St. Albert Chmielowski was born in Igolomia, Poland, on August 20, 1845, as Adam Hilary Bernard. His family was wealthy and aristocratic, and Adam was the oldest of their four children.
At the age of 18, Adam lost his leg fighting an insurrection against Czar Alexander III. He then became a popular artist in Krakow, which led him to study in Warsaw, Munich, and Paris.
Adam felt God’s call to a life of service, and returned to Krakow in 1874. He became a Secular Franciscan, taking the name Albert, and dedicating himself to the care of the poor. In 1887, he founded the Brothers of the Third Order of St. Francis, Servants of the Poor, also known as the Albertines or the Gray Brothers. A few years later, he founded a community of Albertine sisters, the Gray Sisters.
The Albertines organized food and shelter for the homeless and poor. Albert preached consistently on the importance of giving aid to suffering individuals, and the great crisis that resulted from ignoring their plight.
St. Albert died on Christmas day in 1916. He was canonized on November 12, 1989, by Pope John Paul II.
In 1949, Pope John Paul II, then Father Karol Wojtyla, wrote a well-received play about Albert, called “Our God’s Brother.” The pope later said that he was inspired in his own vocation by the life of St. Albert, who left a world of literature, art, and theater to make a radical choice for the priesthood.