By Carmen Elena Villa
KRAKOW, Poland, FEB. 19, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Jesus set a precedent for brother priests (blood brothers, that is) by choosing two sets for the Twelve Apostles.
The tradition continues even 2,000 years later. The Pope is proof enough, sharing a priestly vocation with his brother, Father Georg Ratzinger.
In the same way, twin brothers Robert and Leszek Kruczek felt the call to consecrate themselves as priests in the Salesian Order.
ZENIT asked the brothers, who will be 38 in May, to tell their story.
Born in Bielsko-Biala, a city located at the foot of the Carpathians, close to the border with the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the brothers’ vocations were awakened at an early age. Serving as altar boys, they discovered a special sensitivity for the liturgy. And they grew up in a home where religious values were cultivated, “that is, participation in Sunday Mass, prayer in common, great respect for God’s gifts, especially for bread,” Father Leszek explained.
But early signs did not mean discernment was easy. According to the mentality in Poland in the 70s and early 80s, Father Robert said, the priesthood was reserved for individuals chosen in a particular way; “that is why it wasn’t worthwhile to be concerned or to think about a vocation.”
“We served as altar boys only for two weeks, due to the less than propitious atmosphere of the time for those who served at the altar,” recalled Father Leszek.
However, both admit that despite the difficulties, “if someone has a vocation and wants to obey the will of God, sooner or later the moment comes to decide, and not to take into account one’s plans or fears, but the response to the Lord with a yes or a no.”
Thus, during Lenten spiritual exercises, each brother revealed to the other the call they felt.
It was in a school of the Salesian congregation in the village of Oswiecim, in southern Poland, where the brothers made their final decision to follow the priestly life.
“We learned the charism of Don Bosco and frankly this influenced our vocation,” said Father Robert.
They referred to the founder of the Salesians as “a practical man gifted not only intellectually but also manually.”
“He used his capacities to teach youths a necessary trade,” said Father Leszek.
“To be able to instruct them,” Father Robert explained, “he himself had to have the capacities of shoemaker, tailor, carpenter and bookbinder.”
The brothers thus concluded that for them St. John Bosco was a model “to dedicate all our aptitudes and strength totally in favor of youth.”
Today both live in Krakow. Father Leszek works in the parish of St. Stanislaw of Kostka and is the ecclesiastical administrator of the community and administrator of the house.
Father Robert is the chaplain of a religious community and also ecclesiastical administrator of another house.
The twins not only share the vocation to the priesthood but artistic talent for painting and sculpture. They both manage a laboratory of plastic arts called SalARt.
Their artistic talent takes on a Salesian spirit in their clinic for youth and adults, where they give classes on making icons, easel painting and small sculptures.
For both of them, the best model of a priest-artist is Blessed Fra Angelico “whose works are a significant example of aesthetic contemplation, which leads one to the heights of the faith,” said Father Leszek.
“The life and works of Fra Angelico demonstrate that not only can one reconcile these two services — art and priesthood — but they can also be sanctified by the same path. Here the grace of priesthood can be very fruitful,” Father Robert added.
And, as good Poles, Pope John Paul II’s witness was fundamental for their vocation. “The first time we saw Cardinal Karol Wojtyla we were 5 years old, when he blessed the first stone of the new church of the village where we were born,” recalled Father Leszek.
The twins were 6 when Cardinal Wojtyla was elected Pope. “Thus he was the Pope of our childhood, of our youth, of the years of the seminary and of four years of our priestly life,” pointed out Father Robert.
Fathers Leszek and Robert are two brothers enamored with their vocation, which they describe as “a very beautiful adventure, exacting — but which gives immense satisfaction.”
As brothers they both support and accompany one another on this path: “The priest is only a man, who must struggle with his own defects and with his own imperfections, but who, in collaboration with Divine Providence, is capable of fulfilling the obligations that the Lord has entrusted to him.”