Saint Rafał Kalinowski of St. Joseph (1835 – 1907)

kalinauskasRafał Kalinowski, O.C.D. (Polish: Józef Kalinowski, Lithuanian: Rapolas Kalinauskas) (1 September 1835 – 15 November 1907) was a Polish Discalced Carmelite friar born as Józef Kalinowski inside the Russian partition of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in the city of Vilnius (Pl: Wilno; Ru: Вильнюс). He was a teacher, engineer, prisoner of war, royal tutor, and priest, who founded many monasteries around Poland after the suppression by the Russians. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1991, the first man to be so recognized in the order of the Discalced Carmelites since Saint John of the Cross.


He was born as Józef to a noble “szlachta” family in the city of Vilnius (Wilno). At the time he was born, the area was known as a Russian partition, though it had formerly been part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He was the second son of Andrew Kalinowski (1805–1878), an assistant superintendent professor of mathematics at the local Institute for Nobles (Instytut Szlachecki). His mother, Josephine Połońska, died a few months after he was born, leaving him and his older brother Victor without a mother. His father then married Josephine’s sister (a practice that was not uncommon in that time), Sophie Połońska, and had three more children: Charles, Emily, and Gabriel. After Sophie died in 1845, Andrew married again, this time to the 17-year-old Sophie Puttkamer, daughter of Maryła Wereszczak (famous at the time for being written about by Adam Mickiewicz), who became mother to all of Andrew’s existing children and had four more of her own: Mary, Alexander, Monica, and George.

From the age of 8, Kalinowski attended the Institute for Nobles at Vilna, and graduated with honors in 1850. He next attended the School of Agriculture (Instytut Agronomiczny) at Hory-Horki, near Orsha.

Military career

The Russians strictly limited opportunities for further education, so in 1853 he enlisted in the Imperial Russian Army and entered the Nicholayev Engineering Academy (Mikołajewska Szkoła Inżynierii). The Army promoted him to Second Lieutenant in 1856. In 1857 he worked as an associate professor of mathematics, and from 1858-1860, he worked as an engineer who helped design the Odessa-Kiev-Kursk railway.

In 1862 the Imperial Russian Army promoted him to Captain and stationed him in Brest, Belarus, but he still sympathized with the Poles. He consequently resigned from the Imperial Russian Army in 1863 to serve as minister of war for the January Uprising, a Polish insurrection, in the Vilnius region. He determined never to sentence anyone to death nor to execute any prisoner. When the Poles rose against the Russians in 1863, Raphael joined them and was soon taken prisoner. Very few survived the forced march to slave labour in Siberia, but Raphael was sustained by his faith and became a spiritual leader to the prisoners. He was released ten years later.


On 24 March 1864, Russian authorities arrested him and in June ordered capital punishment by firing squad. His family intervened, and the Russians feared that their Polish subjects would revere him as a political martyr; therefore, they commuted the sentence to 10 years in katorga, the Siberian labor camp system. They forced him to trek overland to the salt mines of Usolye-Sibirskoye near Irkutsk, Siberia, a journey that took nine months.

Three years after arriving in Usolye, he moved to Irkutsk. In 1871/1872 he did meteorology research for the Siberian subdivision of the Russian Geographical Society. He also participated in research expedition of Benedykt Dybowski to Kultuk, on the shore of Lake Baikal. Authorities released him from Siberia in 1873 but exiled him from Lithuania; he relocated to Paris, France.

Royal tutor

He returned to Warsaw in 1874, and became a tutor to 16-year-old Prince August Czartoryski. August was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1876, and Kalinowski accompanied him to various health destinations in France, Switzerland, Italy, and Poland. Kalinowski was a major influence on the young man (known as “Gucio”), who later became a priest and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2004. Later Raphael decides to travel to the city of Brest where he begins a Sunday school at the fortress in Brest-Litovsk where he was a captain, he became increasingly aware of the state persecution of the church, and of his native Poles.

Carmelite priest

In 1877 Kalinowski joined the Carmel of Linz, and took the name “Brother Raphael of St. Joseph.” The name “of St. Joseph” had nothing to do with his birthname—it was common for many Carmelites to list their name as “of St. Joseph”, after the “Convent of St. Joseph” founded by Teresa of Avila, co-founder of the Discalced Carmelite Order.

Kalinowski was ordained as priest at Czerna in 1882 by Bishop Albin Dunajewski, and in 1883 he became Prior of the convent at Czerna.

He founded multiple Catholic organizations around Poland and the Ukraine, most prominent of which was a monastery in Wadowice, Poland, where he was also Prior. He founded a Carmelite Sisters convent in Przemyśl in 1884, and Lvov in 1888.

From 1892-1907 he worked to document the life and work of Mother Theresa Marchocka, a 17th century Discalced Carmelite, to assist with her beatification.

He died in Wadowice of tuberculosis in 1907. Fourteen years later, Karol Wojtyła, later known as Pope John Paul II, was born in the same town.

He was a noted spiritual director of both Catholic and Russian Orthodox faithful.


Kalinowski’s remains were originally kept in the convent cemetery, but this proved unmanageable because of the large number of pilgrims who came visiting. So many of them took handfuls of dirt from the grave that the nuns had to keep replacing the earth and plants at the cemetery. His body was later moved to a tomb, but the pilgrims went there instead, often scratching with their hands at the plaster, just to have some relic to keep with them. His remains were then moved to a chapel in Czerna, where they remain.

Father Rafał was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1983 in Kraków, in front of a crowd of over two million people. On 17 November 1991, he was canonized when, in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope John Paul II declared his boyhood hero a Saint. Rafał was the first friar to have been canonized in the Order of the Discalced Carmelites since co-founder Saint John of the Cross (1542–1591).

His feast day is 19 November.

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