Andrew Bobola

Andrew Bobola was born near Cracow, Poland on November 30, 1591, to a devoutly Catholic family of the lesser nobility; several were relatively well-to-do and had held high positions in the State. The Bobola family maintained cordial relations with the Jesuits: many members of the family had been educated by the Jesuits and were active in Jesuit sodalities. Various branches of the family had funded and maintained Jesuit houses and chapels. One author notes that the family and the Jesuits "became inseparably united in the history of the Church in Poland."

Andrew was educated at the Jesuit school in Braniewo, Northern Poland, and entered the Society of Jesus on July 31, 1611, in Vilna, Lithuania, (though he later transferred to the Polish Province). Descriptions of his spirituality during his early years in the Society note his innocence of life and his habits of prayers as well as "a too-impulsive temperament." A later document remarks on his love of the Cross, and his "true solitude of heart."

Before his ordination on March 12, 1622, he completed the usual studies in philosophy and theology, and spent two years teaching grammar.

His first ministries were varied. From 1622 through 1629, he was a preacher in St. Casimir's parish in Vilna, was in charge of the Marian Sodality, visited prisoners and the poor, taught catechism to children and served plague victims. When he made his solemn profession of four vows in 1630, he was described as "a man of intelligence, culture and attractive conversationalist... an exemplary parish priest." Later reports to the Generalate in Rome mention his "solid judgement" and his "oratorical capabilities."

Father Bobola spent fifteen years in Eastern Poland as a pastor and preacher. In 1646 he was sent to Vilna, and for nine years, in spite of ill health and the antipathy of the Orthodox and the Cossacks for Roman Catholics, he served in various villages surrounding that city. His ministry during that period is described as "mostly spiritual work."

Between 1651 and 1657 this region was invaded by Turks who hated Catholics, especially Jesuits who had converted many local people to Catholicism. In 1655 Father Bobola moved to Pinsk to help the people survive the Cossack invasions. Two years later he moved to Eastern Poland where, on Ascension Thursday, May 16, 1657, Father Andrew was killed, after being tortured by the Cossacks because he would not embrace Orthodox Christianity. The Catholics of Janow placed his body in their church; some time later his remains were taken to the Jesuit church in Pinsk and placed beneath the main altar.

In July 1922, the Bolsheviks moved his remains to Moscow. The following year, two American Jesuits, Edmund Walsh and Louis Gallagher, directors of the Vatican Relief Mission in Russia, requested Father Bobola's body in the name of Pope Pius XI, and it was taken to Rome.

His canonization was delayed because of the suppression of the Society of Jesus, but when the remains of Father Bobola were reviewed by the Congregation for Sacred Rights in 1923, that body declared: "Scarcely ever, in fact we might say never, was so cruel a martyrdom reviewed by this Congregation."

Andrew Bobola was canonized on Easter Sunday, April 17, 1938, by Pope Pius XI, and his remains were taken to the Jesuit Church in Warsaw, Poland.