St Andrew Bobola oil on Prayer Cloth
The St Andrew Bobola oil on prayer cloth is dedicated to the 17th century Polish saint. He was a Polish missionary and martyr of the Society of Jesus. He was known as the Apostle of Lithuania and the “hunter of souls”. Bobola was tortured to death during the Khmelnytsky Uprising. He was canonized in 1938 by Pope Pius XI.
In 1611 he entered the Society of Jesus in Vilnius. He subsequently professed solemn vows and was ordained in 1622. He served for several years as an adviser, preacher, Superior of a Jesuit residence.
From 1652 Bobola also worked as a country “missionary”, in various locations of Lithuania. On 16 May 1657, during the Khmelnytsky Uprising, he was captured in the village of Janów. After being subjected to a variety of tortures, he was killed.
Father Andrew Bobola … had just offered up the holy sacrifice, when a horde of Cossacks attacked the town. On beholding the barbarians, Father Bobola fell upon his knees. He raised his eyes and his hands toward heaven. Having a presentiment that his hour had arrived, exclaimed, “Lord, thy will be done!”
At that moment, the Cossacks rushed upon him. They stripped him of his holy habit and tied him to a tree. Then they placed a crown upon his head, …after which they scourged him, tore out one of his eyes. Also, they burned his body with torches. One of the ruffians traced, with his poignard, the form of a tonsure on the head of the venerable Father.
In addition, on his back they traced the figure of a chasuble! To do this, the executioner had to strip off the skin of the holy martyr! But this was not yet all. The fingers of the apostle had received the priestly unction. The executioner tore from them the skin, and forced needles under his nails! And during this indescribable torture, the hero prayed for his tormentors. Bobola preached, both by word and example, until the schismatics tore out his tongue and crushed his head. Father Andrew Bobola, whom the Church declared Blessed, the 30th of October, 1853, was sixty-five years of age.
A 2nd account
A second account states that when Bobola refused to renounce his religion, he was stripped, tied to a hedge and whipped. In mockery, the Cossacks placed a crown of twigs on his head and then dragged him to his place of execution, a butcher’s shop.
Bobola’s body was originally buried in the Jesuit church in Pinsk. It was later moved to their church in Polotsk. By the beginning of the 18th century, however, nobody knew where Bobola’s body was buried. In 1701 Father Martin Godebski, S.J., reputedly had a vision of Bobola. This caused him to order a search for the body. It was reportedly found completely incorrupt, which is recognized by the Church and its supporters as evidence of holiness. In 1719 the casket was officially reopened and the body inspected by qualified medical personnel. It was reportedly still completely incorrupt: pliable and with soft flesh.
In 1922, the Bolsheviks moved the corpse, later described by an American journalist as a “remarkably well-preserved mummy”, to the Museum of Hygiene of People’s Commissioners of Health in Moscow. The whereabouts of the remains was not known to the Catholic authorities, and Pope Pius XI charged the Papal Famine Relief Mission in Russia, headed by American Jesuit Father Edmund A. Walsh, with the task of locating and “rescuing” them. In October 1923—as a kind of “pay” for help during famine—the remains were released to Walsh and his Assistant Director, Father Louis J. Gallagher, S.J. Well-packed by the two Jesuits, they were delivered to the Holy See by Gallagher on All Saints’ Day (1 November) 1923. In May 1924, the relics were installed in Rome’s Church of the Gesù, the main church of the Society of Jesus.