Today, 7 Sep 2012, is the anniversary of death of Blessed Ignatius Klopotowski (a.k.a. Ignacy Klopotowski), a Polish diocesan priest and founder of a religious order. Of the Polish Saints from the 20th century, he is one of the minority that weren’t martyred. I’d like to think that he would make an excellent patron saint for those who write more than one blog on religious topics.
Blessed Ignatius Klopotowski was born in July 1866 at Korzeniowka, Poland. From an early age he felt God’s call to the priesthood, and accordingly entered the major seminary at Lublin, eastern Poland, in 1883. Following his studies Ignatius was ordained to the priesthood in 1891. According to accounts of his life even from the earliest years of his priesthood he was writing books and pamphlets on spiritual topics.
His priesthood started out in a parish, before he spent some time as a hospital chaplain. From there he was appointed to teach at the seminary, and was competent to teach a wide variety of subjects. This he did for 14 years as well as his regular parish duties. The next step was serving as vicar at the Lublin cathedral. After that he was sent to a parish where there was a group of Greek Catholics who had been persecuted.
Ignatius had an unusual sensitivity to the needs of others. All around him in Lublin were people suffering the consequences of poverty, unemployment and ignorance. So as early as 1893 he started something called ‘Commercial House’, which was a place where the homeless could be fed and housed while they participated in basic job training workshops. This was followed a few years later by St Anthony’s Refuge for women who had lost their reputation and who wanted to escape prostitution. Over the years an orphanage started, and a home for the elderly, and later on health centres and soup kitchens. He didn’t just see a need, he did something about it.
It is role of an apostle to get new things going for God, and Ignatius had a big helping of the gifts necessary to operate in that charism. For these works of charity to begin and, even more, for them to continue, Ignatius needed to call forth the generosity of others – both those of financial means; and those who would run these works and those who would volunteer to serve the needy in them. That these works of charity started and continued is testament both to his apostolic gifts, to God’s will that these needy ones be assisted and to the crying need for these institutions in that society. Of human nature it tells us that most people want to help those in extreme indigence but have no idea how to go about it or how to get the resources to do it. If someone comes along like Ignatius and does the ground breaking work, they happily join in.
Ignatius’ attention now turned to the welfare of those in rural areas. Schools were lacking. With the help of the existing Congregation of Handmaids of the Immaculate, he began a network of elementary schools in rural areas. They were so successful that the Russian authorities stepped in to repress them.
In 1905 a decree of tolerance was issued by Nicholas II. With this the way was opened for Ignatius to start ministering widely to the spiritual needs of people as well as their material needs. Thus began his apostolate of preaching with the written word. His first publication was a magazine/journal called ‘Polish Catholic’. Soon after, a weekly newspaper, ‘Seedling’ and a monthly newspaper, ‘Good Servant’ started. They contained lot of catechetical material, and the kind of material that would normally be preached on retreat and at parish missions. Circulation was for both city and rural areas. In order to go into wider circulation around Poland, Ignatius moved his publishing efforts to Warsaw.
With the expanded operation, Ignatius now added a monthly publication, ‘Rosary Ring’ and a series of pamphlets for children called ‘Guardian Angel’ to his media stable. Another publication was called, ‘Family Evenings’ and dedicated to children and adolescents. Later on he edited the ‘Catholic Review’ and a monthly publication for priests called, ‘The Voice of the Priest’. As you can see, each publication had a different content depending on the sub-group of people he was trying to minister to. Obviously to keep it all going Ignatius was doing a lot of writing and editing, and getting plenty of others to submit content for approval and insertion into the publications.
It wasn’t an easy road. Preaching via the written word came with a cost. There were troubles with censorship, ongoing financial difficulties and plenty of criticism from the secular press and many others. To those who asked why he persevered, his answer was, ‘If St Paul lived in our times, he would be a journalist.’
What dedication Ignatius must have had to keep all of these publications going with content and at an affordable cost to an ordinary person! His book learning, pastoral experience, apostolic heart and variety of publications make him an ideal intercessor for those called to the apostolate of the written word within the blogosphere and social media.
The fuel for these many apostolic activities was prayer. Primarily his source of strength and wisdom was the Eucharist. Ignatius would spend many hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, having taken to heart his mother’s advice, ‘You need to look at the Blessed Sacrament in order to accurately imagine the vision of God.’ Equally eager he was to work for souls or to pray. If some spare minutes came his way, he would pray as much of the rosary as he could, showing in this way his great devotion to Mary, the Mother of God. He often wrote about the rosary and would hand out rosary beads to visitors. At all times Ignatius remained thankful to God for the grace of his priestly vocation and ordination.
In 1919 Ignatius was appointed to the parish of St Florian in the Warsaw suburb of Praga. Soon afterwards he suffered an unexpected illness which reduced him to walking with a cane. Indeed, the doctor’s wanted to amputate a leg, but he didn’t want that to happen. So Ignatius would go to a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Loretto and often pray there to be healed. When the healing was granted Ignatius with this new burst of health founded the religious order of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loretto. With a rule based on the Benedictine Rule, their apostolate was the printed word. The nuns worked the printing presses and all kinds of related tasks. In fact, it was to give the nuns a regular break from the lead-based printing fumes that he established a rural property where the nuns could go to rest and recover and where poor youngsters could be sent for summer camps.
Ignatius died suddenly of a heart attack on 7 September 1931, and was greatly mourned. On 19 June 2005, he was declared Blessed by Pope Benedict XVI : offering his holy life as an example to all of apostolic zeal and pastoral zeal. The miracle that led to his beatification is instructive: In 1991 Fr Anthony Latko was savagely attacked and beaten, leaving him with numerous wounds and 13 blows to the skull. Any recovery from something like this would have been very slow and painful. However many people sought the intercession of Ignatius for this priest. Those prayers were heard, because Fr Latko walked out of the hospital able to take up his priestly duties again within a month of the attack.
Blessed Ignatius Klopotowski, pray for us and for all modern day apostles of Jesus.