Saint Stanislaus Set

Marian Founder Stanislaus Papczynski was declared ... Read more

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Next-Door Saints

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By Fr. Joseph Roesch, MIC (Aug 22, 2016)
Was it simply a coincidence that St. Stanislaus Papczynski, the Founder of the Marian Fathers, and St. Elizabeth Hesselblad, OSsS, the Foundress of the Bridgettine Sisters, were canonized together? I don't think so. I think Divine Providence had something to do with it.

True, at first glance, they don't seem to have much in common. Saint Stanislaus lived in the 17th century. He was from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Saint Elizabeth lived from 1870-1957. She was from Sweden. During St. Stanislaus' lifetime, Poland was invaded by Sweden. It was bloody. Indeed, the Commonwealth lost approximately a third of its population. Swedish forces destroyed entire cities. Once, when he was a second-year novice in Warsaw, St. Stanislaus was walking home with a fellow novice when a Swedish soldier approached them and drew his sword. Saint Stanislaus' companion fled, but St. Stanislaus fell to his knees and bared his neck, ready to accept martyrdom. The soldier struck his neck three times, causing the young novice great pain but no wounds. Frustrated, the soldier moved on. It seems that God had miraculously protected St. Stanislaus from certain death.

The June 5 canonization made it perfectly clear that time has healed relations between the two nations. In attendance were the Swedish king and his wife, as well as the Polish president and his wife. Though 350 years have passed since the invasion, the people of these two countries know their histories well, and it was highly symbolic to have these two leaders sitting near each other. Before Mass, I had the opportunity to see each of the leaders meet the Holy Father in front of Michelangelo's Pieta in which Mary holds the body of her crucified Son. How fitting. Jesus wants to reconcile all peoples and all nations.

There's also a fascinating link between the two religious communities. Blessed George Matulaitis, the Renovator of the Marians, wanted the community to have a permanent religious house in Rome for our dealings with the Holy See. Though Blessed George died unexpectedly in 1927, the Marians eventually bought part of the property of the Bridgettine Sisters in Rome in 1932. In fact, the two communities have lived next door to each other ever since. Every Sunday, we offer Mass for the sisters in their convent chapel next door to ours.

The day after the canonization, I looked up the documentation on our purchase of the property from the sisters. I found several documents signed by St. Elizabeth Hesselblad herself, who was the abbess general of the sisters at the time of the purchase. There was a handwritten note signed by her acknowledging the Marians' first down payment on the property.

The Bridgettine Sisters began a mission in India in 1937. Today, most of the sisters who live next door to us in Rome are from Kerala, India. Sister Patricia, the superior, tells me that some of the olive trees on their property were planted by St. Elizabeth. Since our property belonged to them at that time, it's possible that some of the trees currently on our property were also planted by St. Elizabeth.

God is full of surprises in His master planning! Yes, I'm sure that it was more than just a coincidence that St. Elizabeth was canonized together with our Founder. May these two new saints intercede for each of us!

Father Joe Roesch, MIC, is the Vicar General of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. He lives in Rome.

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