The Church is preparing to celebrate the feast day of St. Albert Chmielowski this Wednesday. Founder of the Albertine Brothers and Sisters, St. Albert is credited with being one of the saints who inspired the vocation of the young Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II.
Saint Albert was born on August 20, 1845 in Igolomia, Poland (near Kraków) as Adam Hilary Bernard Chmielowski. Born into a wealthy and aristocratic family, Adam was the oldest of four children.
Actively involved in politics from his youth, Adam lost a leg fighting in an insurrection against Czar Alexander III at age 18. In Krakow, he became a popular artist and his talent in the subject led him to study in Warsaw, Munich, and Paris.
A kind and compassionate person, Adam was always deeply aware of human suffering, and felt called to help those in need. Realizing that God was calling Him to a life of service, he returned to Krakow in 1874, determined to dedicate his talents to the glory of God. Instead of continuing his work as an artist, he decided to care for the poor and became a Secular Franciscan, taking the name Albert.
In 1887, Albert founded the Brothers of the Third Order of Saint Francis, Servants of the Poor, known as the Albertines or the Gray Brothers. Then, in 1891, he founded a community of Albertine sisters, known as the Gray Sisters.
The Albertines organized food and shelter for the poor and homeless of any age or religion. Albert preached on the great crisis that results from a refusal to see and aid the suffering individuals in society.
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. 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.
Brother Albert died on Christmas Day, 1916. He was canonized on November 12, 1989 by Pope John Paul II.