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He Had a Wonderful Life

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In the movie It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey only gains the strength and the courage to continue in the face of apparent ruin when he is shown what the world would have been like if he had never been born. Similarly, consider what the world would have been like if Blessed George Matulaitis (1871-1927) (known by the Marian Fathers as "Father Renovator") had never been born.

• Without Blessed George, Blessed Michael Sopocko may not have returned to Vilnius, Lithuania, where he would meet a young nun named Faustina whose mystical experiences have formed the basis of a worldwide, grassroots movement in the Church dedicated to spreading the message and devotion to the mercy of God.

• Without Blessed George, a Marian named Fr. Joseph Jarzębowski, MIC, may never have met Fr. Sopocko. That fateful meeting resulted in one of the most consequential hand-offs in Catholic history — that of Divine Mercy materials that Fr. Jarzębowski would smuggle out of Poland and bring to his Marian confreres in the United States. From Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the Marians have since spread the Divine Mercy message and devotion throughout the world.

• Without Blessed George, the Marians may never have stood at the forefront in clergy/laity partnership advocated decades later in Vatican II.

• Without Blessed George, the Marian Congregation may have gone extinct and the Association of Marian Helpers never come into being.

Indeed, in his service as the Renovator of the Marian Congregation, Blessed George brought back a religious congregation on the brink of death. The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception were down to a single member when Blessed George joined the order secretly and, by the end of his life, had set it on the trajectory it maintains today: growth, flourishing vocations, and many fruitful shrines and apostolic works all across the globe.

In his service as Archbishop of Vilnius, Blessed George strove heroically to bring reconciliation and peace amongst his people. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the life of the Church was calling his priests back to the archdiocese from their service in other towns and regions. Through that one act, Blessed Michael Sopocko was returned to Vilnius, and thus in place for the time when God would arrange his service as spiritual director to St. Faustina Kowalska, one of the greatest mystics in the history of humanity and the secretary of Divine Mercy.

Blessed George set the tone for the Marian Fathers that's led to the creation of the Association of Marian Helpers and of the Hearts Afire: Parish-based Programs, opening the doors to the fruitful collaboration between the laity and the Marians in the service of Mary Immaculate, the Holy Souls in Purgatory, and the Church wherever the need is greatest, especially by promoting the message and devotion of Divine Mercy.

Blessed George wrote, "We must strive to gather and organize about us people of good will. We must train and prepare them for work. Then, together with them and through them, we must bring Christ into all things and all places, renew and revivify all things in Christ, gain all for Christ, attract all for Christ. Lord Jesus, enkindle our hearts with the fire of this zeal!"

As we celebrate his feast on Jan. 27, let us ask Blessed George's intercession for our work to become more deeply converted and sanctified disciples of Jesus Christ as we evangelize the world.

We invite you to learn more about Blessed George.

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