Photo: Marian Archives
Worth Waiting For!
By Fr. Joseph Roesch, MIC (Dec 18, 2006)
It's a day I'll long remember: Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006.
In the dining room of our General House in Rome, Marians from Poland, Germany, Belarus, America, Argentina, a missionary from Rwanda, and one currently living in France were eating lunch. Just as we were finishing our Superior General, Fr. Jan, strode into the dining room, returning from a meeting at the Vatican. With a huge smile on his face, he said to us in Italian (our common language), "The Holy Father has signed the decree!"
We all broke into applause because Pope Benedict XVI had just authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to publish a decree, regarding a miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God, Fr. Stanislaus of Jesus Mary Papczynski, the Founder of our religious community, the Congregation of Marians Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. Father Jan had been at a different meeting at the Vatican, but he heard the good news from the office of L'Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican daily newspaper.
What does this mean? An unexpected restoration of a pregnancy had taken place in Poland through the intercession of our Founder. This "healing" can now be called a miracle, and this allows our Founder to be beatified, raised to the honors of the altar, one step before canonization or being declared a saint.
We expect that the beatification ceremony will take place sometime in 2007.
Father Stanislaus died in Poland on Sept. 17, 1701. A Marian who lived in the 1700s, the Venerable Servant of God, Fr. Casimir, begin working toward the beatification of our Founder about 40 years after his death. Our Community has been waiting to hear those wonderful words from our Superior General for more than 250 years!
Why did it take so long? Funny you should ask!
Not long after our Founder died, a Marian (Fr. Casimir's older brother) decided that it would be more effective for the Marians to live in parishes than to live together in community. This "dispersion" almost brought the community to an end. Eventually, Fr. Casimir joined the community to repair the damage his older brother had done.
The work toward the beatification of our Founder began, but the ups and downs of history intervened. Poland suffered from wars, plagues, and political problems to the point that the whole country disappeared from the map for a time. Three bordering countries — Russia, Prussia, and Austria — divided and seized the land that its rulers could not defend at the time. And Poland's resources were exhausted due to her over-taxed contribution to the defense of Europe at the gates of Vienna in 1683, threatened by the Moslem Turks.
Further, the Czarist government — by not allowing religious orders to admit new members into their ranks — sought to wipe out all religious communities in retaliation for an uprising for freedom. Because most houses of our Order were located in central and eastern Europe at that time, we were almost wiped out, unlike other Orders who had foundations outside of eastern Europe. Reduced to just one legal member at the beginning of the 20th century, it's a miracle that we survived at all.
With the permission of the later Saint, Pope Pius X, another holy man, Blessed George Matulaitis-Matulewicz, brought the Marians back to life — secretly — until with World War I the Congregation could become visible again. However, in the 20th century, when World War II erupted, the dangers returned under Naziism and Communism. For all of these and other reasons, the Congregation had not been able to do much with regard to the process of its founder's beatification.
Father Stanislaus Papczynski was the first Pole to found, in 1673, a male religious order in his native Poland, which also became the first male religious community in the Church to bear the title of The Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, 185 years before that unique privilege of the Virgin from Nazareth was formally declared a dogma of the Christian faith. He also established as prime purposes of his order prayerful aid to the souls in purgatory and assistance to the diocesan clergy, as well as the nurturing of the Christian faith in whatever way possible.
Our founder suffered greatly — both physically and morally — in his lifetime, but his devotion to The Immaculate One, the Masterpiece of Divine Mercy, always saw him through his trials. His favorite little prayer for efficacious spiritual and physical healing was: "May the Virgin Mary's Immaculate Conception be our health and our protection!"
The Marians now number more than 500 members in 17 countries. In 1941, one of our members was able to miraculously escape from Nazi-occupied Poland, carrying with him the Divine Mercy messages and forms of devotion, which he had received along the way from the now Venerable Servant of God, Rev. Michael Sopoko, St. Faustina Kowalska's confessor and spiritual guide. He vowed that if he should safely reach his confreres in America, he would propagate them in thanksgiving to God to the end of his life. Marians have been at the vanguard of this important movement in the Church worldwide ever since, in full accord with the charism of mercy that found expression in their Founder's life, his preaching, his writings, and his works.
I hope in the future to write more about this great man. These are some beautiful words that he left to us, his spiritual sons: "I eagerly suggest to my brethren, if it be appropriate for me to say: Sons, you ought to have love for God and neighbor, devotion to the Catholic faith, and worship, love, and obedience to the Holy See, faithful preservation of the vows, humility, patience, support the souls in purgatory, and be at peace with everyone."