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The Catholic Defender: Saint Albert Chmielowski

Born in Igolomia near Kraków as the eldest of four children in a wealthy family, he was christened Adam. During the 1864 revolt against Czar Alexander III, Adam’s wounds forced the amputation of his left leg.

He was orphaned at age 8 when his father died and, 10 years later, by the death of his mother.

Chmielowski participated in a battle on 1 October 1863 in which a Russian grenade killed his horse and damaged his leg to the extent that it had to be amputated.

The injured Chmielowski had been carried to a woodman's cabin where Finnish soldiers allied with Russia found him. The captain recognized him since there were persistent rumours that Chmielowski evaded all gunfire and was invulnerable, but told him his leg had to be removed, to which Chmielowski is believed to have said: "Give me a cigar - that will help me pass the time". The operation went ahead, successfully though without anesthesia. He offered his intense suffering to God as he endured the excruciating pain.

In 1874 he became a well-known and popular artist in Kraków and worked as a painter until 1875.

His great talent for painting led to studies in Warsaw, Munich, and Paris. Adam returned to Kraków and became a Secular Franciscan. In 1888, when he founded the Brothers of the Third Order of Saint Francis, Servants to the Poor, he took the name Albert.

While working on an image of Christ, he had perceived a religious vocation and on 24 September 1880 he entered the novitiate of the Jesuits

They worked primarily with the homeless, depending completely on alms while serving the needy regardless of age, religion, or politics. A community of Albertine sisters was established later.

He died at noon on 25 December 1916 - on Christmas - due to stomach cancer in the shelter that he had established. He had received the Anointing of the Sick on the 23 December when his condition began to deteriorate.

Pope John Paul II beatified Albert in 1983, and canonized him six years later. His liturgical feast is celebrated on June 17.

John Paul II later said that he found great spiritual support for his own vocation in the life of the Polish saint whom he saw as an example of leaving behind the world of the arts to make a radical choice in favour of the religious life.

The canonisation process started in 1966 under Pope Paul VI who later declared him Venerable in 1977 upon the confirmation that the late religious had lived a life of heroic virtue. Pope John Paul II - whom Chmielowski's example had influenced to a significant degree - beatified him in 1983 while in Kraków and later canonized him in 1989 in Saint Peter's Square. His liturgical feast is affixed to 17 June and not his death date - as is the norm - due to that date being Christmas.

The beatification miracle was investigated on a diocesan level where it occurred and it later received C.C.S. validation on 27 January 1983. A medical board of experts approved the healing as a miracle on 26 May 1983. Theologians followed up that June with the C.C.S. John Paul II approved the said miracle on 9 June 1983 and beatified Chmielowski while on a visit to Kraków on 22 June 1983.

The canonization miracle was investigated in the diocese of origin from 9 September to 24 November 1987 and this process was given its validation on 26 February 1988 before the medical board met to approve it, several months later, on 23 November 1988.

Theological experts also assented to this miracle on 3 February 1989 as did the C.C.S. on 21 February 1989. Then John Paul II approved it on 24 February 1989, confirming that Chmielowski would be proclaimed as a saint in due course. John Paul II canonized Chmielowski on 12 November 1989 in Saint Peter's Square.

in recognition of his holiness, he has also been called the "Brother of Our Lord", "Brother of Our God", and "Our God's Brother".

Reflecting on his own priestly vocation, Pope John Paul II wrote in 1996 that Brother Albert had played a role in its formation “because I found in him a real spiritual support and example in leaving behind the world of art, literature, and the theater, and in making the radical choice of a vocation to the priesthood” (Gift and Mystery: On the Fiftieth Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination). As a young priest, Karol Wojtyla repaid his debt of gratitude by writing The Brother of Our God, a play about Brother Albert’s life.

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