Tag Archives: Blessed Mother

Meet “Brother Ave”—the one armed Blacksmith

Venerable Anthony Kowalczyk                                                  fsspx.com

By Larry Peterson

Anthony Kowalcyzk was born in Dzierzanow, Poland, on June 4, 1866. He was the sixth child in a family of twelve, and his mom and dad were devout Catholics. They had Anthony baptized at the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Lutogniew, Poland and it was here that young Anthony developed a great devotion to the Blessed Mother that would inspire him his entire life.

Anthony entered the local school at the age of seven.  Upon finishing his elementary education, his parents took him out of school so he could help them work their small farm. Anthony did that for three years, and then his parents allowed him to accept a position as an apprentice blacksmith.

At the age of twenty and having completed his training, he was classified as a “journeyman
blacksmith.” He then left for Hamburg, Germany to find a job. He found work in a factory, but to his dismay,  when his co-workers and “friends” discovered he was Catholic, they begin to mock and abuse him. He was continually made fun of and provoked. The constant abuse actually made him ill.

Praying hard for guidance, he left for Cologne.  His prayers were answered as a Catholic family took him in. They treated him as their own and introduced him to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. It was then that Anthony heard the call to service through religious life.  He said good-bye to his friends in Cologne and traveled to Holland.  Here he was accepted into the Oblate novitiate.

He spent the next three years praying and learning and on October 2 1892, he made his vows of Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience. Two years later he renewed his vows for one year and was sent to the mission of St. Albert in what is today, Alberta, Canada. From there he traveled to Edmonton and then north to Lac la Biche to work among the Cree and Metis Indian tribes.

Brother Anthony worked hard and spent many hours in prayer while in Lac la Biche. He was an excellent mechanic and handyman and kept all the machinery running smoothly and the stationery equipment in perfect condition.  But he was soon to be faced with a tremendous challenge.

The friars were busy working in the lumber mill when the power belt turning the giant saw blade snapped. It sounded as if dynamite had exploded and the belt hit Brother Anthony in the right forearm mangling his hand and arm. When they helped him up, he said, “It is God’s will.”

It took four days for them to get Anthony to the hospital in Edmonton. When they finally reached the hospital, gangrene had already set in, and the arm and hand had to be amputated. They had no anesthesia, so Anthony asked for his Crucifix and held it tightly as they removed his lower arm. They say he never made a sound.

Recovery was hard, but Anthony worked every day to improve himself. In 1897, he was sent to the mission of St. Paul de Metis. He and two other Oblate brothers set up a sawmill and flour mill.  On January 17, 1899, Brother Anthony knelt before Bishop Legal and took his final vows accepting his role as an Oblate Brother for the rest of his life.

Brother Anthony was eventually sent to St. John’s College in Edmonton and would remain there for thirty-six years. In 1912, he was fitted for an arm prosthesis with a hook on the end.  He became so proficient with his “new hand” that he became the resident blacksmith, gardener, bell-ringer, sacristan, and even took care of the animals. He also repaired the hockey sticks and sharpened the blades of the student’s ice skates.

Most importantly, he was always there for the young people for words of advice, encouragement, and prayer. They called him “Brother Ave” because he had such devotion to Our Lady and the Rosary. Plus, he always asked those who requested his prayers to pray an extra AVE (Hail Mary).

On July 10, 1947,  after a brief illness, Brother Anthony Kowalcysk died.  He was 81 years old. He had been the first Polish Oblate to come to Canada.

On March 28, 2013, Pope Francis declared  Brother Anthony Kowlcyzk a man of “Heroic Virtue” and therefore worthy of the title of Venerable Anthony Kowalcyzk.

Venerable Anthony Kowlcyzk, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Brother Marcel (Nguyen Tan) Van had a spiritual sister who actually visited him; Her name was St.Therese of Lisieux

 

Photo Credit: wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/47/Portrait_de_Marcel_Van.JPG/220px-Portrait_de_Marcel_Van.JPG

By Larry Peterson

Marcel Van was born in 1928 in a small village in Northern Vietnam. It was a predominantly Catholic village, and Marcel’s mom was not only an extremely faithful woman she was also well versed in the tenets of the faith. When Marcel was barely three years old, his growing faith was already obvious. He began to tell his mom that he wanted to become a saint and she made sure that she taught him all that she could.

Marcel loved to pray and practice his religion. He quickly developed a love for the Rosary and a growing attachment to the Blessed Mother. The boy’s love of Jesus filled him with the desire to make his First Holy Communion. His mom asked the pastor about this, and the priest agreed to let him begin studying for it. When he was six years old, he made his First Communion.

There was a developing desire within Marcel to join the religious life. His pastor and his mom saw to it that Marcel was sent to Huu-Bang to become part of the small monastery there. Father Joseph Nha admitted Marcel  into the pre-junior seminary. He became one of the “aspirants” to the priesthood.  These boys received their instruction from the older youths at the monastery who were called catechists.

In the beginning, Marcel was bubbling over with enthusiasm for his new life. He was preparing to become a priest, and what could be more wonderful. But the evil demon, Jealousy, was rearing its ugly head and was about to attack young Marcel.

Marcel was a good student, worked hard, performed all his duties, and was kind and generous. The parish priest was constantly holding him up as an example for the other boys to follow. Young Marcel’s good behavior started to expose the lax and disrespectful and even bawdy behavior of the older boys. The student catechists did not like it and became intensely jealous of Marcel.

One of the catechists, Master Vinh, was the ringleader. He began demanding that Marcel allow him to beat him before he could receive Communion. He deprived him of his food, took away his Rosary and committed all sorts of diabolical attacks upon the saintly youngster. Van actually ran away several times seeking a better environment. Master Vinh was found out and expelled from the monastery. Marcel Van left during Christmas season, 1941.

Complicating Van’s life were two cyclones that destroyed his family’s village and brought them to poverty. His father, in a state of despair, took to drinking and gambling. Then his older brother, Liet, became blind. Van’s family turned against him for leaving the monastery. His sister even blamed the family’s misfortune on Vans’ “failure.” Marcel Van left his home and for a time was homeless, actually begging for his food. He returned home, and his mom made him go back to the monastery. He returned but left after two months.

Things changed around for Marcel in 1942. A friend helped him get admitted to a seminary in Lang-Son. Six months later the seminary closed down, and Van was accepted into the parish of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Quang-Uyen. It was run by two  Dominican priests.

And so it was that one day Marcel Van was next to a table covered with books. He asked God to help him find a suitable book to read. Closing his eyes, he reached into the pile and pulled out a copy of  “Story of a Soul,” by St. Therese. He had never heard of her, but his life was about to change forever.

Marcel Nguyen Tan Van began to read the “Story of Soul.” He began to cry. The simplicity of Therese’s love for Jesus overwhelmed him, and his devotion to St. Therese became intense.   The “Little Flower” appeared to Marcel many times. She  became his teacher, constant companion, and even called him “little brother.” She told him that he would never be a priest but that he was to become a “hidden apostle of Love” which was a key source of spiritual support for missionary priests. He would become the “heart of priests.”

After the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu,  Brother Marcel Van volunteered to go to now communist, North Vietnam. He was arrested on July 7, 1955, and died in prison on July 10, 1959. He was 31 years old and rest assured his “Big Sister,” Therese, was waiting for him with open arms. He was declared a Servant of God in 1997, and his beatification process continues.

Servant of God, Brother Marcel Van, please pray for us.

 

Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa; Mystic, Victim Soul, and member of the Salesian Cooperators

Blessed Alexandrina da Costa                                           en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Alexandrina Maria da Costa was born in Balazar, Portugal, in 1904. Her father abandoned his family when she was very young leaving his wife, and two daughters, Deolinda and Alexandrina, destitute. Consequently, Alexandrina, who had only attended school for a mere eighteen months, was forced to go to work. The young girl had unusual strength and was able to work long hours doing heavy farm work. She was all of nine-years-old when she began working in the fields.

Alexandrina came down with a severe infection when she was 12. She nearly died but did survive. The effects of the illness had left their mark, and the young girl suffered greatly every day.  Even though in constant pain she continued working in the fields. When she became a teenager, she began to work as a seamstress alongside her sister.

Things changed quickly for Alexandrina. It was Holy Saturday in 1918, and Satan was doing his best to destroy Holy Week for as many people as he could. Alexandrina, Deolinda, and an apprentice seamstress were working together when three men broke into the house. They were determined to sexually violate the three young women. Alexandrina, staring into the faces of evil, refused to be accosted. To preserve her purity, she managed to jump from a window. The distance down was almost 14 feet.

Alexandrina’s injuries were severe. She was paralyzed, and doctors described her condition as irreversible. They also said she would continue to deteriorate. However, Alexandrina, filled with faith, still managed to drag herself to church. Although hunched over from her injuries, she would remain in prayer for hours. Her condition continued to worsen, and she ultimately became immobile. By the age of 21, she was permanently bedridden and paralyzed.

Alexandrina had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and prayed over and over for a miraculous cure. She promised to give away all her possessions, to cut off her hair, and wear black the rest of her life if she would get cured. However, that was not to be, but God did answer her prayers, albeit in another way.

Slowly but surely Alexandrina began to understand that her suffering was an actual vocation and that she had been called to be a “victim” for Jesus. She said, Our Lady has given me an even greater grace:  first, abandonment; then, complete conformity to God’s will; finally, the thirst for suffering.”

God poured down His graces on Alexandrina, and the young, paralyzed woman began to long for a life of union with Jesus. She now understood that to do this she would have to bear her debilitating condition for love of Him. This was the point where Alexandrina offered herself to God as a “victim soul.”

Starting on October 3, 1938, and continuing through March 24, 1942, every Friday Alexandrina would literally “live” the three-hour passion of Jesus. Her paralysis would seem to leave her, and she would relive the Stations of the Cross experiencing overwhelming physical and spiritual pain.

The following is from Pope St. John Paul II’s homily at her beatification: “On 27 March 1942, a new phase began for Alexandrina which would continue for 13 years and seven months until her death. She received no nourishment of any kind except the Holy Eucharist, at one point weighing as few as 33 kilos (approximately 73 pounds).——- Jesus himself spoke to her one day:  “You will very rarely receive consolation… I want that while your heart is filled with suffering, on your lips there is a smile.” From that point on Alexandrina, no matter the intensity of her pain always had a ready smile for anyone who came to see her.

In 1944, Alexandrina became a member of Don Bosco’s Association of Salesian Cooperators. She joined so she could offer her sufferings for the sanctification of youth. Alexandrina died on October 13, 1955. She was 51 years old.
On April 25, 2004, she was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II who stated that “her secret to holiness was love for Christ.”

Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2018