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Charles Antoniewicz (Botoz)

Polish Jesuit and missionary (1807-1852)

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Antoniewicz, (BOTOZ), CHARLES, a Polish Jesuit and missionary, b. in Lwow (Lemberg), November 6, 1807; d. November 14, 1852. He was the son of Joseph Antoniewicz, a nobleman and lawyer. His pious mother, Josephine (Nikorowicz), attended to his early training on their estate at Skwarzawa, whither they moved in 1818. After the death of his father (1823), Charles entered the University at Lwow, to study law, devoting, however, much time to philology; hence, besides Polish, he spoke fluently German, French, Italian, and English. Here he also gathered material for the history of the Armenians in Poland (his ancestors were Armenians), and wrote Polish and German poetry. Having finished his course in law with the highest distinction (1827), he made a tour through Austria and Roumania. During the Polish insurrection of 1830-31, he served for some time under General Dwernicki. In 1833 he married his cousin Sophia Nikorowicz, and settled in Skwarzawa. His happy marital life ended with the death of his five children, followed shortly by that of his wife. This devout woman took the religious vows on her deathbed, beseeching her husband to enter some order. His mother also died as a religious in the Benedictine Order. This, as well as the advice of his spiritual director, Father Frederic Rinn, S.J., induced him to seek admission to the novitiate of the Jesuits at Stara Wies in September, 1839, where he took the solemn vows September 12, 1841. His philosophical studies were made at Tarnopol, where he was a colleague of the great theologian, Cardinal Franzelin. His theological studies he finished at Nowy Svz. He was ordained priest on October 10, 1844, by Bishop Gutkowski. While yet a student, he attracted universal attention by his unusual oratorical gifts. Upon the request of Count d’Este, Governor of Galicia, the Provincial (Father Pierling) appointed him missionary for the Sandec district, where crime and lawlessness (massacre of the nobility, 1846) reigned supreme. During seven months Antoniewicz gave over twenty missions, preaching over 200 sermons. Great was the success of his apostolic zeal and unremitting toils. His impaired health, however, compelled him to seek a mountainous climate in spring, 1847. Having recovered, he was assigned to St. Nicholas in Lwow, as preacher, and as confessor for students. When on May 7, 1848, the Society of Jesus was dissolved in Austria, Antoniewicz went to Silesia (Graefenberg), returning incognito, however, to Lwow in 1850. Being discovered, he left the country, stopping at Cracow, just after the memorable conflagration of July 18, 1850, to console the grief-stricken inhabitants. On this occasion he delivered the famous sermon “On the ruins of Cracow” (Na zgliszczach Krakowa). At the instance of Cardinal Diepenbrock he again gave missions in Silesia; there he also founded a house in Nissa, and was appointed its first superior. At the urgent entreaty of Archbishop Przyluski, he extended his missionary activity to Posen (1852). His boundless devotion and self-sacrifice during the terrible outbreak of cholera will always be remembered; for the hero, having himself contracted this disease, died a victim of brotherly love, November 14, 1852. In the church at Obra, where he rests, his friends erected to his memory a monument, surmounted by his bust. A terse Latin sketch describes his brief but zealous career. In youth he composed many charming poems; later he gave preference to religious themes. He had genuine poetical talent, vivid imagination, a facile pen, and a captivating style. Especially beautiful are his “Wianek kriyzowy” (Garland of the Cross), “Wianek majowy” (Wreath of May), “Jan Kanty, Sw. Jacek” (St. Hyacinth), etc. He is the author of many devotional works, and ranks high as an ascetic. These works, though simple in language, breathe genuine piety, singular gravity, and tender emotion; e.g. “Czytania Swiateczne dla ludu” (Festive Readings for the Faithful), “8w. Iz;ydor Oracz” (St. Isidore), “Groby Swietych polskich’ (The Tombs of the Polish Saints), “Listy w duchu Boiym do przyjacibl” (Spiritual Letters to Friends), and many others. He is, however, best known as an orator. But his ability cannot be judged by his printed sermons; his eloquence was an inspired heart-to-heart appeal. He is a master when he speaks on the eternal mercy, the Victim of the Cross, or the Blessed Virgin Mary. His sermons were collected and arranged by his fellow-Jesuit, John Badeni, and published in four volumes (Cracow, 1893, 2d ed.), under the title “Kazania Ks. Karola Antoniewicza”. “Zbior poezyi” (a collection of poems) was likewise published in 1898-99 by Father J. Badeni. In the impossibility of enumerating here all of his writings it may be said that he composed over seventy-six different works; six before he became a Jesuit, and seventy as a Jesuit, twenty-seven of which were published after his death.


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