Father Anthony Gramlich, MIC, speaks of the remarkable life and spirituality of the Marians' founder, Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski.
Wait a minute: The founder of the Marians walked from where to where? Poland to Rome — on foot? OK, more on that in a bit. But first thing's first.
Incense, music, and a special blessing with a first-class relic helped mark the feast day of the founder of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 18, at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass.
The feast day was held on the 378th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Stanislaus of Jesus Mary Papczynski (1631-1701), who was beatified Sept. 16, 2007, in Lichen, Poland.
"Who is Blessed Stanislaus?" asked Shrine Rector Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, by means of beginning a homily that sought to answer that question.
In order of importance, Blessed Stanislaus was a man who:
• with zeal sought to serve Christ and His Church;
• had such a devotion to Mary Immaculate that he not only formed the Church's first congregation of men devoted to her, but made a vow of blood to defend the honor of the Immaculate Conception;
• had striking visions of the poor souls in purgatory such that he made praying for them a charism of his new community; and
• remains a powerful intercessor today.
He was raised by devout parents. He suffered from severe illness as a child, but was healed, he believed, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother. Though he had joined the Piarist order, he eventually felt pulled by the Holy Spirit to start a new order particularly focused on the Immaculate Conception. This was some two centuries before the dogma would be proclaimed by the Church.
Blessed Stanislaus wrote: "I believe everything that the holy Roman Church believes ... but first of all I profess that the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, was spotless from original sin, from the moment of her conception."
"If you dedicate something to the Immaculate Conception you're going to have trouble," Fr. Anthony said. "Satan does not like that. ... And immediately there was all kinds of persecution."
For example, said Fr. Anthony, candidates would join the new congregation then leave. Getting support from bishops would prove challenging. The bishops wanted the Marians to be more monastic rather than apostolic. Blessed Stanislaus was even attacked by demons.
"But the Blessed Mother protected him and the order," said Fr. Anthony.
Indeed, Blessed Stanislaus' dreams did come to fruition of founding a new religious order with a missionary zeal that took a profound interest in religious education in order to deepen the faith of the common people. Today, the Marians are a congregation of more than 500 priests and brothers in 19 countries around the world.
Other interesting things about Blessed Stanislaus? In order to seek the Pope's approval for the new order, he walked from Poland to Rome.
"Yes, he walked," emphasized Fr. Anthony.
That's more than 800 miles! And it wasn't until he arrived in Rome that he learned the Pope had died. Though Blessed Stanislaus returned to Poland, the approval would eventually come from the new Pope, Innocent XII, for whom as Divine Providence would have it, Blessed Stanislaus had formerly served as confessor.
Other remarkable things about Blessed Stanislaus? He is said to have learned the alphabet in a single day. He had little patience for injustice. He had great empathy for the most forgotten of God's people, including the holy souls suffering in purgatory.
"Many times in Blessed Stanislaus' life he would be transported to purgatory or he would have mystical visions of the souls suffering in purgatory," said Fr. Anthony. "Many times they were the souls of soldiers who had died on the battlefield unprepared for death.
"Blessed Stanislaus would tell his confreres, 'Pray for the souls in purgatory. They are in much need of our prayers.'"
"He was a fascinating man," said Fr. Anthony.
Indeed, Fr. Anthony shared a story of how the future blessed once miraculously averted decapitation as a seminarian.
"At the time, Poland was at war with Sweden," said Fr. Anthony. "He was walking with one of his confreres one day, and a Swedish soldier blasphemed the Blessed Virgin Mary.
"Blessed Stanislaus heard this and confronted the soldier," continued Fr. Anthony. "The soldier drew his sword. Blessed Stanislaus got down upon his knees, and the soldier struck him once on the neck and nothing happened. The soldier struck him two more times, and he could not sever the head of Blessed Stanislaus. Blessed Stanislaus felt extreme pain, but he was OK."
Father Anthony said, "God did not want the future founder of the Marians to be decapitated as a seminarian. He had other plans for him: to be a priest and then a founder of a religious community."
Blessed Stanislaus was also a prolific writer. In words that were later to be echoed in Christ's revelations to St. Faustina, he 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).
In his homily, Fr. Anthony emphasized that though Blessed Stanislaus hailed from a time long ago, he remains a powerful intercessor today for all who turn to him in prayer. Proof of that can be seen in the countless reports from around the world of graces received through Blessed Stanislaus' intercession.
Father Anthony read excerpts from an interview with a Polish man, Zbigniew Chojnowski, who in 2001 began a novena to the Marians' founder — a novena that initiated the church-approved miracle that cleared the 300-year-long path to the beatification of Blessed Stanislaus.
Zbigniew was praying for the baby in the womb of his cousin. The baby was declared dead by doctors. Zbigniew's prayers were answered when, on April 4, 2001 — on the eighth day of his novena — the fetus regained a heartbeat. Sebastian was born, without complications, on Oct. 17, 2001.
"Today we're trying to defend the sanctity of every human life at the moment of conception," said Fr. Anthony, "and I really believe that Blessed Stanislaus' beatification at this time and age is for the Pro-Life movement in this country and throughout the world. He is a man for our time."
Following the homily, attendees of the 2 p.m. Mass were blessed with a first-class relic of Blessed Stanislaus.
Learn more about Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski.
Learn the prayer for his intercession or pray for special graces.