May 18, the Feast of Our Founder, St. Stanislaus Papczyński

Saint Stanislaus, gracious intercessor before God, defender of the oppressed and patron of those in mortal danger, you always zealously served Jesus and His Immaculate Mother for the salvation of immortal souls, and you took pity on every misery. Trusting in your intercession, I have recourse to you, and I ask that you do not deny me your help. By your earnest prayers, obtain for me from God the grace .............  for which I beg you with trust, and help me, all my life long, to fulfill the will of the Heavenly Father. Amen.

In 1631, a vessel carrying a pregnant woman on the rushing waters of the Dunajec River in Poland capsized, forcing this mother-to-be into the icy waters. By some miracle, she survived. 

In thanksgiving for her life having been saved, she entrusted her newborn son to God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. This child's name was John Papka, the future St. Stanislaus Papczyński and founder of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. May 18 is his feast day. 

Piarist call
Early on, John struggled to learn the alphabet, so his parents took him out of school and had him tend sheep. But God intervened, and he learned the alphabet in just one day with the help of a family friend. He finished grammar school and eventually studied philosophy under the Jesuits. Around this time, he changed his last name to "Papczyński" to achieve higher social status. 

His family thought he would marry, but instead he followed a call to the Piarist Fathers in Podoliniec, Poland, where he took the name "Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary." He would remain a Piarist from 1654, eventually leaving to found the Marian Fathers in 1670.

Well versed in classical Greek and Roman literature, Fr. Stanislaus published his manual on rhetoric, Proromus Reginae Artium (Precursor of the Queen of the Arts), from which he taught. He also gained a reputation for his preaching, even earning the attention of John III Sobieski, the future king of Poland. This mutual recognition would eventually lead to a close relationship between the Marian Fathers and the monarch. Father Stanislaus was also a confessor to the apostolic nuncio to Poland, Antonio Pignatelli, who would later become Pope Innocent XII. 

After transferring to Warsaw, Poland, Fr. Stanislaus authored several spiritual books. In Warsaw, he continued to instruct students and helped work on the cause for the beatification of the Piarists' founder, Fr. Joseph Calasanz.

Saint Joseph Calasanz founded the Piarists in Italy in 1579. The Piarists excelled at teaching, offering quality education to lower-class students. These schools became quite popular, expanding into Poland in 1642. In fact, they became so popular that their sudden expansion caused a crisis within the Order. Formators focused too much on preparing their pupils for teaching to the detriment of their spiritual formation. Father Stanislaus advocated for stricter adherence to their rule, gaining a reputation for being what his opponents called a "firebrand."

Though he remained in the good graces of his superiors, several members kept accusing him of wrong-doing. Wishing to restore peace, Fr. Stanislaus requested to be released from the Piarists, a drawn out, complicated ordeal. But the Order eventually released him of his vows on Oct. 24, 1670. 

Call to establish the Marians
Around this time, Fr. Papczyński felt the call to establish the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary nearly two centuries before the Immaculate Conception even became official Church dogma. Not wanting to renounce the religious life, Fr. Stanislaus made his oblatio, a solemn self-offering, saying: "I offer and consecrate to God ... as well as to the Mother of God, the ever-Virgin Mary conceived without sin, my heart, my soul and my body, leaving absolutely nothing for myself ... I vow to serve them zealously, in chastity, to the end of my life."

Father Stanislaus assigned three goals to his new community: to promote devotion to the Immaculate Conception, to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, and to minister to people lacking spiritual guidance.

He donned a white habit to symbolize the Blessed Mother's purity. During these initial years, Fr. Stanislaus received many graces including levitation in prayer and the gift of healing. He also authored his Norma Vitae (The Rule of Life), which would later become the Constitution of the Marian Fathers.

He became the first Pole to found a religious community in Poland. He established a hermitage, which did not require apostolic approval. Otherwise, the Order would have undoubtedly been suppressed. Not wanting the future of the Marian Fathers to remain eremitical, he included a specific clause in his Rule that made pastoral work in parishes an essential part of the mission. 

Eventually, Fr. Stanislaus' holiness attracted many vocations to his monastery, and the Order expanded. 

Reputation for holiness
Father Stanislaus went from being one of the most well-known intellectuals to a pauper who ministered to the lowliest. Associating with the rejected and the downtrodden, the Marian Fathers became an object of scorn to most of society. Eventually, though, they gained a reputation for their holiness.

Father Stanislaus traveled on foot to Rome in 1690 to obtain papal recognition of the Order. Unfortunately, Pope Alexander VIII died just days before he arrived, so Fr. Stanislaus tried to endure the longest conclave of the 17th century. One day after Fr. Stanislaus started his journey back to Poland, the cardinals elected Cardinal Antonio Pignatelli, Fr. Stanislaus' penitent, who became Pope Innocent XII. But already heading back to Poland, Fr. Stanislaus did not know this.

After many years of petitioning, the Marian Fathers received approval from the Holy Father Innocent XII under The Rule of the Ten Virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Though the Holy Father did not confirm the Congregation based on Fr. Stanislaus' Norma Vitae, the Rule offered to the Marians agreed with his overall vision for the Order.

On Sept. 17, 1701, Fr. Stanislaus died in Gora Kalwaria, near Warsaw.

Father of the Poor
Upon Fr. Stanislaus' beatification on Sept. 17, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI singled him out as "a father of the poor" and "an apostle of intercessory prayer for the dead."

Pope Francis canonized him in St. Peter's Square on June 5, 2016, commenting that St. Stanislaus' life revealed "the power of [Christ's] Resurrection."

Because of the miracles attributed to St. Stanislaus' intercession — this one and this one — the Holy See has assigned him with the title "Patron Saint of Those in Mortal Danger."

Today, devotion to St. Stanislaus has spread beyond Poland, and he continues to help heal those who ask his intercession.

Saint Stanislaus Papczyński, pray for us!

Learn more about St. Stanislaus.
Listen to the Most Rev. Joseph Roesch, MIC, reading from  St. Stanislaus' "The Mystical Temple of God."



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