As we prepare to mark the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2002, my thoughts turn to the enormous tragedy that we experienced this fall with the horrific terrorist attacks on our land. I'm also thinking about 2001 as the 300th anniversary year of the death of the Venerable Servant of God, Fr. Stanislaus of Jesus Mary Papczynski, the Founder of my Congregation.
Now, you may be wondering, what could possibly be the connection between a holy man who died 300 years ago and the terrible tragedy that we experienced as a nation a couple of months ago?
Quite simply, it's that Fr. Stanislaus understood the importance of praying for the souls of victims who lose their lives suddenly in just such tragedies -- including war situations like those of today in the Middle East and Afghanistan and epidemics like the pandemic of AIDS in Africa.
From heaven, he was certainly imploring God's mercy on the souls of the victims in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedies in New York City, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania. With the eyes of heaven, though, he also surely saw this disaster as part of the bigger picture of our need to remember the souls of victims of tragedies that occur around our world every day.
In his own day, he saw his native homeland ravaged by terrible wars, famines, and plagues. He was then led by God and Our Lady to pray for the souls of those who had died suddenly in such difficult circumstances with no one to pray for them. In fact, he reportedly served Polish troops as a chaplain in 1674.
Let me share with you one particular incident that shows the depth of his concern for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, including the souls of those who had died in wars. One day, he had just arrived at a family home to share a meal with some friends and their guests. On making his way to the dining room table for dinner, he suddenly had a profound mystical experience of the Holy Souls suffering in purgatory.
Oblivious to his hosts and the other guests, he then immediately left the dining room and returned home, telling his fellow religious at his monastery, "Pray, brethren, for the souls in purgatory, for they suffer unbearably."
He then spent the next three days praying for the souls in purgatory!
Following Fr. Stanislaus's lead, we Marians -- his spiritual sons -- are called to offer our lives for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, especially the victims of wars and diseases or epidemics.
That is why I want to invite you, as a Marian Helper, to deepen your own commitment to pray for the souls in purgatory -- especially the souls of victims of tragedies who have died suddenly and may have no one to pray for them. One way you can respond is by remembering these souls in our Mother of God Novena. (Please see details at the end of the feature on Our Lady of Guadalupe.)