Photo: Dan Valenti
Bishop of Springfield Timothy McDonnell leads procession Sept. 7, 2008, into the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, Stockbridge, Mass., where he concelebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving to honor the first anniversary of the beatification of Marian Founder, Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski. At right is Br. Michael Opalacz, MIC. Altar server Isaiah Butler is seen at left.
By Dan Valenti (Sep 7, 2008)
The Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell, Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, celebrated the first anniversary of the beatification of Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski, founder of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, at a 2 p.m. Mass of Thanksgiving at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass.
The celebration before a crowd of more than 200 culminated a year of prayerful appreciation of Stanislaus (1631-1701), who was declared "Blessed" by the Vatican one year ago this month, on Sept. 16, 2007, in Lichen, Poland, before 100,000 pilgrims. At the Lichen celebration, Pope Benedict XVI called Blessed Stanislaus "a father of the poor" and "an apostle of intercessory prayer for the dead."
Five Marian priests concelebrated with Bishop McDonnell: Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC; Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC; Fr. Walter Gurgul, MIC; Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, and Fr. Andrew Gorczynski, MIC. Brother Michael Opalacz, MIC, served as acolyte. Brother Ken Galisa, MIC, provided music.
One Man, One World of Difference
Bishop McDonnell told the congregation that Blessed Stanislaus "reminds us that each of us has the ability to make a difference." In an interview before Mass, the bishop reflected on the life of this great and holy man:
"Holiness shows up in many different ways. Today, we will honor a man who, in his response to God's call, affected the entire world. Consider the impact of the life of this one person. Think of the incredible goodness that has come from this one man's decision to heed God's call. He founded the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, who to this day, more than three centuries later, continue in service to mankind all over the world. It's remarkable. Look at what has happened here on Eden Hill over the decades. Think of how many people have been brought into a better relationship with God, with Christ, and with Our Lady because of this man and the work that his community has done.
We are All Called by God
When asked if the call to holiness a "tough sell" in today's troubled culture, Bishop McDonnell said, "I think people realize that this opportunity is there, and that inwardly they long for a better spiritual life. They may not always act in holy ways, but most people want to be better, as people and as human beings. They have a spiritual call and therefore a spiritual longing.
"Maybe one of the problems we have today is that it can be so difficult to hear God's call, because of the high level of noise and distraction in the culture," the bishop said. "That's why a place such as this beautiful location [the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy] is so vital. People can come here, experience quiet, and have time for thought and reflection. God is still speaking to us. As Jesus told us, 'I am with you always, even until the end of time.' That's what we celebrate today. We honor a man who heard God speaking and who answered — again, think of the impact of that one man saying 'yes.' We all have that same opportunity."
An Agenda for Life
Father Anthony, rector of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, delivered the homily.
Father Anthony began with a brief account of the miracle that led to the beatification of Blessed Stanislaus. A baby, declared by doctors dead in the womb, came back to life after a relative asked Fr. Stanislaus for his intercession.
"In helping such a humble child," Fr. Anthony said, Blessed Stanislaus confirmed that "the love and nurturing of life" remains to this day a major part of the great charism (or mission) of the Congregation he founded in 1673.
The shrine rector recalled attending the beatification ceremony last year in Lichen, and having the chance to meet and mingle with many bishops from around the world. He said the bishops repeatedly told him that "the Marians are called to do something [special] for pro-life." They are called to "bring forth life" in all its manifestations — physical, spiritual, mental, cultural, and social.
"God has given the Marians a special charism," Fr. Anthony said, "— seeking and helping to spread the gift of life." He added that nurturing life is an all-encompassing act, from the birth of a baby to helping the poor and those in need. Any act of mercy, he said, "is an act for life."
A Year of Study
The Congregation of Marians have spent this past year studying the writings of Blessed Stanislaus and reflecting on his spirituality. The passionate, dedicated priest had a fervent devotion to Mary's Immaculate Conception, which he incorporated into the name and the overall mission of the congregation he founded in 1673. He also recommended constant prayers for the souls in purgatory and a trust in the mercy of God.
His spiritual philosophy can be summed up in one sentence: serve people where the needs are greatest. To this day, the Marians of the Immaculate Conception are fulfilling Blessed Stanislaus' wishes. Nearly 500 Marians serve Christ and the Church as priests and brothers in 18 countries.
This great apostolate has spread to include 1.5 million lay people, who assist the Marians in their good works through the Association of Marian Helpers, based on Eden Hill in Stockbridge. This work includes devotion to Mary Immaculate, whose sinless nature and role as the Mother of God offer proof that Jesus has conquered sin; offering their lives for the souls in purgatory, especially victims of war and disease; engaging in publishing activities, assisting in schools, hospitals, and parishes; and spreading the message of Divine Mercy as revealed by Jesus to St. Faustina Kowalska in the early 1930s.
A Powerful Intercessor
The Very Rev. Jan M. Rokosz, MIC, Marians' superior general, noted Blessed Stanislaus' work on behalf of the dying and the dead: "Dying without God is terrifying. Blessed Stanislaus teaches us to live with our attention on dying as the point of our ultimate meeting with God, the point at which we will enter the fullness of eternal life."
It's interesting to note that while Blessed Stanislaus heartily recommended relying on Mary as our intercessor before God, he himself became a powerful intercessor. The Marians of the Immaculate Conception have received innumerable testimonials from people all over the world giving thanks to Blessed Stanislaus for helping them with God in answer to their petitions.
"This is a holy man," says Br. Andrew Maczynski, MIC, vice postulator for the Marian Causes of Canonization in the congregation's Stockbridge-based province, who also attended the Mass of Thanksgiving. "[He is] someone we can turn to and learn from."
The following is the prayer to Blessed Stanislaus for intercession:
Our Lord and God, in consideration of Your Servant, Blessed Stanislaus, who, in spite of many obstacles, trusting in the help of Your Providence, faithfully followed in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, and of His Mother Mary, Conceived Immaculate, grant us the grace that we may be marked by an unwavering trust in your omnipotence, goodness, and faithfulness, especially when You lead us upon a thorny road towards the glorious promises of Your love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Dan Valenti writes for numerous publications of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, both in print and online. He is the author of "Dan Valenti's Journal" on thedivinemercy.org.