Circular Letter of the Superior General On the Beatification of the Venerable Servant of God Father Stanislaus Papczyński

Prot. No. 40/2007
February 15, 2007

Rome, February 15, 2007

Dear Confreres:

With immense gratitude to God and to Mary Immaculate, and with great joy, I hasten to inform you, that the Holy Father, Benedict XVI made a decision in regards to the Beatification of our Founder, Fr. Stanislaus of Jesus Mary Papczyński. The Beatification is to take place on September 16, 2007, in the Marian Shrine in Licheń, Poland. The Holy Father will be represented there, by the Secretary of State, His Eminence Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone. By means of this letter, I invite you to participate in this festive event. My wish is for the largest possible number of Fr. Stanislaus’s spiritual sons to participate in the Ceremony, so that we may draw from it new spiritual strength for striving on the path of our vocation. It is particularly meaningful that the Beatification of our Founder comes to pass on the 20th Anniversary of the Beatification of our Renovator, Bl. George Matulaitis-Matulewicz, who saved Fr. Stanislaus’s work from perdition and revived its charism.

1. The Importance of the Beatification of our Founder

We are deeply aware that the upcoming Beatification of Fr. Papczyński is a joyful coronation of the dreams and efforts of many generations of Marians and other people associated with our Congregation.  It is an affirmation of his way of life, which continues to be an up-to-date model to follow, not only for the Marians, but also for those who draw inspiration for striving for holiness from Fr. Stanislaus’s spirituality. The Beatification is a liturgical and an ecclesiastical event, while also being a special recognition of the Servant of God, intended primarily to show everyone his life in and with God.  The beatified person becomes a sign of attaining the perfect joy of Christ (cf. Jn 15:11), of establishing residence in the “house of the Father.” The Beatification reminds us of the life of faith, hope, and love led by the Servant of God, who, through the power of grace, united his will, mind, and heart with God, whose desire for us all is “to be holy and without blemish before Him” (Eph 1:4). The Beatification is a proof of a paschal transfiguration, which occurs in the life of a Christian immersed in Christ and which awakens life in places where there is death, power – where there is weakness, joy – where there is suffering, forgiveness – where there is abuse, good – where there is evil, love – where there is hatred, and resurrection – where there is the cross. And all this happens, thanks to the love, power, and wisdom of God, which are continuously revealed to us through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, in the Community of the Church and for her strengthening, and ultimately – for our everlasting good.

In our tradition, the Beatification of Fr. Stanislaus has always been regarded, as a particular sign of God’s blessing for the Congregation. The Servant of God, Fr. Casimir Wyszyński recalls: “Ever since the moment when we began our endeavors for the Beatification of our Father, the Lord God has blessed us so abundantly, that we must not stop, and thus we will obtain much more.”  On another occasion, Fr. Casimir thus wrote to the Superior General of the Order, Fr. Kajetan Wetycki, about the Founder’s beatification process: “We shall not tire in this work, and we ought to take him for our patron in all troubles. And God, who is glorified in His servants, won’t deny us His graces. (…) Much more good for the honor of the Immaculate Conception may come out of promoting this Servant of God, than out of promoting some other zealots…”

The beatification of a founder of a religious community is an unusual time of grace, reflection, and strengthening of zeal for that community, which he/she called into existence. It is true in both aspects: individual and communal.

Father Stanislaus’s elevation to the altars is an invitation for us, to submit ourselves to the same acts of the Divine Spirit, which we discover in the life of our Founder. Thus, the Beatification is, above all, a call for a deeper interest in the charism left to the Congregation by its Founder, and an invitation to live by it. We are all well aware, that through the grace of vocation, this particular charism became a personal charism for each Marian.

Therefore, Dear Confreres, we have a wonderful opportunity to become bettter acquainted with our Founder’s spirituality, to consider anew, his life and work, to discover his life with God and his fascination with the mystery of the Immaculate Conception.  We can also learn from him, to read the signs of the times, and to respond to them; to listen to the needs of the Church and of men; of the man that strives toward his heavenly homeland, and of the one who, submitted to the purifying flames of love in Purgatory, awaits the deeds of noble love.

2. History of the Devotion and the Beatification Process

A certainty as to the holiness of Fr. Stanislaus’s life existed already during the time of his earthly life.  Many testimonies speaking of his heroic faith, hope, and love, as well as his unusual gift of intercession for others, especially those in greatest need, survived to our times. The memory of Fr. Papczyński has been carefully preserved, not only within the Congregation of Marian Fathers, but also in the hearts of many faithful of the Polish Church. After his demise, many people began to come to his tomb, to ask him for his intercession before God.  However, during the first 50 years, the Marians did not take any official steps towards his Beatification. This was a result of many detrimental circumstances, one of which was the “Rostkovian Dispersion.” It was only the Servant of God, Fr. Casimir Wyszyński’s zealous efforts, and his belief in Fr. Founder’s holiness, which prompted intensive efforts toward the opening of the process. The Superior General, Fr. Kajetan Wetycki, urged by Fr. Casimir’s letters, ordered the collection of testimonies about the holiness of Fr. Papczyński’s life, and about miracles granted through his intercession.  He commanded all the confreres to undertake this work out of love for the Congregation and its Founder. On August 18, 1757, the General Chapter held in Raśna issued a decision, ordering the preservation of the Founder’s body, and the safekeeping of the documents describing his life and graces received through his intercession, in the Archives.  In addition, some bishops, princes, and magnates sent a letter to Rome petitioning for Fr. Papczyński’s beatification. A similar petition, based on a special decree, was also submitted by the Diet (Assembly) of the Republic of Poland, which was assembled on December 9, 1764, for the Coronation of King Stanislaus Poniatowski. On January 1, 1767, Fr. Ludwik Zapałkowicz was named the Postulator General. At the same time, Fr. Papczyński’s remains had been identified and brought to rest in the still existing sarcophagus at the Church of Our Lord’s Cenacle in Góra Calvaria.  On June 10, 1767, in the Archbishop’s residence in Warsaw, the long-awaited information process was opened, and went on until October 4, 1769. After its completion, all the documents were sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. Upon the request of the Postulator General, on June 13, 1771, the Holy See granted a dispensation from the customary 10-year waiting period, which had to elapse from the moment of submitting the documents of the Diocesan recognition process to the Holy See. In 1772, 19 letters of support were submitted to the Holy See, which stated that Fr. Stanislaus practiced all of the virtues to a heroic degree, and that after his death, he enjoyed the opinion of sanctity. When all of Fr. Founder’s writings had been received by the Holy See, on July 22, 1775, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued a decree super scriptis, which confirmed that his writings did not contain anything contrary to faith and morals.

This successfully initiated process was interrupted in 1775, because the accumulation of necessary proofs, refuting the allegations of the Promoter of the Faith, had been previously neglected. Also, the events of the war that drew the Marians out of the General Procure at the St. Vitus Church in Rome (1798), and the partitions of the Republic of Poland at the end of the 17th Century, contributed to the interruption of the process. All the documents were sent to the Vatican Archives.

However, the interruption of the process did not erase the memory of our Founder’s sanctity, nor his importance for the history of the Polish Republic. The anniversaries of his birth (May 18th) and his death (September 17th) were always solemnly commemorated at his tomb in Góra Calvaria.  Many writers wrote about him, and spoke of his religious and moral authority, while the faithful experienced his miraculous intercession. Father Bernard Pielasiński became known as a particularly caring guardian of the Founder’s tomb.

Shortly after the Renovation of our Religious Community, our Lithuanian Confreres were the first to take significant steps towards the strengthening of the Marian identity, and reached out to the legacy of our Founder and the first Marians. This found its expression in the work of numerous Marians, including the Superior General, Bishop Francis Bučys and in books by Frs. Jan Totoraitis, Józef Vaišnora, and George Navikevičius.  Later, preparatory steps were made towards the continuation of Fr. Papczyński’s beatification process.  Consequently, the General Council, in its session in Rome on November 15, 1952, named Fr. Kazimierz Reklaitis the General Postulator.  On November 7, 1953, the Historic Section of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints reopened the beatification process of our Founder. In turn, a Historic Committee convoked by the Ordinary of Warsaw, Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński, accumulated documents that confirmed the continuity of Fr. Stanislaus’s opinion of sanctity. This Committee ordered the preparation of the Positio super intoductione Causea.  The work was entrusted to Fr. Casimir Krzyzanowski who, aided by other confreres (Fr. Jan Bukowicz, among others) completed it diligently and conscientiously.  The merit of the Positio was positively evaluated on November 23, 1977. However, certain points demanding additional clarification were brought up. A very competent explanation was prepared by Frs. C. Krzyzanowski and Wacław Makoś. Their efforts were crowned by the Decree of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, approved by Pope John Paul II on June 13, 1992, and confirming Fr. Stanislaus’s heroic virtues.

In some of our Provinces, academic research and works of popularizing Fr. Founder’s person and spirituality were initiated. We shall note here particularly the efforts of Frs. C. Krzyzanowski, Stanislaus Kurlandzki, Tadeusz Rogalewski, and W. Makoś. In its hope for the beatification, the entire Congregation also began to pray assiduously for a necessary miracle. In His mercy, the Lord God answered our prayers. In 2001, or exactly on the 300th Anniversary of the death of Fr. Papczyński, a scientifically inexplicable event took place in one of the Polish Dioceses. A young woman, whose unborn child was proclaimed and certified dead in her womb in the 7th-8th week of pregnancy, on October 17, 2001, was able to give birth to a healthy and strong baby, which happened as a result of the intercession of our Founder, implored in hope.

The process has been expertly conducted on the Diocesan level thanks to the efforts and assiduity of Frs. Andrzej Pakuła, the then Provincial Superior, and Dariusz Mażewski and W. Makoś.  Later, the Postulator General, Fr. Wojciech Skóra, presented it to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which, upon fulfilling all procedures required by law, confirmed the authenticity of the miracle.  On November 16, 2006, the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, had a decree proclaimed, which recognized the above-said event as a miracle granted through the intercession of Fr. Stanislaus, thus opening the way for his Beatification.

At this moment, I would like to give heartfelt thanks to all those who particularly contributed to the process and preparations for the Beatification: persons whom I’ve already mentioned here, as well as persons remaining in the shadow of the others, both the living and those whom the Lord has already called to Himself.

3. Preparations for the Beatification

I have no doubt, that the Beatification of Fr. Stanislaus, which is coming to pass in our time, is related to some particular mystery of Divine Providence and Divine Mercy for our generation.  We are all familiar with the nature of grace, which is given freely. Man is free to either accept it or to reject it. The grace of the Beatification may revive our vocation, our charism; it may awaken us to seek their new interpretation and actualization, but it may also pass unnoticed, unaccepted, into the life of faith and love of Christ and the Church. For this very reason, once again, I wish to strongly encourage every Confrere and every Community, to undertake efforts towards the renewal of their Marian vocation, as part of the preparations for the Beatification, by living this event out, and later by giving thanks for it, for a considerable period of time.  Immediate preparations for the Beatification began on January 1, 2007, in accordance with the program prepared by Fr. A. Pakuła and the Beatification Committee. This program was published in the book entitled “Lest You Remain without Work in the Vineyard of the Lord”. I wish to particularly remind all, of the Days of Recollection, daily reading of the short fragments of Fr. Founder’s works, and individual reading of other texts provided in this book.

May the grace of the Beatification ignite in us all, a new strength for the spiritual life and for service for Christ and the Church.  We have yet to determine the Gift of Thanksgiving, which our Congregation will offer to God and the Church for the Beatification of our Founder. When the Servant of God, Casimir Wyszyński began his endeavors for the Beatification, he also discerned that the time of God’s blessings was upon them. It was his internal impulse that made him go to Portugal and establish a new Foundation there. And yet, he had already enlarged this little Congregation by new monasteries spread throughout modern Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and Poland. In imitation of him, we also ought to bend our ear to the Holy Spirit and to follow His voice. Maybe, we shall consider in this very spirit, the prospect of new Foundations in Asia: in India, and in the Philippines, which have been sketched before us for some time.

Preparations for the Beatification also embrace organizational matters regarding the ceremony of the Beatification, and its attendance by the Marians and the faithful from all over the world. I wish to thank Fr. Provincial Paweł Naumowicz and the Divine Providence Province, for accepting the role of the hosts for this event. Father Naumowicz will send to all Marians, information regarding their trip to Poland and the program of pilgrimage entitled. “Following after Fr. Stanislaus Papczyński and John Paul II.”  The Association of Marian Helpers in Warsaw is willing to help with the organization of the stay in Poland for groups of lay people traveling to the Beatification from abroad.

Also, preparations for the Beatification will become the topic of a meeting of Province and Vicariate Superiors, which will take place in Rome, on March 8-10, 2007.

4. A Few Inspirational Ideas for our Way of Life

To close, I would like to recall several characteristics of Fr. Stanislaus’s, which are particularly important and timely in the context of the preparations for the Beatification and the Congregation’s present situation:

1. Zealous faithfulness to prayer, based specifically on the meditation on the Word of God, and leading to active service to man. How very often one can find in the testimonies about our Founder, the repeated descriptions of his immersion in prayer! From prayer, he drew inspiration for his service to the Church, and found strength to remain faithful to Christ, even at the price of many people’s opposition. In prayer, he discerned the goals of his new Religious Community, and also during prayer, the Lord gradually revealed His will to him. This reminds us all of the primacy of the spiritual life, fromwhich true evangelization takes inspiration. This feature of our Founder blossomed, with the Founding of a new Religious Community. God was able to utilize a man, who was seeking and listening to Him. Today, we need to bring back the primacy of grace and the matters of God, out of which can be borne, a proper attitude towards human and ecclesiastical matters. Otherwise, we will be facing an ideologically oriented life, in which the Gospels are just propaganda for others, and a means of income and a career, while the Religious become counter-witnesses and an evil example to the Faithful.

2. Our submission to the Holy Spirit and reading of the signs of the times in His light, (recognizing the most urgent needs of the Church and society). Out of this very characteristic of Fr. Stanislaus, was born his fascination with the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, and the first goal of the new Community: spreading devotion to the Immaculate Conception as a pledge of salvation and new life in Christ, which was abundantly given to man and made available to us in the sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Baptism, Penance, and the Eucharist. From his intense listening to what the Holy Spirit was telling him in his soul, an elation was born, which he called a noble love – helping the poorest among the poor, those who cannot help themselves: the Poor Souls suffering in Purgatory.  Father Papczyński’s entire service for the Church takes root in his awareness of the voice of the Divine Spirit, present and acting within the Church, also in such places which he perceived as poor and deprived of proper pastoral care – hence, the assistance to pastors.  Through this, we discover the secret of his personal sensitivity towards the needs of different kinds of poor people: those in need of the Good News, and of material support. This is the source of his spiritual “attraction,” which caused the fact that, many of his contemporaries, as well as people of our times, were and still are drawn to him for help, for understanding, for a kind word, and for his intercession before God.

3. Love of the Religious Community, which God entrusted to Fr. Papczyński and toward which, He devoted his life. Father Stanislaus was able to love with a true, evangelical love, all of his confreres who were to a greater or lesser degree, suitable for the Religious Life. He could overlook human weaknesses and even sins, because he knew that he himself was a sinner.  He forgave the wrongs done to him, and did not nurse any grudges.  Being aware of his own sinfulness, he was not scandalized by the weaknesses of others, and he treated everyone with love, in the strength of God’s grace, which he drew from his faith.  It was not without reason, or just for show, that he frequently signed his letters as “Stanislaus the sinner,” or “Stanislaus the unworthy.” He was able to see everyone, not only as people that God placed on his path in life, but also as his brothers in faith, with whom he shared everything: moments of glory, but also defeats, weaknesses, and sins.  Omnia apud vos in charitate fiant is one of the basic commandments that he often recalled in various forms in his letters to his confreres. In the name of love, Father Founder was also capable of giving severe reprimands to the unfaithful. How much we need this humble love for a confrere today, this capacity for mutual understanding, forgiveness, and mutual acceptance.

5. Closing

Our homage to the Blessed and to the Saints is ultimately directed to Christ Himself, whose holiness is revealed in people’s lives. Let us live out the long-awaited Beatification, as our witness to the presence and actions of Jesus Christ Who lives, and as a call to continuously strive on the path of entrustment to Him. We may rejoice for the Beatification of our Founder, but let us also carefully avoid any kind of triumphalism, which is totally foreign to the spirit of the Gospels. The Beatification is not meant to honor us as a Congregation, nor is it meant to make us complacent. It is a gift of God’s grace, which has to be received with gratitude, so that it may produce in us the fruits of conversion, death to sins and to a comfortable life, thus leading to our growth in faith and in our vocation. The gift of the Beatification will be fruitful, only when we allow the same power of Christ’s holiness, which we see in the life of our Founder, to also penetrate our lives, and to make us faithful witnesses of Christ and the Gospels in the modern world.

With this I am sending you my fatherly greeting and blessing,

Fr. Jan M. Rokosz, M.I.C.
Superior General