria where he took the religious name Rafał (Raphael).  Brother Rafał traveled to Györ, Hungary to complete his studies and was ordained to the priesthood in Czerna, Poland where he was appointed prior.  Finally, Rafał was appointed prior and vicar provincial for the Discalced Carmelite nuns in Wadowice, Poland.

Saint Rafał Kalinowski - 1897

Saint Rafał Kalinowski -1897

SOURCE:  Saint Rafał Kalinowski ( : accessed 19 November 2011) citing Praskiewicz, Szczepan T. 1998. Saint Raphael Kalinowski: an introduction to his life and spirituality. Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications.

Prayer was the source and guiding principle of Rafał’s life and he worked to instill this philosophy in the Carmelite Order.  Others were drawn to Rafał because of the authenticity of his prayer.

Rafał died in Wadowice on 15 November 1907 and was buried in the convent cemetery.  However, large numbers of pilgrims came to visit his grave, carrying away handfuls of soil.  His remains were moved to a tomb but even that solution did not deter the pilgrims who scratched at the tomb, leaving with bits of plaster.  Finally, his remains were moved to a chapel in Czerna, Poland where they are today.

Rafał Kalinowski was beatified on 23 June 1983 and canonized on 17 November 1991 by Pope John Paul II.  That Pope John Paul II would beatify and canonize Rafał Kalinowski is quite fitting.  Eighteen years after Rafał Kalinowski died in Wadowice, Karol Wojtyła, the future Pope John Paul II, was born in the same village.

Saint Rafał Kalinowski’s feast is celbrated on November 19.