VATICAN CITY, APRIL 19, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Among the three members of the Salesian family that John Paul II will beatify next Sunday is Augustus Czartoryski, a scion of a Polish family of nobility who became a priest.
Augustus Czartoryski (1858-1893) was born in exile in Paris from where his family — linked to Poland’s dynastic interests — directed a vast action among compatriots and the foreign ministries of Europe to help restore the homeland’s unity. The land had been dismembered and divided among the great powers since 1795.
Augustus’ parents were Princess Maria Amparo Munoz de Vista Alegre, daughter of the then queen consort and regent of Spain, and Ladislao Czartoryski, prince of Poland in exile.
From his birth Augustus was seen as the point of reference of those who dreamed of the rebirth of Poland. His interests, however, were far from the court.
He came under the instruction of Joseph Kalinowski, a future canonized saint. Kalinowski, who after suffering 10 years of forced labor in Siberia became a Carmelite, was from 1874 to 1877 private tutor of the young prince, exercising great influence on him.
Yet what proved decisive for Augustus was his meeting at age 25 in Paris with St. John Bosco (1815-1888), founder of the Salesians.
In 1883, Don Bosco was traveling in France asking for alms. He accepted the invitation of the Czartoryski noble Polish family and celebrated Mass in the Hotel Lambert, their palace in Paris.
The altar servers that day were Ladislao, the head of the family, and Augustus, his firstborn. At the end of the Mass, Augustus asked Don Bosco for a private meeting.
After the meeting, Augustus not only felt his vocation to the religious state reinforced, but had the clear conviction that he was called to be a Salesian.
As often as he could, Augustus went to Turin to meet with Don Bosco and to receive his advice. He also undertook several courses of Spiritual Exercises under the direction of the future saint.
Don Bosco was always cautious about accepting the prince in his congregation. But Pope Leo XIII, recognizing Augustus’ determination, said: “Tell Don Bosco that it is the Pope’s will that he receive you among the Salesians.”
At the end of June 1887, after having given up all his rights in favor of his brothers, Augustus was sent to St. Benigno Canavese for a brief period as an aspirant, during which his father visited him on several occasions to dissuade him from his vocation.
Finally, on Nov. 24, 1887, Augustus took the habit in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians from the hands of Don Bosco, who died two months later. Prince Czartoryski became a Salesian, making his religious vows on the saint’s tomb in Valsalice.
He was ordained a priest on April 2, 1892. Don Czartoryski’s priestly life lasted only a year, which he spent in a room. The tuberculosis he suffered from his youth worsened in time. He died in Alassio on April 8, 1893, at age 35, having lived only five years as a Salesian.
His remains were taken to Poland and buried in the parish crypt of Sieniawa, next to the family’s tombs. Subsequently, they were taken to the Salesian church of Przemysl, where they rest today.
Cardinal Giovanni Cagliero summarized the last period of the young Salesian’s life saying: “He was no longer of this world! His union with God, his perfect union with the Divine Will in his aggravated illness, his desire to be conformed to Jesus Christ in his sufferings and afflictions, made him heroic in patience, calm in spirit, and invincible more than in suffering, in the love of God.”