In July 1655, Poland was invaded by Swedish Protestant forces. Warsaw had fallen, and the Swedish soldiers plundered and pillaged even the churches and religious houses, killing all in their path. A young seminarian named Stanislaus Papczynski, along with a university companion, was walking along the street after studies in the Old City and was suddenly approached by a Swedish soldier with drawn sword. His companion ran away, but Stanislaus in his youthful zeal wanted to be martyred for the faith. He knelt in front of the soldier, baring his neck, bracing for the blow that would send him straight to Heaven. Three times the soldier drove his sword, intending to decapitate the zealous young religious, causing him immense pain. However, as he was to write later in his will, by “the decree of Divine Providence,” he received no wound. The soldier backed away, mystified.
On June 5, 2016, this man, who founded the first male religious order in Poland and the first religious order dedicated to the Immaculate Conception 181 years before the dogma was proclaimed, was raised to the altars as Saint Stanislaus of JesusMary Papczynski. To so many devotees, especially to me and my fellow religious brothers, who endearingly refer to him as “Father Founder,” it is a special time.
Why has the Church in this Jubilee Year of Mercy determined, through Divine Providence, that now is the time to canonize this mystic, who received his reward for a saintly life more than three hundred and fifteen years ago?
To understand this better, we can study the miracles attributed to St. Stanislaus during the canonization process. The miracles accepted by the Vatican consulters and approved for promulgation by the Holy Father regard the breath of life, family, trust, and perseverance.
A young married couple in Poland had already suffered through a miscarriage. During the second pregnancy, problems once again began to occur, the mother was hospitalized, and several family members began asking for the intercession of Father Stanislaus for the delivery of a healthy baby. The young woman was released from the hospital, but the next day, while at home, she began having severe abdominal pains. She was taken to the emergency room, and an ensuing ultrasound revealed that there was no longer a heartbeat and that the fetal sac had shrunken. The hopes and dreams for a new family for this young couple were dashed again.
Sorrowfully, the couple’s prayers continued, as devotion for them to the cult of Fr. Stanislaus was deep. Then, as the doctors prepared the woman for the inevitable in these situations, a heartbeat in the previously lifeless womb was discovered. During the family’s pleading for intercession through Father Stanislaus, the child died and was “resurrected” in the womb.
Shortly after the beatification of Blessed Stanislaus in 2007, a different young woman from Poland, preparing for marriage, was taken to the hospital suffering from what seemed to be severe cold symptoms. Everything the doctors tried failed, and she soon lost consciousness. Her body began to shut down, and her family was notified that it appeared that her lungs had been destroyed and she would soon die. Her young fiancé, himself weak in faith, would not leave her side. Her distraught mother, witnessing the hopes and dreams of her daughter eclipse right before her eyes, was found crying in a local church. Another person in prayer tried to console her and gave her the instructions for the novena through the intercession of Blessed Stanislaus, encouraging her to recite it and to trust in God.
Meanwhile, after consultation with the family, it was decided to remove the young lady from life support on the second day of the novena. Resigned that they would have to watch as she left this world before their eyes, they prayed – and their little girl, who was just weeks away from her planned wedding, did not die. On what was supposed to be her deathbed, she too seemed resurrected. She steadily got better, and on the ninth day of the novena, the doctors took an x-ray of her lungs and discovered that she had been fully healed, having the lungs of a “newborn baby.”
The young man and woman were married. Both are now strong in the faith and have a growing family of their own.
Life can be very difficult. Sometimes – certainly from a spiritual perspective, but also physically – we cannot seem to catch our breath. We need help. When those times come, when we need the breath of love, we come to know and experience God most appropriately through our families. When we reach to those who know us best, entrusting our suffering to God and persevering in prayer, we truly come to know Him Who never leaves our sides. To build up the family – to extend the breath of life in persevering prayer and trust in God’s Divine Providence – is to transform our works into the saving, healing breath of love by the Holy Spirit, Who works through us for the sake of others.
In considering St. Stanislaus’s intervention for ailing families, we see reflected in his works the life and example of her who achieved the ultimate building up of family, who should be our constant example. Devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was the raison d’être of this new saint. After all, it was she who first trusted, believed, and persevered, whose very breath is the breath of love that permeates the lives of those who love her, knowing that when she is the Queen of Love in our hearts, He is the King of Mercy in our lives.
Who could have foretold that we could learn so much from a seemingly obscure man from seventeenth-century Poland? Saint Stanislaus of JesusMary Papczynski, pray for us!