Testimony of Innocenta Tychowska, sister of the Blessed Sacraemnt

This letter was written per request of elders in the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters. Thus the author address the then general superior in her reply.

March 27, 1911

My dearest Mother!

Today, standing over my grave, I testify faithfully that I have known Rose Columba for over forty years. She graced me with her friendship and trust. Our relationship was possible thanks to the will of God and the will of Reverend Fr. Kiejnowski, S.J. He went out of his way to help us get to know each other. Once he even said to me: I can see a great likeness between the two of you. It is necessary that you become friends. One day you will bring more glory to God.

It was only before the departure to the novitiate that I met the mother of Miss Rose and her sister Wladyslawa. From the very beginning we became closest friends. Mother and both of her sisters came to love me dearly. Rose asked me to replace her by her mother’s side and visit her and Władzia after her departure. Thank God, I managed to faithfully do so for a whole year, that is, before my entrance to the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. In turn, mother and Władzia visited me in my convent almost every time they received a letter from Rose who lived in France giving me all the beautiful details of her novitiate life. Among others, right after her first profession, before she left the novitiate, this is what happened:

Sister superior, knowing that Columba was to leave their convent for the purpose of founding a similar one in Poland, wanted to preserve her likeness. Apparently, it was not something Mother Columba wanted. Soon a famous painter was summoned. He attempted to take down her image already several times, but, despite his skills, he was unable to achieve the desired effect.

At third turn, very abashed, he went to Sister superior and asked: who is that person? Where is she from? Nothing like that has ever occurred to me: is there a mystery involved in it? Sister superior replied that she was a Pole who had come to Nancy for the novitiate formation and that she was to return to her homeland to make a similar foundation. Having heard all of that the painter said: “During sketching, this person is undergoing an internal battle. Why not to let me sketch one more time? But, please, order her that, while posing, she reflects on things most pleasing to her. May she immerse herself completely into them.” And it was so. The painter drew up a sketch and painted her portrait most beautifully.

I know about it from the deceased Mrs. Bialecka. However, in one of our conferences I asked Mother Columba about that event. She validated everything. During the sketch, she immersed herself into the Lord Jesus in the Most Holy Host.

After professing first vows and finishing the novitiate, she returned to Lviv and for a longer time she lived at her mother’s, although wearing religious garb. Together with her mother, the Dominican tertiary, she attended church and came to visit me. Władzia had been already married. Before the foundation in Wielowieś materialized, the good Lord was testing this elected soul with both interior and exterior crosses so severe that, if not for her extraordinary holiness, she would have not persevered in the fire of temptation and awful sufferings. She would have deteriorated spiritually and physically since she was of a very fragile health and weak stamina.

But her strength was Jesus the Lord – the sole Object by which she was absorbed. Indeed, in Him she lived. Letting Him to capture her entire attention, she hoped to bring Him glory and consolation. In severe trials she lifted up her spirit to God. “God Most Holy” – that was her unceasing aspiration. She allowed humiliations and self-sacrifice more and more. She adored goodness of the Most Holy God that through trials He was erasing her faults not to punish her eternally.

Before she started the Wielowieś foundation, people of all social classes ill-treated her with their tongues; they trampled, got scandalized, threw mud, but she, raising her soul to God Most Holy, used to say: “My dear Mother, they are right to treat me so. The Lord let me feel my own fault; thus, He will not remember them this sin. I accept it in spirit, and thank them and Him for infinite mercy upon me.”

Severe and painful family crosses related to beloved Władzia followed. What debilitating pain burdened this holy heart! Then the cross with Rubczyńska and orphaning of six children. At last, the cross with Zdanowska: how humiliating and tearing her heart till death it was! And what about crosses in her own house? Dear Mother [Mrs. Bialecka] being with her daughter from the beginning of the foundation is the best witness of all them all. Not only they did not break Mother, but – one can say – increased her fervor and diligence.

Mrs. Bialecka was also a witness of one of the heaviest crosses which arrived at the end of her life. This one made her suffer the most and weakened her feeble stamina most gravely. I have in mind this dolor which resulted from the misunderstanding with her confessor [Fr. Leszczyński], otherwise a saintly priest. How many blows he inflicted on her due to his sternness, dear Mother knows best. How many doleful tears this humble heart poured out due to the painful experience of separation from the Only Beloved of her heart! She was refused the Holy Communion – this very life of her soul – not only for days or weeks, but for months at length!

When at last this finality came about that a different superior was to be appointed and Mother was to leave her own Congregation to enter mine, our Father [Weber] together with Bishop Hirschler saved her from such a faulty step and restored everything to the proper order. Oh, what great reverence and love filled her till the very death for this Father of ours, her greatest Benefactor!

The very last conference and testament of late Mother Columba I could sketch broadly as it is an inerasable remembrance of her holiness. Steadfastness in ardor of spirit for over forty years, till the very death, is an unquestionable proof of her high holiness. As her first conversation with me was fiery, seraphic, so were all others, including the very last one. Her feature absolute was: the never fainting fervor of the spirit. In memory, at the very last farewell, she offered me a little handwritten notebook inscribed with most beautiful excerpts from writings of the Fathers of the Church. She offered it to me to entrust her soul to my prayerful memory. I sense that death has not ruptured her love for me. Particularly in the midst of my frequent failings I sense that her spirit supports me, erects, and uplifts me; she is as if a protective angel of the Lord to me.

Oh, how much I regret not having taken notes one by one conferences she had with me. Today, we would have a beautiful volume of this ardor of love, particularly towards the Blessed Sacrament. Indeed, it would have been a Eucharistic album to be laid on a throne under the Eucharist, by the feet of Jesus, as eternally lasting, unceasing adoration of her heart. Every time we met, our conversations were about the Most Blessed Sacrament. In her humility she asked me how to adore the Lord Jesus if one assumed a position of loving self-sacrificing holocaust in His Presence.

She always valued highly our vocation. She said to me that a call of a sister of the Blessed Sacrament is exceptional. In her incomparable humility she used to say that the Lord Jesus skipped her and chose me and that she loved this call of mine. On other occasion we spoke at length about the love of Jesus the Host, about offences endured by him, about ingratitude, human blindness, and about the need to give the Lord Jesus to people, in particular to children. At the end of our conversation she said she had an important request. And she asked me to promise to fulfill it. I agreed to do whatever would be permitted. Then, she pulled out her photography and requested that on Thursday after prayers, when everyone would leave the chapel, I would burn it by the eternal lamp with the inscription: Oh most loving Jesus, annihilate me totally with remorse and love for you. Kill this sinful life of mine only to make your life reign in me. Have mercy on me.” And to this act of sacrificial offering she wanted me to add my words of prayer: “Do this, my dear Mother, for my soul needs to burn here by your lamp.” I replied:”This is your love for me that you want me to become your executioner? I will never do that.” But she begged me so strongly that at last I promised. However, when the time of fulfillment came, I did not have enough courage. I only wrote these acts of hers along with my prayer as she had wished and burned them on a rock by the lamp. As for her photography, I preserved it as a most precious relic. Today I pray for graces through her intercession.

It came to my mind that fifteen years after the foundation of your order, your Mother Foundress visited me once. This time though she was very changed, even frightened with the fear of God’s judgment. Till then, I had always seen her full of vigor, burning spirit, fiery love, and limitless trust. In the course of our conversation she confided in me that a book by a French Jesuit had fallen into her hands. I do not recall its title. It seems that it was something like „About Duties and Mission of Superior.” She addressed me with such words:”If I had access to this book fifteen years earlier, I would not dare to lead my Congregation. I did not know hitherto so clearly about this most lofty a mission on earth.”

The content of what she spoke to me about deeply stack in my memory. Some of it was: who was the superior in God’s mind, according to His designs? What was her mission and duties? The issue of total self-sacrifice up till destruction of one’s own “I”; immeasurable dedication; ongoing focus of the soul’s vision on the will of God. Superior is a true daughter of God who brings to his subjects God’s will but always gazing at the countenance of the Father who does, says, and demands what the Father desires. Superior is truly Jesus among us, Master and Savior, yet only when she fulfills the will of the Master. She ought never turn her eyes away from His countenance. If so, the streams of light will flow daily on her soul. Oh God, spare if she were to reverse her eyes from God’s countenance, not to examine, not to inquire what to do, but to act in her own way. A dreadful judgment awaits her; enormous responsibility for every soul, and a ruin not to be corrected otherwise but by the omnipotence of God.

This is how much of her anguish I jotted down. Next she mentioned various lights, counsels, practices of love, and direction, and summarized in one word: a golden manual for superiors. She promised to send it my way after she was finished reading; nonetheless, this joy bypassed me. If I am not mistaken, Mother Foundress had received this book from Fr. Łubieniecki. I would be glad to know whether it can be still found in your convent.

I recall one more feature of the life of your beloved Mother. You, mothers, the elder in the community, certainly know that this beautiful Dove of Jesus soared as high as the Soul of her Most Holy Bridegroom. Her devotion to the Soul of Jesus became a subject of our conversations only once. She said that during her frequent meditations on this highest sacredness, she was vanishing dazzled by light so unfathomable that she used to lose all powers. No doubt, it had to be heavenly ecstasy. Oh, Soul of Jesus, what holy of holiest that is!, she used to say. Good God sometimes allows some elected souls to soar to this highest holiness where they see in awe miracles of divine love and understand, but cannot put it into words. She told me about one great French worshiper of the Soul of Jesus – I do not remember her name – who possessed a special grace to adore the Soul of Jesus and frequently fell in ecstasy.

Then she asked me whether the Lord showered me or somebody else with a special desire for meditation. Bashful, I replied that, having the sense of indignity, I did not even dare to raise my eyes on the Sacred Host and that I bowed my head down to the ground begging for mercy. Then, your late Mother admonished me not to do so, but rather, staring at the Host, not to lose sight of our merciful Bridegroom. In the heavenly glory He prepared a higher degree of glory and eternal happiness for every loving gaze at Him who so lovingly sacrificed Himself on our altars.

I received many similar advices from this holy and elected soul and, indeed, I feel unworthy of the honor to have been in such a close relationship with her for years. The Lord displayed her for me not only as a worthwhile example of a religious, but even more so, of a sister of the Blessed Sacrament in particular for she was a total holocaust, burned with love at the feet of Jesus the Host.

Today I kindly thank beloved Mother for providing me with the opportunity to renew in my soul the recollection of lofty virtues of your Mother Foundress. With my whole heart I congratulate you, dear Mothers, that God has honored you with so precious grace giving you His greatly favored Bride as your Mother Foundress.

Sr. Innocenta of Jesus in the Garden of Olives,
unworthy sister of the Blessed Sacrament