Under the care of the Discalced Carmelite Friars
No matter where he stayed in Siberia – in places like Smolensk or Irkutz or Usole, Raphael Kalinowski tried to live as near as possible to a church. For some time he even lived in a presbytery – this was during his stay in Irkutz – so as to be close to the Blessed Sacrament. He gladly spent whatever time could in Eucharistic adoration. Here again we have a distinct echo of his fellow Carmelite , Hermann Cohen who became known as an `Apostle of the Eucharist.` That Kalinowski should want to do this was only consistent with his usual practice since his wholehearted conversion to Christ , after about ten years of self-confessed indifference to his faith.
In the letter to his family from exile Kalinowski wrote: `I live close to the chapel so I can have my daily spiritual nourishment and I am troubled when I think of losing it by being transferred from here , as therein lies my strength . `
On another occasion he wrote: ` ..In my dreams I see the Eucharist and I prostrate myself before it. When I can, I choose something from sacred doctrine or a theme from our Savior`s passion to meditate on. Strengthened by Spiritual Communion I rise up , ready to accept everything with equal calmness, united with the Lord.` Here we have yet another echo of Hermann Cohen.It was always his wish to be next door to the chapel and even as a novice he was given this privilege.Kalinowski had the joy of attending mass in the city of Irkutz , a staging place on the way to exile , but he was tearful and apprehensive about his future circumstances. He begged the Lord after Holy Communion to help him. Soon after this he felt that his prayer was answered; an agent approached him and told him to get into a carriage with the Governor General Szalasnikof. Presently Szalasnikof addressed him, `I have a letter from your family.What can I do for you? Where would you like to be sent?` On the spur of the moment he mentioned the iron works at Piotrowsk of which he had heard good reports, but the Governor said: `I will give you better advice. Go to Usole where you will find good company. Had he been able to look into the future he would have been amazed to know that in future years the Teresian Carmelites , both men and women would make foundations in Usole. Kalinowski had prepared the way for them there.
Kalinowski agreed to go along with this. While he was heartbroken to leave his friends, especially Bruno Korsun who had been his soul mate all the way from Wilno. Still he saw in this development an answer to his prayer.
`If Eucharistic life expresses itself in fulfilling the greatest commandment, which is love of God and of neighbour, then this love finds its source in the sacrament of the Eucharist, which is commonly called the sacrament of love ` (Blessed John Paul 11)
People who have based their lives on the Eucharist know the truth of these words of the late Pope John Paul. There is no saint in Church who has not lived by the Eucharist and this is verified in the life of St. Raphael Kalinowski .Like Hermann Cohen he was one of those people who derived constant strength from Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.
We know from the details of Raphael’s life , that he went through a phase of indifference to Christian practice in his youth, which was made worse by the absence of religious values which he experienced when studying in a strange environment away from his family at the university in St. Petersburg, at that time the flashy capital of Russia. Yet, he changed completely when he experienced God’s merciful love during the Sacrament of Reconciliation , just as Charles de Foulcauld did at an earlier period in France. Joseph as he then was, then began to grow spiritually through the Eucharist which he tried to attend every day since his conversion.
In addition he frequented the sacraments on a regular basis. Each morning, after his conversion and before his arrest, he made his way through the streets of Wilno to attend mass , usually in St. Elisabeth’s Church of the Benedictine Sisters ,but occasionally in the church of the Bonifrat Fathers. Again like Hermann Cohen in France some years before ,while still a layperson he became something of a herald of devotion to the Eucharist and anticipated future developments by decades. Indeed it was only as late as the beginning of the 20th century that Pope St. Pius X promulgated frequent Communion for all .In this he was said to have been influenced by St. Therese of Lisieux.
He believed that frequent Communion would make it easier for Gucio, an aristocratic pupil so absent-minded by nature and temperament, and not helped by chronic illness, to reach a state of concentration so necessary for study. By means of “the school of Eucharist” Kalinowski even led August Czartoryski to the Salesian Order , and today his pupil is a canonized saint.
In one of his letters he wrote: `Since the time I believed in Jesus Christ present in Holy Sacrament, all my being has concentrated on the High Altar ; even in Czestochowa I just glanced at various objects there.`
In a letter from Davos in Switzerland he confessed: `My only entertainment is to relax in God’s presence and replenish my heart with the treasure left us by the Savior on our altars.`
It is worth emphasising that as a layperson, thirty year old Joseph Kalinowski wrote to his family from Siberia : `God entirely devoted himself to us. How can we not devote ourselves entirely to God?`. He fully understood that the Lord is madly in love with us , as he showed even to death on the Cross; then by his presence with us in Eucharist, and again by identifying with all human beings , especially the suffering ones. He experienced Christ’s love in every Eucharist.
Kalinowski`s response to God was complete and his love expressed itself through his life as a Carmelite priest.. He lived for the Eucharist, dispensing it joyfully every day.
As a friar he could live under the same roof as Christ present in the Eucharist. One of the servers at his mass in the Carmelite convent chapel in Lobzowska in Kracow wrote about him later: `When he approached the altar his face looked recollected and during mass all his concentration seemed to be focused on the Eucharist alone. People liked looking at him and many of them could not take their eyes off him. `
One of his friends , Louise Mlocka wrote : ` During the Eucharist said by Father Raphael you could not help being moved just by seeing his concentration and devotion`. In this matter he took his example from St. John of the Cross, Doctor of Church, of whom similar observations were reported.
Eye witnesses of his life called during the canonical process, unanimously witnessed to Raphael’s great love for the Eucharist. They attested that he celebrated the Eucharist with great fervor and devotion; he sometimes seemed to be carried away, his appearance really transformed .Certainly he also paid special attention. to correct liturgical practice .Veronika Smoczynska, a Carmelite sister and a directee , considered St. Raphael’s Eucharistic life to be `the basis of his whole life and work . You should have . seen him at the altar celebrating the Eucharist . What concentration, what attention – he seemed to contemplate the mystery he was celebrating at that moment. What respect, what love in distributing Holy Communion. Deep faith seemed to reveal the secrets of God to him. He obviously came to the altar prepared to receive the grace of his fidelity.`
We know that Raphael prepared to celebrate the Eucharist by reading the traditional prayers in the sacristy. There was also his prayer of adoration during the day and during the night, as well as the usual morning meditation laid down by the Carmelite Constitutions. Then after mass he would recite the thanksgiving prayers. He never conversed with people after the Eucharist until he had made his thanksgiving in the sacristy. In his opinion the fruit of Eucharist depended not only on its frequent reception but also on proper preparation for receiving it. In his letters and during conferences he recommended saying thanksgiving prayers after receiving Holy Communion and at that time he commended himself and his most important concerns to God because – as he wrote : ` when will our prayer be more fervent and deserve to be heard by God if not after receiving the body of our Lord Jesus Christ? `
He spoke to the Carmelite nuns about Pope St. Pius X`s decree recommending frequent Holy Communion: `I remind you that it is not the frequency of Holy Communion alone that is good for us but by preparing ourselves for it , by trying to lessen our faults and by equipping ourselves with the flowers of virtue and attending lovingly to the needs of others .`
He expressed his Eucharistic teaching not only because he was obliged to do so by the fact that he was a priest, whether from the pulpit or in confessional , but also in letters to his family , sharing his convictions with his relatives and closest friends.
By way of conclusion these are the main points of his teaching on the Eucharist. In the Eucharist Jesus unites himself with us, enlivens us with his grace, strengthens us with the Bread of Life and wishes us to imitate him. There are three conditions for a worthy Holy Communion:
1.One must value it as much as the saints valued this great gift of God.
2. Approach the Eucharist in such a way that Holy Communion properly received , forms the goal of one’s life; all the energies of the person should be dedicated to Jesus alone and to His glory. (Jesus must live in us so that all our actions do not come from us but from Him. His presence in our souls should produce the fruits of supernatural virtues.)
3. Use the grace received in the Eucharist and don’t waste it , but allow it bear to fruit in us. We receive the Lord in order to have the strength to carry on the fight. People are subject to weakness so they need the Eucharist to provide the necessary strength. This food from heaven gives us power and strength, satisfies our hunger and thirst, and makes us reach out courageously to the Lord for his presence and grace which are there for us.
This was his teaching and he followed it up by actions not just words only, as he would have said himself so often.
One who observed him made this point; `What he said about Holy Communion, he practised himself. He valued the gift of the Eucharist, and saw it as the way to be sanctified
Appreciating the value of the Eucharist as he did, living it day by day, we ought imitate him in our understanding and love of the Eucharist. Is the Eucharist the source of life, of love, of forgiveness and of true joy for us? Certainly we will not be able to express entirely what the Eucharist is and how to experience it. But the saints who are witnesses of faith , and St. Raphael Kalinowski in particular , can help bring us closer to what they lived through , prayed through and experienced.
Fr. Tadgh Tierney ocd.