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Stanislaus Papczyński

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Blessed Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary Papczyński (born John Papka, May 18, 1631 in Podegrodzie, Poland; died September 17, 1701 in Góra Kalwaria, Poland), a priest of the Roman Catholic church, a member of the Piarist Order, the founder of the Congregation of Marian Fathers; beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 2007. Son of Tomasz Papka - a blacksmith - and Zofia neé Tacikowska. He had one brother and six sisters, all older than him.

Blessed Stanislaus Papczyński was enrolled in the annals of Polish culture and the history of the Church principally as the holy founder of the first Polish order of male religious and as a prominent religious writer.

Childhood and Youth

He was born on May 18, 1631, in Podegrodzie near Stary Sącz. At baptism he received the name John. His father was a local blacksmith and village bailiff. The boy inherited from his parents an unusually lively and enterprising temperament. As a youngster, he knew the secrets of the dangerous Dunajec River and the surrounding Beskid Sadecki hills. He also learned to be a responsible and vigilant shepherd of his father's herd of sheep. His first beginnings with school did not indicate his career as an academic. He had difficulty with studies, nevertheless he mastered his temperament, overcame material problems associated with his social standing, and with great diligence and success he advanced in studies, graduating from one school to another: in Podegrodzie, Nowy Sacz, Jaroslaw, Piarist College of Podoliniec, and the Jesuit College of Lvov, where he had to flee from the onslaught of the Cossacks. At the age of twenty-three he completed his general and philosophical studies at the Jesuit College of Rawa Mazowiecka. His entire life was before him. His parents found him a beautiful and richly endowed maiden, but he disappointed them, desiring to dedicate himself completely to serving God.

In the Piarist order

On July 2, 1654, in Podoliniec, he joined the Piarist Order just newly established in Poland and took the religious name of Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary. He made his second year of novitiate in Warsaw, while studying theology with the reformed Franciscan Brothers. Those were the times of the Swedish invasion known as 'the deluge' that made a deep impression on the young seminarian's life. From the perspective of his whole life's experience, he thus described in his testimony one incident from those days: "I confess," he writes, "that I leave this world professing the Roman Catholic faith for which I was ready to pour out my blood during the war with Sweden. One day my companion and I were exiting the Old Town, when a heretic soldier, his unsheathed sword in hand, attacked us near the Dominican Fathers. My companion (even though he was German) fled, and I, falling to my knees, stuck out my neck for the blow. However, by the decree of Divine Providence, I did not sustain any wounds although I was struck three times with great force. Afterwards, I felt great pains for an hour and a half because of that."

On July 22, 1656, several months after the historical solemn vows of John Casimir (King of Poland), Stanislaus made his religious profession as the first Polish member of the Piarist Congregation. He received his ordination to priesthood on March 12, 1661.

While still a seminarian, he taught rhetoric in the colleges of Rzeszow and Podoliniec, and then after ordination he taught in a Warsaw college. In his lectures he used a textbook entitled "Prodromus reginae artium" (The Messenger of the Queen of Arts), which he himself wrote. This textbook underwent four reprints during subsequent years. This work merited special praise for its pedagogical character as well as the selection of rhetoric which witnesses to the author's patriotic sentiments and his special devotion to Mary Immaculate. Also, in this textbook he postulated the equality of all citizens before the law and took a critical stand in regards to the "liberum veto." ("free veto" = an unexplained veto)

As a priest, he gained high esteem for hearing confessions and giving sermons, especially with the intellectually elite of Warsaw. On greater feasts he was invited to preach in the many churches of the Capital City. His sermon on Thomas Aquinas, delivered at the Dominican Church, was published in 1664 under the title "Doctor Angelicus" (The Angelic Doctor). Taking advantage of Bl. Stanislaus's contacts with influential people, his superiors entrusted him with gathering petitions for the beatification of the order's founder, Fr. Joseph Calasanctius. Through obtaining numerous postulation letters, Bl. Stanislaus greatly contributed to elevating Fr. Calasanctius to the altars. As a fervent devotee of the Most Blessed Mother, during the years 1663-1667, Bl. Stanislaus directed the Confraternity of Our Lady of Grace, Patroness of Warsaw, whose image was found at that time in the Piarist's Church on Dluga Street.

Despite the great successes of his academic, educational, and pastoral work, Bl. Papczyński's relations with his superiors kept getting more strained and eventually led to his leaving the order. Differences in understanding of the order's character were at the base of this conflict: Bl. Papczyński strove to restore the early rigor of life while practices in the Province tended to favor laxity. It seems, as if the circumstance, well known in the history of the Church, also took place here; as when a potential founder of a new order, while still a member of his religious community, differs in his ideals of religious life from the greater part of his confreres and thus senses himself a stranger within his present religious family, he seeks to realize his ideal in a new community, which he begins himself. This process is always marked by pain and suffering. All of it was true in Bl. Papczyński's case. Because of his views and actions, as interpreted by some of his superiors, he was the cause of confusion among Piarists, while he himself felt misunderstood. Later he used to call this period of his life "a long-lasting martyrdom." In those difficult times he sought certainty through reflection on the Passion of Christ, which found expression in two written series of meditations: "Orator crucifixus" (The Crucified speaker) and "Christus patiens" (The Suffering Christ).

Not being able to find for himself, within the Piarists, the proper climate for life and work and at the same time seeing also a rift within the Province between his supporters and adversaries, Bl. Papczyński asked the Superior General to release him from religious vows. On December 11, 1670, he left the Order. At one and the same time in the presence of his Piarist Superiors he made the following solemn declaration: "I offer and consecrate to God, the Almighty Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as well as to the Mother of God, the ever-Virgin Mary, conceived without sin, my heart, my soul, my body, leaving absolutely nothing for myself, so that henceforth I may be the slave of God Almighty and of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Consequently, I vow to serve Them zealously, in chastity, to the end of my life, in the society of Marian Clerics of the Immaculate Conception, which by the grace of God I wish to found."

The Marian Legislator

Up until this time all religious orders came to Poland from abroad, particularly from the West. Only a fool would strive to realize such a plan, especially in light of the prevalent aristocratic mentality, he being of common birth and advocating a very rigorous lifestyle.

He found support for his plan from the Bishop of Poznan, Stefan Wierzbowski. Rejecting tempting proposals from different Orders and bishops (those of Cracow and Plock), Bl. Papczyński went as chaplain to Jakub Karski's house in Lubocza near Nowe Miasto-on-Pilica in order to prepare himself for this new undertaking. There, in September of 1671, he was vested in the new white habit in honor of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Mother. He also prepared the project of the future order's statute entitled "Norma vitae" (Rule of Life). At the same time he wrote a moral and ascetical treatise called "Templum Dei Mysticum" (The Mystical Temple of God), which underwent several reprints. In this book he expressed his belief that lay people, and not only priests and religious, are called to holiness. This is one of the most preeminent works in Polish ascetical literature of the 17th century.

Seeking candidates for his planned order, in September of 1673, Bl. Papczyński went to Puszcza Korabiewska near Skierniewice, where a former soldier, Stanislaus Krajewski and companions lived as hermits. There, on the land donated by Krajewski, he built and organized his Institute's first house, which he called a "Retreat House." Bishop Stanislaus Swiecicki, who came on a canonical visitation on October 24, 1673, approved this community living in accord with the "Norma vitae" under Bl. Papczyński's guidance. He left them his own "Statutes" on the characteristics of hermits and penitentials. The Marians consider this date as the beginning of their Order.

Bishop Wierzbowski wished to engage the newly created religious community in fulfilling of his plans of the renewal of religious life in the diocese. Particularly in the town of Gora near Warsaw where he established the holy city of Mazowsze which he called New Jerusalem. There he built many churches and chapels commemorating the Passion of Christ. To serve the arriving pilgrims, he brought over several religious orders, among them — Bl. Papczyński's community. In 1677, he consigned to him the Church of the Lord's Cenacle with its adjacent monastery. The previous obligations of living a hermits' lifestyle were not in force at this institution. Blessed Father Papczyński lived here until his death, a period of 24 years. Here he zealously developed an active apostolic work among pilgrims as well as in the neighboring parishes.

On April 21, 1679, Bishop Wierzbowski canonically constituted Bl. Stanislaus's Institute, composed of two houses, as an Order of Diocesan right. The goal of the community was; beside the spreading of devotion to the Immaculate Mother of God, to assist Poor Souls in Purgatory, particularly those who died in fields of battle and victims of plagues. This mission undoubtedly came about through the intense religious experiences of the times compelled by the country's political circumstances and continuous wars. Blessed Father Papczyński also directed his spiritual sons to undertake pastoral works, especially assisting pastors by hearing confessions, as well as catechizing and delivering sermons to the faithful, particularly the most spiritually neglected in regards to religion. As remedy against the vice of drunkenness, Bl. Papczyński introduced in the order abstinence from drinking vodka. King John III Sobieski, who was known for his kindness towards strict religious orders, took the Marians under his special protection.

However, the simple vows which the Marians were making at the time were little binding in the existing circumstances, and the fate of the Congregation depended simply on the bishop. This problem became particularly apparent after the death of Bishop Wierzbowski in 1687. For these reasons, Bl. Papczyński, who was already 60 years old, set out on a journey by foot for Rome in 1690, in order to obtain the papal approval for his Order. Unfortunately, he arrived there at a time when the Holy See was without a Pope, thus he only procured a spiritual affiliation of the Marians with several other Orders. The approbation of "Norma vitae" as the Congregation's statutes, which took place a couple of years later, was a fruit of this journey.

In 1699, Bl. Papczyński made another attempt to procure the approbation of his Order, by sending to Rome Fr. Joachim Kozlowski as his envoy with full powers (plenipotentiary). Meeting with difficulties in obtaining the approbation of the Marian Order upon its own rule, Fr. Kozlowski approached the reformed Franciscan Minors for the "Rule of the Ten Virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary", which included the Marians' legal dependence on this Order. Pope Innocent XII approved the document issued by the General of Franciscans on October 24, 1699. Although the Rule was received without previous consultation with Bl. Papczyński, nonetheless it did not infringe in any way on the specific features of the Marian Institute and was thus gladly accepted by the Marian Legislator. The Marians became an Order with solemn vows and were freed from the authority of a local bishop, although they were dependent on the Franciscans for some time. Finally, the Marians received approbation as an order of apostolic right ridding themselves of the restrictions imposed by the hermetic life that were hindering them. In their apostolic work they placed special emphasis on teaching truths of the faith to the faithful of lower classes, which was the Church's most urgent task at the time.

On June 6, 1701, Bl. Papczyński pronounced a solemn profession of vows in the hands of the Apostolic Nuncio Francisco Pignatelli and then received the profession of vows from the other Marians. This act is the crowning point of the prolonged process of establishing the first Polish order of male religious in that country's history. On the way to the realization of this goal, for a duration of 30 years, Bl. Papczyński had to overcome innumerable difficulties. A few times he even had doubts if God truly wanted him to follow this road. However, still obedient to the divine inspiration and his spiritual directors, he courageously trod the path designated for him by Divine Providence. He died in the opinion of sanctity on September 17, 1701, and was buried at the Church of the Lord's Cenacle in Gora Kalwaria.

Spirituality

Observing the life of Bl. Papczyński, we notice that it was committed to apostolic service. At school, from the pulpit, in confessional, or at his desk, he proclaimed the word of God everywhere in speech and writing, emphasizing particularly the need to care for those wronged by the society. His work illustrated the beliefs proclaimed in "Templum Dei Mysticum": "O how admirable are those who mutually work with Christ, and, solely out of love for Him, sincerely and zealously announce all that is essential for salvation, for leading a Christian life, for rooting out vices, and increasing virtues. This is the greatest and most fruitful work of mercy."

In his apostolate and spiritual life he put special attention on proclaiming the glory of Mary Immaculate, helping Poor Souls in Purgatory, and fighting the vice of drunkenness.

Two centuries before the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception Bl. Stanislaus professed: "I believe everything that the holy Roman Church believes, but first of all I profess that the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, was conceived without any stain of original sin." This privilege of the Immaculate Conception was very precious to him. He talked about it in sermons and wrote extensively on the subject. Like a knight of old, who pledged to defend the honor of his lady, in 1670 he made a "vow of blood" witnessing his readiness to lay down his life if necessary in honor of Mary's Immaculate Conception. He not only faithfully kept his vow in the living of his life, but he also called into existence a religious order dedicated in the heart of the Church to promoting the Immaculate Conception. Blessed Father Papczyński lived in times illustrated by the Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz in his "Trilogy", describing the Cossack wars, the Swedish invasion of Poland, and finally, the Polish army's victory at Vienna. He himself accompanied Polish troops in battles against Turks in Ukraine in 1674, and witnessed that many people left this world without being prepared to meet their Maker. He often experienced mystical visions of the Poor Souls in Purgatory after which he would say to his confreres: "Brethren, pray for the Poor Souls in Purgatory for their sufferings are unbearable." Compelled by love, he supported those souls with his prayer and sacrifices. He bequeathed this charism to the religious family that he founded.

Father Stanislaus declared war against his contemporaries' vice of drunkenness. Without fear of people's disapproval, he directed his fellow-Marians: "Use of vodka is strictly forbidden, both at home and outside, under the loss of Divine blessing. This is to honor our Lord's thirsting on the Cross."

In the opinion many people Bl. Papczyński's life was holy. This belief gave grounds for opening the beatification cause in 1767, which was interrupted in 1775.

However, as we take a closer look at the program that he proclaimed by his word and example of life, we may notice that it represents a pious legacy of Polish national history and it did not lose any of its immediate relevancy. As is true of so many other countries today, drunkenness continues to remain one of Poland's principal vices. Today, it is necessary as before, to present Our Blessed Mother, Immaculately Conceived, as our unfailing guide on the road to God, while teaching the people that "we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come" (Heb 13:14). And it is still essential to give every possible support to souls still undergoing purification from sins committed during the earthly pilgrimage.

For all these reasons Bl. Papczyński's beatification process was reopened in 1953. But because such a long time has passed since the Servant of God's death, this process must be accomplished "historically" which means that documents need to be searched for testimonies on Bl. Papczyński's life and virtues. Those documents were prepared and gathered in a 1000-page manuscript called "Positio". On February 28, 1980, the National Conference of Bishops in Poland petitioned the Holy Father to elevate Bl. Papczyński to the altars as a model of Christian life. Similar petitions have been sent to His Holiness by major superiors of male and female congregations in Poland. Based on this evidence, on November 28, 1980, the Congregation for Saints made a decision that Bl. Papczyński's beatification cause may be brought before the Apostolic Tribunal. The Holy Father approved this decision on March 6, 1981, which indicated another giant step forward in the process of beatification.

In the years 1981-1982, a process de non cultu was conducted in Warsaw. The decree super validitate Processus (regarding the validity of the diocesan process) was promulgated in 1990. Further evaluations of Positio super Virtutibus were also conducted. Then, on January 22, 1991, during an Ordinary Congress of the Congregation, chaired by Anthony Petti, General Promoter of the Faith, the theological consultants stated that the Servant of God practiced virtues to a heroic degree.

On March 17, 1992, after having listened to the report delivered by Paulino Limongi, Titular Archbishop of Nice in Hemimont, the Cardinals and Bishops gathered at an Ordinary Congregation stated that Blessed Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary Papczyński practiced the theological virtues, the cardinal virtues, and other virtues associated with these, to a heroic degree.

After the results of the research conducted by the Cardinal Prefect, Angelus Cardinal Felici, had been presented to Pope John Paul II, the Holy Father gladly accepted the decision of the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of the Saints and ordered that the decree on the Servant of God's heroic virtues be prepared.

On June 13, 1992, the Holy Father invited the Cardinal Prefect, the relators of the cause, the Secretary of the congregation, and other people who are usually summoned in such circumstances and, in the presence of all gathered with regard to the cause and its result, solemnly announced that:

It is considered to be a certain thing that Blessed Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary Papczyński practiced the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude, and other virtues associated with these, to a heroic degree.

The Pope ordered that this decree be made public and kept in the acts of the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

From the last will and testament of Bl. Stanislaus Papczyński

"I give thanks to the Divine Majesty for graces, gifts, and goodness granted me with great generosity. I repent from the depth of my heart and I wish out of love of the Lord to repent more and more for all my sins, which I place in the deepest wounds of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. I fall at the feet of Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and I give myself with the entire Congregation of her Immaculate Conception to her for eternity. I call on her gracious direction and effective care, and for the hour of my death I beg her most merciful and powerful protection from the ambushes of my enemies and all temporal and eternal Evil.

To all those who loved and supported the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception (which I founded through God’s inspiration to support all the faithful departed), I promise double reward from God’s hand.

I eagerly suggest to my brethren, if it be appropriate for me to say: Sons, you ought to have love for God and neighbor, devotion to the Catholic faith, and worship, love, and obedience to the Holy See, faithful preservation of the vows, humility, patience, support the souls in purgatory, and be at peace with everyone."

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