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Catholic Heroes… St. Stanislaus Papczynski

August 22, 2019 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

New orders of religious are frequently born from existing orders. The discalced Carmelites were born via St. Teresa of Avila, who was inspired to live a more strict observance of religious life: more seclusion, simpler meals, and more prayer time. St. Teresa of Calcutta belonged to a religious order in India, but desired to serve the poorest of the poor after hearing her “call within a call.” Thus, she founded the Missionaries of Charity. Likewise, Stanislaus Papczynski belonged to an order of priests, but desired to live in greater poverty, greater service, and a deeper prayer life.
Tomasz Papczynski, a blacksmith, and his wife Zofia Tacikowska, welcomed Stanislaus into their lives on May 18, 1631. Tomasz also served as bailiff and the family owned a herd of sheep. Stanislaus spent much time caring for these sheep, which gave him a special love and knowledge of the countryside and the lives of the people.
When the time came for him to attend school, Stanislaus experienced many difficulties — mainly mastering his active temperament, and overcoming the stigma of his low social standing. With great perseverance, he settled down and advanced in his academic vocation.
In 1646 Stanislaus entered the Jesuit College at Jaroslaw. In 1649 he transferred to the Piarist College of Podoliniec. In 1650 he began his studies at the Jesuit College of Lvov, but two things happened to curtail his education. First, his father died, and then Lvov was attacked by the Cossacks.
Finally, in 1654 he graduated from the Jesuit College of Rawa Mazowiecka with a diploma in general and philosophical studies.
As a tall, lanky, young man, Stanislaus entered The Order of Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools — also known as the Piarists, an order founded by Fr. Joseph Calasanctius in 1597. He took the name of Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary. His experience in shepherding assisted him as he performed the lowliest chores at the monastery. These included cleaning out the stables and barns, chopping wood, and working in the kitchen.
The following year Stanislaus moved to Warsaw to make the second year of his novitiate, and to begin his studies in theology with the Recollect Franciscan friars. While there, “The Deluge” took place. This was an invasion by superior Swedish forces that advanced easily through Poland, becoming the first foreign army to capture Warsaw. The devastation made a deep impact on Stanislaus.
“I confess 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 Old Town, when a heretic soldier, his unsheathed sword in hand, attacked us near the Dominican Fathers. My companion 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.”
Stanislaus continued his formation and he became the first Polish member of Piarist Congregation when he made his profession of his religious vows on July 22, 1656. On March 12, 1661 he was ordained to the priesthood.
While Stanislaus was a seminarian, he taught rhetoric in Rzeszow and Podoliniec at the Piarist colleges. After Ordination Fr. Stanislaus taught at the Warsaw College, writing his own text for class. Prodromus Reginae Artium (The Messenger of the Queen of Arts) was reprinted four times and won accolades not only for its great pedagogy, but also for the selections which demonstrated great patriotism and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He also emphasized that all citizens were created equal before the law.
Fr. Papczynski, a true shepherd in God’s Kingdom, heard Confessions — he was even the confessor of Antonio Pignatelli, the apostolic nuncio to Poland and the future Pope Innocent XII.
He also gave wonderful homilies as a Piarist priest. His gift of preaching earned him invitations to preach all over the capital. When he preached on St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, the sermon was received so favorably that it was published in 1664.
Fr. Papczynski also met many powerful people in society so his superiors bestowed on him the responsibility of gathering petitions for the beatification of Joseph Calasanctius, the founder of the Piarists. Fr. Papczynski also administered the Confraternity of Our Lady of Grace of Warsaw for four years. Her image was displayed in the Piarists’ church on Dluga Street.
During Fr. Papczynski’s years as a Piarist priest, he meditated frequently on the Passion of Christ. He was experiencing a slow, persistent martyrdom regarding his vocation in the Piarist order. This dark night of his led him to write The Crucified Speaker and The Suffering Christ.
Fr. Papczynski hoped the order would return to the stricter rule of Fr. Calasanctius, but his superiors accused him of sowing confusion and conflict. In the end, he obtained the indult — a release from his Piarist vows — that he had requested in 1669.
At that time, Fr. Papczynski declared his intentions: “I offer and consecrate to God, the Almighty Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, as well as 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.”
Fr. Papczynski began the uphill struggle of founding an order of strict rules in a culture steeped in aristocratic indulgence. His common birth also limited his ability to win support. Furthermore, up until that time, all religious orders in Poland had been founded in foreign countries.
Nevertheless, he persevered with the support of the bishop of Poznan, Stefan Wierzbowski. To better prepare for his responsibilities, he served as chaplain to the house of Jakub Karski in Lubocza, just northeast of Krakow.
During this time he began preparing the statutes for his new order of canons regular. He also wrote The Mystical Temple of God, in which he developed the call of lay people to a life of holiness.
In September 1671 he was vested in a white habit in honor of the Immaculate Conception. Two years later in September 1673, he journeyed to Puszcza Korabiewska, about 50 miles southwest of Warsaw, to meet Stanislaus Krajewski and his companions. He and his group of men were living as hermits, so Fr. Papczynski hoped to find candidates and a place for the canons regular.
There Fr. Papczynski built the first house, which he called simply the “Retreat House.” When Bishop Stanislaus Swiecicki visited on October 24, 1673, he gave approval to the community which the order considers its founding date.
Pope Innocent XII gave papal approval to the order on October 24, 1699. Fr. Papczynski then made his solemn profession of vows on June 6, 1701. Just three months later he died on September 17, 1701.
His feast day is celebrated on September 17.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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