Since that beautiful day on Sept. 16, 2007, in Lichen, Poland, when Fr. Stanislaus of Jesus Mary Papczynski (1631-1701) was raised to the honors of the altar, the world has been getting to know the life of the man the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception call "Father Founder."
Today, May 18, Blessed Stanislaus has a feast day in his name. His feast day marks the 383rd anniversary of his birth. The Marians at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., celebrate the feast day as part of the Shrine's regular daily schedule.
[Listen to Vatican Radio's interview with Fr. Joseph Roesch, MIC, concerning Blessed Stanislaus just before the Marian Founder's beatification.]
Ahead of His Time
In several respects, you could say Blessed Stanislaus was a man ahead of his time.
Two-hundred-and-sixty-eight years before the Marians would become official promoters of the authentic Divine Mercy message, Blessed Stanislaus was living the message of Divine Mercy: of having complete trust in Christ, of receiving His mercy, and being merciful to others, particularly those in greatest need.
Nearly 200 years before the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception as a dogma of the faith, Blessed Stanislaus professed: "I believe everything that the holy Roman Church believes, but first of all I profess that the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, was conceived without any stain of original sin."
So attentive to the needs of his time, Blessed Stanislaus is now a model of holiness for our time. Indeed, on the day of Blessed Stanislaus beatification, Pope Benedict XVI called him "a father of the poor" and "an apostle of intercessory prayer for the dead."
As we thank God and give honor to Blessed Stanislaus, it helps to look back on the man's spirituality and to consider the mark he made on the Marians and their mission today.
The Marians point to Divine Providence to explain the interesting fact that in the charism of Blessed Stanislaus so many themes reoccur later in the message of Divine Mercy, as revealed to St. Faustina in the 1930s, which the Marians have promoted since 1941.
The Marians believe that, in His wisdom, God is guiding the history of the Marians so that with their Founder's beatification we see everything come together — the Marians' devotion to Mary Immaculate and now the Marians' work in spreading Divine Mercy and helping to serve those in greatest need.
In words that were later to be echoed in Christ's revelations to St. Faustina, Blessed Stanislaus wrote, "The most merciful Savior of the world cares for the salvation of all people, and not only does He have in consideration the happiness of the just, but also, or even mainly, of the sinners." As Jesus told St. Faustina, "The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy" (Diary of St. Faustina, 723).
Souls in Purgatory
Both St. Faustina and Blessed Stanislaus had a deep care for poor souls in purgatory. Both understood the importance of the Immaculate Conception. Both continually pointed to the importance of having trust in God.
It's safe to say that among thousands of saints, these two emphasized prayer for the poor souls more than any of the others.
Both St. Faustina and Bl. Stanislaus saw visions of suffering souls in purgatory. Both left as one of their legacies their love and concern for these souls. Blessed Stanislaus, who founded the Marians in 1673, made it a main cause for all Marians to help the souls in purgatory shorten their time of separation from God.
Living in a war-torn time period, Blessed Stanislaus witnessed thousands of casualties on battlefields and also from dreaded plagues. He himself accompanied Polish troops as a chaplain in battles against Turkey in Ukraine in 1674. He was deeply saddened to observe how many people died with no time to prepare to meet their Maker. After he experienced visions of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, he was moved to engage in, and advocate for, prayer and penance on their behalf of the dead.
In one account, at a gathering of family, friends, and religious, Blessed 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.
One of the most significant problems of our times is the loss of a sense of human dying, which is a result of the loss of a sense of life. Dying without God is terrifying. Blessed Stanislaus teaches us to live with our attention on dying as the point of our ultimate meeting with God, the point at which we will enter the fullness of eternal life.
Both St. Faustina and Blessed Stanislaus not only invite us to pray for these souls, they invite us to expand our awareness of the spiritual world. They both understood that the line between our world and the "afterlife" is very thin. The departed are not "gone," but rather they simply are not visible in the same way as before. They suffer continually with an intense burning of love and longing to be with God.
Immaculate Conception and Divine Providence
And so why was the Immaculate Conception so central to Blessed Stanislaus? He realized that by being preserved from original sin, Mary was made worthy to become the Mother of the Son of God. Thus, she became living proof to the mystery of Divine Mercy — that sin had been conquered by Jesus Christ, whose merciful love is more powerful than evil.
Blessed Stanislaus and St. Faustina also shared a strong devotion to Divine Providence — that is, of God's particular care for his creatures, and of how His wisdom orders all things sweetly and beautifully to their proper end. We show devotion to Divine Providence through our trust in God's care for us. Of course, trust in Jesus is the very heart of the message of Divine Mercy.
Finally, Blessed Stanislaus, like St. Faustina, has proven himself a powerful intercessor.
"I've received countless letters from people around the world acknowledging graces received through his intercession," said Br. Andrew Maczynski, MIC, vice postulator for the Marian Causes of Canonization in the Marians' Stockbridge, Mass.-based Province. The graces received include spiritual and physical healing, recovery from financial crisis, and the resolving of family disputes.
"This is a holy man," said Br. Andrew, "someone we can turn to and learn from."
As we continue to get to know the Church's new blessed, as we strive to follow the spiritual path he laid, a path that inevitably leads to The Divine Mercy, we can remember above all else that Blessed Stanislaus was a man of mercy who continually sought to lesson the misery of others.
Today, from his place in heaven, he continues that mission. Turn to him as a model of faith. Turn to him in prayer.
The following is the "Prayer through the Intercession of Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski":
Our Lord and God, in consideration of Your Servant, Blessed Stanislaus, who, in spite of many obstacles, trusting in the help of Your Providence, faithfully followed in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, and of His Mother Mary, Conceived Immaculate, grant us this grace that we may be marked by an unwavering trust in Your omnipotence, goodness, and faithfulness, especially when You lead us upon a thorny road towards the glorious promises of Your love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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