Jan Tyranowski

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Jan Tyranowski (9 February 1900 – 15 March 1947) was a Catholic layman, student of Discalced Carmelite spirituality, and central figure in the spiritual formation of the young Karol Wojtyla, who became Pope John Paul II. He was the youth leader and student mentor of Karol Wojtyla's university parish, St. Stanislaus Kostka, in the 1940s.

[Jan] was in his forties, trained as an accountant, but... supported himself and his mother by working as a tailor. More significantly he was a man with an extraordinary prayer life. He devoted four hours every morning to meditation as well as other prayer periods through the day. Karol began attending weekly meetings which Tyranowski entitled the Living Rosary. At these gatherings he introduced his new band of disciples to a brand of religion that was deeply mystical, and he encouraged them to apply it to every area of their lives. He called them to a strict discipline and recommended that they keep a diary with a view to bringing God directly into every moment of their day.[1]

Karol, initially, found the man almost unbearably intense, but gradually came to see something of profound import in Tyranowski. Later in life Wojtyla stated that "What he tried to teach us was new. He wanted to pull new listeners to this new life. Young people think they know everything … At the beginning they just couldn’t understand him – the truth about a … wholly internal life that was part of Jan and, for them, completely unknown."[1]

The young Wojtyla was introduced to the writings of Spanish Carmelite mystic St. John of the Cross by Tyranowski. John of the Cross would come to be one of the great inspirations in the life of Wojtyla. "From St. John he would learn that union with God requires a person to give up everything – everything they know as well as all that they own. Looking back he would feel that in Jan Tyranowski he had a living example of that quest for union with God before his very eyes."[1]

He was one of those unknown saints, hidden amid the others like a marvelous light at the bottom of life, at a depth where night usually reigns. He disclosed to me the riches of his inner life, of his mystical life. In his words, in his spirituality and in the example of a life given to God alone, he represented a new world that I did not yet know. I saw the beauty of a soul opened up by grace.[1]

Mieczyslaw Malinski, a friend of Karol’s and member of Tyranowski group who later became a priest was also skeptical at first about this religious eccentric, but eventually came to accept Tyranowski's teaching. In later years Fr. Malinski stated that "Jan’s influence with [Karol] was gigantic. I can safely say that if it wasn’t for him neither Wojtyla nor I would have become priests."[1]

In May 1949, Wojtyla wrote:

“This man was not a fiction or a symbol, but a real living person. His name was Tyranowski. Jan Tyranowski. He lived in Krakow, in Debniki, at 15 Rozana Street. He was born in 1900 and died in March 1947… His family was of a typical suburban middle class… It is worth noting that Jan’s demeanor, for example, the way he wore his watch, his expressions, all of the many details that reflect the social environment, were totally consistent with that environment. The entire difference was hidden within, and it was from within that all his external habits obtained their particular character. Jan guided his inner life according to the book "Mistyka" by Fr. Semenenko. Later, however, St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of the Child Jesus became his chief spiritual masters. They were not only his masters, they led him to discover himself, they explained and justified his own life.

"Jan’s death was indeed a form of self-sacrifice. Jan approached it consciously; he wished it and prayed for it…"[2]

Jan Tyranowski died in 1947 at 47 years of age. The Salesians of Don Bosco whom he aided in ministry during World War II have now put Tyranowski forward for beatification. Tyranowski is buried in the Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka which is administered by the Salesians in Kraków's district of Dębniki.

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