Spiritual Multiplication – The Jan Tyranowski Story

This is the story of Jan (pronounced “yon” in Polish) Tyranowski (unpronounceable, even in Polish, I think). May 23rd 1941, Nazi soldiers raided the Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka, taking with them the Salesian priests who ran the parish. As they were being led away the priests entrusted the formation of the youth to Jan, a simple, uneducated tailor. Jan had gotten serious about his spiritual life after hearing a priest say one day at Mass, “Holiness is not a hard thing.” He decided to become a saint, to receive the Sacraments frequently, and to read the spiritual classics ofthe Catholic faith like Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life, John of Cross, Imitation of Christ, etc., and he applied what he learned to his own life.

Now, here’s what the priests told him to do: “start Rosary groups of 15 young people who will come together to pray the rosary once a week, talk about the faith, and even discuss how to save Poland from the Nazis. We want you to pick one of these young people and make him or her the leader. Then we want you to give personal attention to this leader to build him or her up in the faith, the practice of the sacraments, the spiritual life, living virtue, building healthy friendships…” Jan did this, and in two years he had 60 youth in his four rosary groups and was discipling each of the leaders. On November 1st, 1946, the first of ten of these young men was ordained a priest. The following year Jan died, never married, childless, but never alone, rather continually surrounded by his spiritual children.

Why am I telling you this story? To help you understand the power of one well-formed lay person dedicated to spiritual multiplication, but wait, it gets better. Most people have never heard of Jan, but you know his most famous disciple, the young man ordained on All Saints’ Day back in 1946 was named Karol, as in Wojtyla, now referred to as blessed John Paul the Great. What is the power of one discipler? The power to change the world. John Paul II brought down communism as a totalitarian regime in Europe. His Theology of the Body has created a new awakening in Church in America, and we hope soon through-out the world. And the list goes on and on, but… would there have been a John Paul II without a Jan Tyranowski? It’s hard to say, but it’s unlikely. Here’s the man who introduced JPII to the poetry of St. John of the Cross. Here’s the man who taught John Paul II that the faith is not just abstract ideas but concrete realities you can touch every day. Here is the man who taught John Paul II to examine his conscience every day so as to live the Gospel in every area of life. Here is the man who taught John Paul II that the heights of holiness are open to all, even uneducated Polish tailors…

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