|Saint Albert Chmielowski, C.F.A.P.U.|
"Our God's Brother"
|Founder of the Albertine Brothers and Sisters|
|Born||20 August 1845
Igołomia, Congress Poland, Russian Empire
|Died||25 December 1916
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Beatified||22 June 1983, Krakow, Poland by Pope John Paul II|
|Canonized||12 November 1989, Vatican City by Pope John Paul II|
Albert Chmielowski, C.F.A.P.U. (1845–1916) was a Polish Religious Brother and founder of the Albertine Brothers and Sisters. He is honored as a saint of the Catholic Church. Albert is known in Polish as Brat Albert (English: Brother Albert); in recognition of his holiness, he is often called "Our God's Brother".
He was born Adam Hilary Bernard Chmielowski in Igołomia, on the outskirts of Krakow, Poland, on 20 August 1845, to a wealthy aristocratic family, one of the four children of Adelbert Chmielowski and his wife, Josephine Borzyslawska. At an early age, however, he and his siblings lost their parents and were raised by relatives. When he was of age, he initially studied agriculture at the Polytechnical Institute at Puławy, to prepare himself for managing the family estate. Becoming involved in politics, Chmielowski lost a leg at the age of 18 while taking part in the Polish nationalist Uprising of 1863.
As a result of the severe response of the Czarist authorities to this insurrection, Chmielowski had to leave Poland. He settled in Ghent, Belgium, where he began to study engineering. During this period, he discovered that he had also a talent for painting, which he began to develop. For this he even traveled to Paris and Munich, in order to further his training in art.
He was finally able to return to his homeland in 1874, where he became a well-known and popular artist in Krakow. With his strong political convictions inspiring his interest in the human condition, and a gentle and compassionate spirit, Chmielowski became aware of the suffering of the poor of the city. He felt compelled to help those in need, serving in the homeless shelters of the city. He also devoted his artistic talents to this awareness, painting one of his best known works, the Ecce Homo, depicting the thorn-crowned Jesus. After years of reflection, Chmielowski decided to abandon his career, to live among the poor and needy and to accept a beggar's life and lifestyle.
On 25 August 1887, Chmielowski joined the Third Order of St. Francis on the feast day of their patron saint, Saint Louis, King of France. He was given the gray habit of the Order, at which time he began to call himself Brother Albert. He took up residence in the public shelter where he had been serving. One year later, he professed religious vows and founded the Brothers of the Third Order of Saint Francis, Servants of the Poor, known in honor of their founder as the Albertine Brothers. In 1891, together with the Blessed Bernardina, C.S.A.P.U. (born Maria Jablonska), he founded a parallel women's congregation. The Albertine Brothers and Sisters organized food and shelter for the poor and homeless.
Brother Albert believed that the great calamity of our time is that so many refuse to see and relieve the suffering of others. The so-called "haves" live away from the "have-nots", ignoring them and leaving their care to society. He died on Christmas Day 1916, in the shelter he had founded.
Brother Albert Chmielowski was beatified on 22 June 1983 in Krakow and canonized on 12 November 1989 by Pope John Paul II at Saint Peter's Square, Rome. His feast day is celebrated on 17 June by the members of the congregations he founded.
In 1949, Pope John Paul II, who was at the time Father Karol Wojtyla, wrote a well-received play about Albert called Our God’s Brother, which was made into a film in 1997 with the same title. John Paul II later said that he found great spiritual support for his own vocation in the life of St. Albert, whom he saw as an example of leaving behind a world of art, literature, and theater to make a radical choice for the priesthood.
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