Photo: Felix Carroll
Miracle Approved, Through a Man of Mercy!
Marians' Founder, Fr. Stanislaus Papczynski, to Be Beatified
He preached and practiced love of God and neighbor. He took care of the physically and spiritually poor. He saw visions of suffering souls in purgatory and left as one of his legacies his love and concern for them.
Now, the founder of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception, Fr. Stanislaus Papczynski, the Venerable Servant of God, will be beatified.
On Dec. 16, the Holy Father Benedict XVI authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to publish a decree recognizing the miracle attributed to the intercession of Fr. Papczynski, who founded the Marian Congregation in 1673.
"After more than 300 years since the death of Fr. Papczynski, after nearly 250 years since the beginning of his beatification process, more than 14 years since the issuing of the decree regarding his heroic virtues, we are living to see the moment, which opens the way for the beatification of our Founder," said Fr. Jan M. Rokosz, MIC, the Superior General of the Marians.
"We receive the decision of the Holy Father as a special gift of grace, and we desire to give God ardent thanks for it," Fr. Jan said.
The Vatican is expected to set a date soon for Fr. Papczynski's beatification.
The miracle that opens the way for the beatification happened about five years ago and concerns a pregnant woman. When she went to her doctor, the doctor declared that the baby had died.
Father Wojciech Skora, MIC, Postulator General, explained that the woman's godfather, when he learned of the child's death, had prayed that through Fr. Papczynski's intercession the child would be saved.
The godfather was convinced that Fr. Papczynski would intercede since the godfather "himself received very many graces by praying through his intercession," said Fr. Wojciech.
Three days after the fetus was declared dead, the woman returned to the doctor for a check-up and to have the dead baby removed from her womb.
"To his amazement, the doctor detected that the fetus was alive again," said Fr. Wojciech.
The child who experienced this grace is about 5 years old now and is developing well.
"There is no trace of how dramatic the beginning of his life was," said Fr. Wojciech.
Praying for those who die suddenly
Born in l631 in the small village of Podegrodzie in southern Poland, Fr. Stanislaus became known as an extraordinary preacher, writer, and confessor of souls.
King John III (Sobieski) reportedly sought his counsel and came to him for confession, as did the future Pope Innocent XII, who was serving at that time as the Papal Nuncio for Poland. The crowning achievement for Fr. Stanislaus came when he founded the Marians in 1673, calling them to spread devotion to Mary Immaculate, pray for the souls in purgatory, and assist pastors in parishes.
"Our Father Founder was very much aware of the upheaval going on in the society of his time and the sorts of problems associated with it," said Br. Andrew Maczynski, MIC, who is Vice Postulator for the Marian Causes of Canonization in the Marians' Stockbridge, Mass.-based Province.
"So much was in turmoil in Poland and throughout Europe in the 17th century. There were so many wars," said Br. Andrew. "Many soldiers died on the battlefields, and then there were the plagues. The armies would fight and leave behind the bodies of the slain soldiers. That would spread the plagues."
Due to these plagues and wars, Fr. Stanislaus encouraged prayer for the souls in purgatory, especially for those who died unprepared and suddenly. He reportedly served as a chaplain in the Polish army and prayed at the graves of the soldiers. There are even testimonies that the souls of many of the fallen soldiers appeared to him and asked for his intercession.
In one account, at a gathering of family, friends, and religious, Fr. Stanislaus had a profound mystical experience of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. He later told his confreres: "Pray, brethren, for the souls in purgatory, for they suffer unbearably." He then locked himself in his cell and spent three days praying for them!
Another serious problem that Fr. Stanislaus sought to address was alcoholism, the great addiction of the 17th century. "He saw that the Polish people were slaves to alcohol," Br. Andrew said. "The problem was prevalent among both the peasants and nobility. He was so concerned about it that he forbade the Marians of his time to drink alcohol."
In combating addiction and other personal problems, Fr. Stanislaus always emphasized turning to Mary Immaculate as our powerful intercessor before God. "Our Lady, especially in her privilege of the Immaculate Conception, meant everything to Father Founder," said Br. Andrew. "He looked to the most holy and pure Blessed Virgin whenever he encountered personal difficulties and trials."
Educating the common people
Father Stanislaus also stressed educating the common people of his time in the Faith. "The peasants farming the land and living in the villages were usually neglected," said Br. Andrew. "The pastors in the parishes desperately needed help caring for the spiritual needs of the peasants. Father Stanislaus would assist by preaching, teaching catechism, and hearing confessions in parishes near his monasteries."
What would the Marian Founder stress in his pastoral work with the poor?
"He tried to convince them that human life, whether short or long, has consequences in eternity," wrote the biographer Fr. Tadeusz Rogalewski, MIC. "He encouraged them to abandon sin and inspired them to the practice of the Christian virtues. He knew that lack of faith in the salvation of the soul is man's real tragedy."
In addressing today's crisis of faith among Catholics — especially after the recent Church scandals — the Marians seek to bring the eternal perspective of their founder to their pastoral work. They faithfully serve as pastors in parishes throughout the world and assist the diocesan clergy in many other parishes. Their publishing and outreach apostolates are faithful to the teachings of the Holy Father and seek to spread in a special way devotion to Mary Immaculate and the message of Divine Mercy.
Interceding for the unborn
Along with care for peasants in his day, Fr. Stanislaus seems to have a heart of concern for unborn children today, as evidenced by the approved miracle.
"In light of this miracle," said Br. Andrew, "perhaps Father Founder is taking care of the most critical problem of our times — the need to uphold the sacredness of human life. There is a chance, perhaps, that he will become a pro-life patron in the Church."
What will Fr. Stanislaus's beatification mean for the Marians and the wider Church?
"I do hope that it will mean a revival through Father Founder's spirit and ideals," said Br. Andrew. "It would seem that he still has much to do from heaven."
Brother Andrew was responsible for instituting the "Graces Received" page in Marian Helper magazine. The page, which invites readers to send in acknowledgements of graces received through the intercession of Fr. Papczynski, has helped introduce Father Founder to thousands of Marian Helpers and their circle of family and friends.
"It has brought him out in the open," said Br. Andrew. "It's been a really wonderful thing. More than a biography on him could do, it has drawn many, many people closer to him and to his spirituality. We've had some truly remarkable stories sent to us from all over, from people whose lives were changed through his intercession."
For a free Fr. Stanislaus prayercard (BSPP2), call toll-free 1-800-462-7426.