When I mention that my two older sisters are religious sisters, people often wonder what my parents did to make that happen. In a way, I understand, because it is mildly unusual in today’s world to hear about young women making vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Yet I also want to fight against this mentality that holiness is primarily for priests, religious, and consecrated persons. Sanctity is for everyone and we need to continue to proclaim this good news.
If you are what you should be, you will set your whole world on fire.
~St. Catherine of Siena
Venerable Jan Tyranowski recently came into my life and he inspires me in the quest for a saintly laity. He was born at the turn of the twentieth century in Poland. For over three decades, he led a rather unremarkable life. But at Mass one day, he heard the priest say that it isn’t difficult to be a saint. From that day forward, he pursued virtue and holiness with an incredible ardor.
When Nazis invaded Poland, they deported several of the priests in parish, leaving behind only a couple elderly priests. Knowing of his deep faithfulness, the priests ask Jan to minister to the young of the parish. Despite his introverted nature and little formal education, Jan began this ministry even though he considered himself incapable. He formed prayer groups comprised of fifteen young men each. Each man was responsible for daily praying a decade of the rosary and striving to live out particular virtues. The groups were called “Living Rosaries” and Jan chose a leader for each group, investing time to spiritually form each leader.
Venerable Jan Tyranowski never married and never became a priest, yet his life of holiness impacts us today. The Second Vatican Council called for the laity to live more fully the mission of the Church. This call was anticipated in the life of Jan and he did this in the midst of a Nazi occupation. One of the young men who was in his prayer group and was spiritually formed by this simple tailor was Karol Wojtyla, better known as Pope St. John Paul II.
Over the past several decades, the Church has emphasized the role of the laity and called for us to all pursue radical holiness. As more “mere laity” are raised to canonized sainthood, we are inspired to use our talents and gifts for the Lord and the entire world. St. Therese of Lisieux was a cloistered Carmelie nun, but her parents, St. Louis and Zelie Martin, pursued holiness in marriage and family life. St. Gianna became a doctor, wife, and mother. Venerable Jan Tyranowski was a shy tailor who gave the Lord his life in the midst of ordinary tasks. The Lord took his life and used it to shape the young men of Krakow in a way that led to several of them entering the priesthood and one becoming a pope.
None of us is exempt from the task of pursuing holiness. The majority of the Church is the laity and that is not because God only expects a few to become saints. Each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God and each is designed with a desire for Heaven written on our hearts. Though each path looks different, God desires all of us to be in union with Him. God desires all of us to become saints. As He forms us into the saints He desires us to be, who knows who else He is forming through us? In ways we cannot fathom, God uses our path to holiness to inspire others to join us in this journey.
What excuses are you making for yourself to not radically follow Jesus?
Venerable Jan Tyranowski, pray for us.