Adam Chmielowski was born in Poland to an aristocratic family. At seventeen, he lost a leg while participating in a nationalist uprising. Afterward, he was drawn to art and began to enjoy recognition for his painting. At the same time, living in Krakow, his heart was increasingly moved by the sufferings of the poor. He finally gave up his life as an artist to assume the life of a poor beggar. With the name Brother Albert, he donned a gray robe and became a Third Order Franciscan.
In time he founded orders of men and women, known as the Albertine Brothers and Sisters, who practiced the works of mercy in soup kitchens and homeless shelters. In one of the shelters that he founded, Brother Albert died in Christmas day, 1916.
His reputation lived on. Among the priests who attributed their vocation to his example was Karol Wojtyla, who in 1949 wrote a play about him. Years later, as Pope John Paul II, he championed Albert’s cause and later presided over both his beatification and, 1989, his canonization. He said of St. Albert, “In his tireless, heroic service on behalf of the marginalized and the poor, he ultimately found his path. He found Christ. He took upon himself Christ’s yoke and burden; he did not become merely ‘one of those who give alms,’ but became the brother to those he served.”