Joseph Kalinowski, was born in Vilna (Lithuania) on 1st September 1835, the son of Andrew Kalinowski and Josephine Polonska, Catholic nobles.
He studied in the Saint Petersburg military academy and obtained good results, but because of his country’s revolt against Russian occupation, he decided to leave the army. Although, because of his knowledge, he knew that the success of the uprising was impossible, he decided to help his compatriots, by accepting the office of Minister of War and tried, in as far as it was possible, to avoid greater spilling of blood.
In March 1864, he was arrested and condemned to capital punishment, which was commuted to 10 years of forced labour in Siberia. With a crucifix and the Imitation of Christ, he set out for Siberia and after 9 months of the hardest of journeys he reached the shores of Lake Bajkal.
In those particularly hard circumstances, he showed great integrity and charity, putting up with sufferings and inconveniences, sharing what he had with others and asked his relatives if they could help him: «I write it clearly, poverty here is great; to find money in the homeland is always easier than in Siberia. It is inconceivable to be indifferent to me».
With the passing of years, he was set free from forced labour and on 2nd February 1874, he gained his freedom, but was forbidden to return to live in Lithuania. He then accepted the position of tutor to Augustus Czartoryski, a 16 year old, who lived the greater part of the time in Paris.
On 15th July 1877, he entered the Carmelite monastery in Grantz, taking the name of Raphael of Saint Joseph. He made his first vows on 26th November 1878 and travelled to Hungary to study philosophy and theology in the Raab monastery. On 27th November 1881, he made his solemn vows and was sent to the Czerna monastery in Poland, where he was ordained priest on 15th January 1882 and within a year he was given the responsibilities of government.
In Poland he reorganized the Order as well as the Secular Order. He published biographies. In 1906, he took over the running of the college of theology in Wadowice. He became appreciated by all as a spiritual director and confessor. He devoted himself with special interest and great commitment to helping his Discalced Carmelite sisters.
He died on 15th November 1907 in Wadowice. He was beatified in Cracow on 22nd June 1983 by Pope John Paul II and canonized in Rome on 17th November 1991. His feast is celebrated on 19th November.
In his life, what stands out in a special manner are his spirit of charity and his spirit of reconciliation, together with the commitment he showed to formation, particularly for young people.
He taught them to have the courage of persevering in their faith and to have hope in the midst of difficulties; he also taught that it is only in the light of the reconciliation that comes from God is it possible to move towards meeting with others and giving pardon. He added that to be able to pardon, it is necessary to know that you yourself have been pardoned.
He possessed an open character, full of warmth. After his time in Siberia, he returned convinced of the need to focus on the youth, since, at this stage of life, learning forms the person and decides the future. First of all he sought an integral formation of the human being; he was moved by a spiritual and intellectual interest.
His life was lit up by the Gospel and the person of Jesus.
He is invoked as patron of Siberians, educators, railway workers, engineers and the youth.