The Boy, Book, Brother, Baby, and the Beatified

This story of mercy begins decades ago in the smallest possible way. A little boy, looking for something to do, goes into his parish library and asks the librarian to give him a book to read. Out of hundreds of titles, she picks one.

Why that one? The question won't be answered for several decades, when that utterly mundane incident culminates in a miracle.

An Intervention
Not long ago, through the mercy of God in the duty of the present moment, a dead baby was brought back to life in his mother's womb. Not far away, the man who interceded on behalf of the grief-stricken family will be raised to the honors of the altar, declared "blessed" by the universal Church, in virtuous obligation.

And while we can never know the path of potential possibilities and alternate futures that may have been called into being had not that given action occurred, we can say it's likely the stories for both the resurrected baby and the blessed man of God would have turned out far differently had the librarian selected another book. The baby likely would have died. The Venerable Servant God, Fr. Stanislaus of Jesus Mary Papczynski (1631-1701), would likely still be a comfy way stop on the road to sainthood.

Death in the Womb
In March 2002, a pregnant woman began experiencing serious problems in her 20th week, due to a lack of blood flow through the umbilical cord. Moreover, a tear in the amniotic sack drained virtually all of her amniotic fluid.

Symptoms of a miscarriage became evident. In-utero tests confirmed the baby's heart had stopped beating. Doctors found the fetus had grown smaller. A second test confirmed this, and the woman's doctor had the grim duty of pronouncing the baby dead.

Three days later, the disconsolate woman kept her appointment for a test to see if a natural miscarriage had taken place. If not, the doctor would perform surgery to remove the dead baby.

A Baby, Come Back to Life
From the report of Fr. Wojciech Skora, MIC, Postulator General for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception:

"To his and the expectant mother's amazement, the doctor discovered a heartbeat. In view of the previous, twice-confirmed diagnosis, this seemed to be impossible."

Impossible? For man, yes. For God, no.

Further tests confirmed the baby was alive and that blood was flowing through the umbilical cord. The presence of amniotic fluid also indicated that the tear had been sealed. The woman hadn't expected it. The doctor couldn't explain it. Yet there it was: Life that medical science had declared dead.

Within seven months, the woman and her family welcomed a new baby boy, born healthy. Today, he is an exuberant five-year-old tyke, happily developing properly.

While medicine was plodding through its grim business, heaven had quietly intervened. The woman's cousin, who is also her godfather, had begun a novena to the founder of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, Fr. Stanislaus Papczynski. Other family members joined the novena. They prayed while the baby's condition worsened. They prayed while the doctor declared the baby dead. They prayed as the baby came back to life.

A Child is Father to the Man
The family's devotion to The Divine Mercy had triggered a providential sequence of events.

From Fr. Skora's official report: "The above-described events took place during the course of the [family's] Novena. The successful conclusion of this dramatic episode is due - without any doubt - to the intercession of our Founder."

This confirmed miracle removed the last remaining obstacle for Fr. Stanislaus' beatification, set for Sept. 16 at the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Lichen, in Lichen, Poland. But consider this: The miracle may not have happened if that unknown librarian had not given that little boy the book she did?

Hard to believe? Hardly. Taken at its least miraculous, this itself may be a miracle.

The little boy was Andrew Maczynski. The librarian? She worked at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Warsaw, Poland. Young Andrew became the same man who grew up to be Br. Andrew Maczynski, MIC, Vice Postulator for the Marian Causes of Canonization!

A Lad Finds His Hero
What was the chosen book? It wasn't the Bible, nor was it a Catechism. The librarian recommended the biography of Fr. Stanislaus. Call it intuition. Call it the large hand of Divine Mercy tapping someone on the shoulder for recruitment. The boy took the book, but he didn't read it. He devoured it.

Young Andrew had not only a role model and hero but the direction for his adult life.

"I read his biography over and over again," says Br. Andrew. "I instantly fell in love with that man's story. As I grew older, I read everything about Fr. Stanislaus that I could find. The more I discovered about this amazing man, the more I identified with the Marians' mission, especially praying for the souls in purgatory, which is a timeless cause. It will always be something that will be much needed."

After finishing a period of his public schooling, Br. Andrew found the Marians of the Immaculate Conception to be a perfect fit. He joined the Congregation, eventually rising to a vital position in the centuries-old push for Father Founder's sainthood.

As Vice Postulator for the Cause of Canonization for Fr. Stanislaus, Br. Andrew became the clearinghouse for hundreds of reports of graces received through the intercession of Father Founder. It is hard to imagine a more fortuitous position for a man who had as a boy been captivated by Fr. Stanislaus's life. He had become the gatekeeper of information that would pave the road to Fr. Stanislaus's beatification.

Divine Mercy's fingerprints are all over this story, beginning with Fr. Stanislaus's founding of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, remaining throughout Father Founder's life of heroic virtue, continuing through the centuries leading to the revelations of Jesus in the 1930s to an uneducated Polish nun, to Br. Andrew getting his book, to the woman's problem pregnancy, and to her family's invocations to Fr. Stanislaus. The next milestone in that amazing sequence of events will occur on Sept. 16 in Lichen, Poland.

It's an incredibly complicated plot the most inventive novelist would fail to concoct and Hollywood would reject as too implausible.

Brother Andrew says that through his position as Vice Postulator, he knows of several other accounts of graces received through Fr. Stanislaus's intercession for unborn children. "In light of this miracle," says Br. Andrew, "perhaps there is a chance Father Founder will become a pro-life patron of the Church."

Picture Fr. Stanislaus, hearing some family's desperate plea, using his "pull" to put it before The Divine Mercy. You have to think Fr. Stanislaus has an "in" because the Congregation he founded has taken on the spread of The Divine Mercy message and devotion as one of its prime directives.

Dialogue with Despair
We might able to see how God accomplished the miracle involving the baby through Fr. Stanislaus's intervention by turning to the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, Notebook Five, where Jesus engages in dialogues with different types of souls. Among these are souls in despair.

The "Conversation of the Merciful God with a Despairing Soul" pinpoints better than any doctor's report or interviews what the woman and her family must have been going through as the news got grim then grimmer about the baby boy in the womb.

Jesus: O soul steeped in darkness, do not despair. All is not yet lost. Come and confide in your God, who is love and mercy.

- But the soul, deaf to even this appeal, wraps itself in darkness.
Jesus calls out again: My child, listen to the voice of your merciful Father.

- In the soul arises this reply: "For me there is no mercy," and it falls into greater darkness, a despair which is a foretaste of hell and makes it unable to draw near to God.

Jesus calls to the soul a third time, but the soul remains deaf and blind, hardened and despairing. Then the mercy of God begins to exert itself, and, without any cooperation from the soul, God grants it final grace (1486).

This astonishing passage reveals the working mechanism of mercy. It reminds me taking of the back off a clock to reveal the workings of its machinery - the gears, springs, crystals, and fasteners that move the hands so precisely. The mechanism of mercy for a soul in despair is The Divine Mercy "exert[ing] itself ... without any cooperation from the soul."

The decision by the woman's Godfather, obviously a man who took his responsibilities seriously, to invoke Fr. Stanislaus set into motion this "exertion" of God. For Jesus tells the despairing soul (passage 1486) that it has a "special claim on My mercy. Let it act in your poor soul; let the grace of rays enter your soul; they bring with them life, warmth, and light."

Again, we see the gears and springs of Mercy at work. Once mercy gets involved, all the soul has to do is remain passive. It merely needs to "let the grace of rays enter [the] soul." This is done with a non-action. The soul merely has to do nothing that would impede those graces.

An entire family in prayer, on behalf of a mother nearly out of her mind with grief, activated the exertion of mercy. The mother - in her grief or, more accurately, because of her grief! - had the passivity needed for mercy to do its miraculous work.

The blood resumes its flow through the umbilical. The baby's heart begins beating.

God's Ways
A careful look at the graces received through the intercession of Fr. Stanislaus shows a similar pattern: The intercessor is invoked, mercy exerts itself, and - finding no impediment - does its thing.

These reports of graces received, from people in all walks of life, in all social circumstances, and from all over the world, testify to the favors - both little and large - received through Fr. Stanislaus, who was known in his time as a prophet and miracle worker. They also played a significant role in the Church's declaration of "blessed."

According to Fr. Joseph, MIC, the director of the Association of Marian Helpers, there's no doubt the many prayers sent in over the years for this cause, as well as graces received through the intervention of Fr. Stanislaus, played a role in the Holy See's acceptance as a miracle of the dead baby's return to life.

"The wonderful miracle of the baby returning to life speaks for itself," says Fr. Joseph. "But we also have the extraordinary testimonies of ordinary people from all walks of life. They bear witness to the special graces they report receiving from Fr. Stanislaus."

God's Equations
Today a young child who was confirmed dead is alive and growing into a normal little boy. In a few tomorrows, Sept. 16 to be exact, great man of God receives a title that is the Church's official declaration that he is in heaven, sharing God's glory in its fullness.

When God guided a parish librarian to select a certain book for an inquisitive little boy those many years ago, He must have had these things in mind:

* A little boy looking for a hero
* A dutiful librarian looking to help
* A mother, decades later, despairing
* Her family, in the face of grief, having faith to pray
* A baby dead in the womb needing life
*A great man of God, deserving to be raised to the altar, interceding.

God must have instantly factored these terms into His divine equations to arrive at the proven result.

God must have had Sept. 16, 2007, in Lichen Poland in mind.

Dan Valenti writes Dan Valenti's Mercy Journal for this website, as well as for numerous other publications of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, both online and in print.

You might also like...

There's no easy way to say it: In St. Faustina's battle against staggering odds, we can find the inspiration to persist in our own struggles.
Recently, I spent a weekend catching up on yard work. I mowed, swept, shoveled, raked, and weeded. Call it spirituality amongst the dandelions.
Pain and suffering are universal experiences, says His Excellency the Most Rev. Zygmunt Zimowski, top Vatican prelate on healthcare issues. Archbishop Zimowski says the answer to dealing productively with these experiences can be found in God.