March 22, 2014

Blessed Honoratus of BiaΕ‚a

Feast Day : 13th October

A Rebel’s Faith Restored thanks to the Mother of God

While still a secondary school student, the future warrior for the faith, Wenceslaus Kozminski, actually lost his Catholic faith at the tender age of 11. After graduation in 1844, he enrolled in the Department of Architecture at the Warsaw School of Fine Arts. In 1845, he lost his father and in April 1846, he was arrested and sent to prison with his friends for conspiring against the Czarist Russian occupation of Poland. In a prison cell, Wenceslaus experienced a spiritual upheaval. His faith was restored thanks to the intercession of Our Lady. "The Mother of God," he wrote in his spiritual journal, "having been moved by the prayers of my mother… interceded for me with the Lord; thus it was that He came to me in my prison cell and gently led me to the faith." He was freed and in 1848, and, to the great surprise of those who knew him, he entered the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor, taking the name Brother Honoratus of BiaΕ‚a on the 21st of December of that same year.

Enthusiastic Exercise of the Capuchin Apostolate

Brother Honoratus was born on October 16, 1829 in BiaΕ‚a Podlaska (Poland). He was the son of Stephen Kozminski and Alexandra Kahlowa and at baptism, was given the name of Wenceslaus. After professing vows, as a Capuchin, and finishing his philosophical and theological studies, he was ordained a priest in 1852. In his apostolic activity in Warsaw, Brother Honoratus was an zealous and diligent worker. He was an tireless confessor and preacher. He strongly promoted the Third Order Secular of St. Francis(the present day Secular Franciscan Order], a group of lay men and women following the way of St. Francis, and also circles of committed faithful which were called the "Living Rosary." Moreover, Brother Honoratus was a prolific writer who vigourously exercised 'the apostolate of the pen.' His collected writings include 42 volumes of sermons, 21 volumes of letters, as well as numerous publications on various theological and historical subjects.  

Prolific Founder

In 1855 he founded the congregation of the Felician Sisters and in 1860 the Capuchin Sisters of Saint Clare. After the Polish January Uprising of 1863, he was confined to Zakroczym Fraternity until 1892 and from then on to the Nowe-Miasto Fraternity. In his confessional of Zakroczym, numerous Institutes and Congregations took shape, seventeen founded by him were approved by the Holy See on 21 June 1889. Since public apostolic activity by religious was forbidden by the Russian government, the members of these congregations of male and female religious congregations took vows but wore no religious habit and did not live in community. The amazing thing is that he did all this while being kept more or less under house arrest by the Russian authorities, with the Capuchins’ public ministry confined to the Confessional. Brother Honoratus was able to read in this a sign of the times: "It is here that God wishes to have us…therefore it is here that we shall work."

Heroic Obedience to the Holy Church

Following accusations and reports from bishops desirous of putting the new congregations firmly under their own control, the Holy See imposed restrictions on them and on Brother Honoratus’s contacts with them in 1907. Though he argued strongly that the new congregations he had founded should retain their independence, he, nevertheless, submitted to the restrictions imposed on him and urged the congregations to do likewise. In one of his letters he wrote: "Christ's Vicar himself has revealed God's will to us, and I carry out this order with greatest faith.... Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that you are being given the opportunity to show heroic obedience to the holy Church."

'Totus Tuus' – Whole-hearted Servant of Our Lady

From 1895, for over twenty years, he was Capuchin Commissary General in Russia. On the 16th of December 1916, Brother Honoratus of BiaΕ‚a died peacefully at the Capuchin Friary of Nowe Miasto, where his remains are enshrined today. In 1867, he had offered himself to Christ through the hands of Mary, as her 'slave', adopting as his motto this sentence which expresses his limitless trust in Her: "Mary, I am totally Yours - Tuus totus." It is, then, no coincidence that the Pope who beatified Brother Honoratus in 1999 was none other than his own compatriot – Blessed Pope John Paul II who himself had adopted the same words and sentiments as the motto of his Papacy: "Totus Tuus – Totally Yours!"

"When I had come to know the life of Francis of Assisi, the perfection of his virtues and his inmost spirit, he became my favourite Saint. My only desire is to imitate him perfectly and faithfully observe his rule. It seems to me that the time has come when the role models of Christian perfection must leave the restricted circle of the enclosure and not think to themselves that it is impossible to strive for perfection while living in the world.  Mary, whom our congregations have rightly chosen to imitate, is the example and model of this hidden life." - Blessed Honoratus of BiaΕ‚a

Related Post