Chmielowski, Albert, St.

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Baptized Adam, artist and founder of the Brothers (and Sisters) of the Third Order of St. Francis Servants of the Poor; b. Igolomia (near Krakow), Miechów District of southern Poland, Aug. 20, 1845; d. Krakow, Poland, Dec. 25, 1916. In 1863, the aristocratic Adam Chmielowski abandoned his study of agriculture to join an uprising against the Russian occupation. Wounded and taken prisoner, Adam's left leg was amputated. He escaped prison and fled to France where he studied engineering for a year, then art, before a general amnesty permitted his return to Poland as an artist (1874). Adam's paintings increasingly turned to religious themes; one of his most famous works, Ecce Homo (Jesus before Pontius Pilate), led Adam to a spiritual metamorphosis.

After a decade as a successful artist, he entered the Jesuits (1880), although he left to become a Franciscan tertiary. Chmielowski worked first in the countryside, and then in Krakow, gradually abandoning his painting and turning his studio into a homeless shelter. Inspired by another former freedom fighter, St. Rafał kalinowski, Adam took the name Albert (1887), donned a simple grey habit, and pledged religious vows (1888) before Cardinal Archbishop Albin Dunajewski. Thereafter the former socialite lived a life of poverty and organized shelters, soup kitchens, and other charitable institutions. Chmielowski's work and personality attracted followers who formed the nucleus of the Albertine Brothers (1888) and Sisters (1891), congregations that now serve the poor of Poland, Argentina, Italy, and the United States. In 1938, Brother Albert, who had founded 21 refuges in Poland, was posthumously awarded Poland's highest honor for his work among the destitute. Pope John Paul II, who both beatified (June 22, 1983 at Krakow) and canonized (Nov. 12, 1989 at Rome) Saint Albert, wrote a play about him in 1949 called Our God's Brother that was released as a motion picture in 1998.

Feast: June 17.

Bibliography: a. casieri, Fratel Alberto, al secolo Adamo Chmielowski (Rome 1989). w. kluz, Adam Chmielowski, Brat Albert, 2d. ed. (Krakow 1982). k. michalski, Brat Albert, 4th ed. (Krakow 1986). a. okoÑska, Adam Chmielowski: Brat Albert, 2d. ed. (Warsaw 1999). Acta Apostolicae Sedis 77 (1985): 461463.

[k. i. rabenstein]