St Adam Chmielowski

Founder of Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order of St Francis, Servants of the Poor (the Gray Brothers and the Gray Sisters) (entered heaven on Christmas Day in 1916)

Dear Jaime,

I was glad to hear of your choice for a summer activity.  Enrolling in the Parisian Drawing Course for two months should help you acquire the fundamental skills you so foolishly forfeited back in your high school days.  I realize that most contemporary artists don’t bother with the fundamentals, but if you truly have extraordinary talent, it won’t be able to flourish without the rich soil of the ordinary and perennial principles.  While in Paris you may want to adopt today’s saint as your summer patron.

Adam wasn’t from France, but he was an artist, and an accomplished one at that.  As a young man he studied Agriculture in his homeland of Poland, went off to continue his studies in the military academy of St Petersburg (Poland was under Russia’s thumb at the time – and Austria’s, and Prussia’s), but his mother insisted on pulling him out when she discovered the kind of pagan formation he was receiving there (If only today’s mothers cared as much for their children’s education!).  Returning home, he joined the famous Polish Insurrection, wherein the Poles tried to throw off the yoke of foreign rule, to no avail.  The future saint lost his left leg in the process, though judging by the itinerary of his remaining years you would never have guessed it.

After the Insurrection he went to Paris to study painting (sound familiar?), then off to Belgium to study engineering, and back to Bavaria for more fine arts.  He had talent, and he developed it, and he became a noteworthy artist.  Eventually, he returned to his home town of Krakow, and entered a spiritual crisis.  He saw the misery all around him, and he wondered if he could serve God and his neighbor as he ought merely by being an artist.

At this time he changed the subject matter of his painting, opting for religious subjects.  The deep contemplation of Christ required by this change brought him a spiritual renewal, and he began searching for a way to follow the Divine Master more closely.  After a long time looking, he found it.  He left his art career behind and joined the Third Order of Franciscans, founding the Servants of the Poor, a congregation of men and women dedicated to, as their name suggests, serving the poor.  By the time of his death he had established 21 centers of service, which offered food and shelter and even basic employment to children, men, and women who were sick, abandoned, or downtrodden.  He was tireless in his efforts to mitigate their suffering, so much so that even in his lifetime he was generally known as “Poland’s 20th Century St Francis.”

I say he would make a good patron for you, because he kept first things first in his life.  He had a chance to get swept away in the stream of aristocratic and cultural elegance, but he didn’t.  Paris will be full of opportunities for you, but also full of temptations.  May St Adam help you take full advantage of the former, and valiantly conquer all of the latter.

Your devoted uncle,


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