Tag Archives: Poland

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

St. Hyacinth of Poland; This “Apostle of the North” saved the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin from destruction by walking them across a river

St. Hyacinth http://www.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Saint Hyacinth of Poland was born in Silesia, Poland, in the year 1185. His father was Eustachius Konski, and he was of the noble family of Ordowacz. Hyacinth’s parents were devout Catholics, and Hyacinth grew up in a home surrounded by love and kindness.

His well-formed disposition and strong faith, combined with a brilliant mind, allowed him to move quickly through schooling in Krakow, then Prague, and finally to Bologna in Italy. This is where he was awarded the title of Doctor of Law and Divinity.  He returned to Poland and was given an administrative position at a medieval-style administrative center in southeast Poland.

The Bishop of Krakow, Ivo Konski, was Hyacinth’s uncle. He had been planning a trip to Rome, and he took his nephew with him. It was at this time in his life when he met Dominic de Guzman (who would later be known as St. Dominic, the Founder of the Order of Preachers; more commonly known as the Dominicans). Hyacinth, along with his cousin, Ceslaus, were among the very first to receive the religious habit of the Dominican Order. The year was 1220.

Hyacinth had developed a deep sense of prayer and was zealous in his desire to bring souls to salvation. Recognizing this quality, his superiors sent him back to Poland to preach and lay the groundwork for developing the Dominican order in his native land. A gifted preacher, Hyacinth’s sermons were received with great enthusiasm and before long he had established communities in Sandomir, Krakow, and in Moravia.

He traveled into Prussia, Pomerania, and into Lithuania leaving the presence of the growing Dominican order everywhere he went. He crossed the Baltic Sea and preached in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Before long, he was known as the “Apostle of the North.”

St. Hyacinth is known for performing a number of miracles.  There is one miracle that stands out among all the rest; that would be the Miracle of Kiev. The Tartars had laid siege to the City of Kiev. Hyacinth was saying Mass and was unaware that the enemy was almost at the church doors. As he ended the Mass, he realized what was going on and that the attacking forces were about to enter and ransack the church.

Hyacinth did not hesitate. Determined to protect the consecrated Host and still fully vested, he took hold of the ciborium and began to run from the church. As he ran he passed by a statue of Mary. He heard a voice say, “Hyacinth, my son, why dost thou leave me behind?  Take me with thee and leave me not to my enemies.”

The statue was made of alabaster and was very heavy. Hyacinth stopped, turned, and seeing the figure of Our Lady, hurried over and wrapped his arms around it. Somehow he managed to lift the life-size figure and escape from the church undetected saving the Holy Eucharist and the statue of the Blessed Virgin. This is the miraculous moment in which St. Hyacinth is most often depicted. But it did not end there.

The wondrous story goes on to say that Hyacinth and the surrounding community while fleeing the invading Tartar forces, came upon the Dneiper River.  Hyacinth implored the people to follow him across the river. The river was very deep, and the people were filled with fear. But Hyacinth began to walk across the river and the people, trusting his faith, followed.

Polish historians all seem to agree that this is fact. In addition, it is said that Hyacinth’s footprints remained on the water after he had crossed and that, for centuries after, when the waters were calm, they could again be seen.

There is another legend that was inspired by Hyacinth. It seems there was a violent hailstorm that swept through the area and destroyed all of the crops, leaving the people staring at the possibility of poverty and famine. Hyacinth told them all to pray and they all prayed together. The next morning the crops had regrown and the people made pierogi in gratitude. To this day an old-time Polish saying is used when facing seemingly hopeless circumstances: “Święty Jacku z pierogami!” (St. Hyacinth with pierogi!) pray for us.

Hyacinth fell ill on the Feast of St. Dominic, August 8,  1257. He warned of his impending death. On the Feast of the Assumption, he attended morning Mass. He was anointed at the altar and died that very day, August 15, 1257.

He was canonized in 1594 by Pope Clement VIII. His feast day is celebrated on August 17.

St. Hyacinth, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Blessed Wladyslaw Findysz—He died “In Odium Fidei”; the first person martyred under Communist rule in Poland

Bl. Wladyslaw Findysz  wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Wladyslaw Findysz was born on December 13, 1907,  in Krosno, which is located in southwestern Poland. His mom and dad, devout Catholics, followed the tradition and had their new baby boy baptized the very next day at their parish church, Holy Trinity.

Wladyslaw was sent to an elementary school run by the Cistercian Sisters (CSSF) in the town of Kroscienko Nizne. After finishing grade school, he went on to a state-run school but his years with the sisters had instilled in him an attraction to the priesthood. In 1927, Wladyslaw entered the seminary in a nearby town called Przemysil. He was very fortunate for the rector of the seminary was Father John Balicki, who would be beatified in 2002. He completed his studies satisfactorily and was ordained a priest June 19, 1932.

Father Findysz was moved around quite a bit in his first ten years as a priest. Finally, in 1941, he was appointed the parochial vicar at the Church of St. Peter and Paul in Nowy Zmigrod.  On October 3, 1944, the Nazis expelled Father Findysz and many others from the city. He lived in exile for a while but did return to his church in January 1945.

He immediately began a rebuilding and reorganizing project.  When the Nazis finally surrendered in May of 1945, the communists took charge. Promoting atheism was one of their primary objectives.  Moreover, they were not only good at doing it they were also quite insistent about people embracing it.

Father  Findysz focused his pastoral work on a moral and religious renewal within his parish. He worked tirelessly at keeping the faith in focus, especially among the young people. He also did his best to help the people of his parish who had lost so much during the war and the Nazi occupation. From food, medicine, clothing, and whatever else he could gather to help those in need, he did.

Greek Catholics from Lemki were especially singled out by the communist party, and these people were often evicted from their homes without cause or reason with no chance of reprieve. The kindly priest did work tirelessly trying to help those people and the priest’s activities quickly made the communists wary of his actions.

By 1946 he was under constant surveillance by the secret police. In 1952 people in charge of academics prohibited him from teaching catechism in the parish secondary school. The authorities went so far as to rescind his permission to live within the border of the school even though it was where his parish was located.

The church authorities viewed Father Findysz as a devout and zealous priest and they honored him as an honorary canon in 1946. In 1957 he was accorded the privilege of wearing the rochet and mantelletta and was also appointed the vice-dean of Nowy Zmigrod where he was elevated to Dean in 1962.

In 1963 Father Findysz, started the “Conciliar Works of Charity.” He sent letters of exhortation to parishioners who were known to have leaned toward a secular lifestyle encouraging them to reorder their Christian lives.  The communists reacted harshly toward Father’s actions. He was accused of trying to make the faithful be part of religious rites and practices.

On November 25, 1963, he was interrogated, arrested, and imprisoned in Rzeszow castle. His trial took place in December. He was accused of violating the “Protection of the Freedom of Conscience and Denomination Act of 1949. He did this by sending newsletters to his parishioners. He was sentenced to two years and six months in Central Prison

Just before his imprisonment Father Wladyslaw had surgery to have his thyroid removed. He entered prison ill, and the authorities knew it. He also developed esophageal cancer and had to remain in the prison hospital where the care was extremely limited and substandard. He was under constant interrogation and surgery was required for his cancer. The authorities postponed the surgery sentencing Father Wladyslaw to a slow and painful death.  He died on August 21, 1964.

O June 19, 2005, Father Wladyslaw Findysz was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. Blessed Wladyslaw was deemed to have died “In Odium Fidei” (In Hatred of the Faith)  He was the first martyr of the Communist Regime in Poland.

Blessed Wladyslaw, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019