"Pray, brothers, for the souls in Purgatory suffer unbearably."
— Blessed Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary Papczyński
A particular place within his heart and teachings reached brothers and sisters suffering in Purgatory — the poorest of the poor — for who nothing remains but to count on Divine Mercy, and who of themselves can do nothing to improve their lot. Father Papczyński received a charism of an extraordinary love for these persons.
His natural sensitivity of heart and faith strengthened the mystical experiences given by God as a grace of discerning and understanding the suffering in Purgatory.
It could be said that the Heavenly Father Himself pleaded for help for His sons and daughters. Much like in case of the “vision of the Order of the Immaculate Conception”, Fr. Stanislaus had been inwardly prompted to support the faithful departed.
Father Stanislaus’s three mystical experiences of the sufferings in Purgatory have been well documented.
- First, in 1675 when he was in the Ukraine as the army chaplain during the war against the Turks -- he received a vision of deceased soldiers asking for his intercession before the Lord. Upon his return to the Korabiew Forest he called his companions to pray, make acts of contrition, and perform works of mercy for the intention of the deceased, especially victims of war.
The next incident took place at the Karski’s courtyard, after he had already initiated the communal life in the Korabiew community. Fr. Papczyński had a vision of Purgatory during the meal that followed the Holy Mass. In the presence of many people, he fell into ecstasy (eyewitnesses corroborated this during the Informative Process), after which, deeply shaken, he immediately returned to the monastery. He said to his confrčres, surprised by his unexpected return: “I beg you, brothers, pray for the souls in Purgatory, because they suffer unbearable tortures.” After this he remained for several days in his cell, fervently praying and fasting for the deceased.
- Finally, the third experience of the mystery of Purgatory was granted Fr. Papczyński at the shrine of Our Lady in Studzianna, in 1676, where he made a pilgrimage with the goal of begging for the personal grace of good health. While he stayed there at the monastery of the St. Philip’s Fathers his health worsened. There was fear that he might die. Precisely then -- being in ecstasy -- he was transported to Purgatory. He saw there the Mother of God praying for him, that he would receive a healing in order that he could further assist the dead. At the end of the vision, he quickly recovered strength and in the Studzianna Church he delivered a long sermon to the faithful on the need to assist the departed brothers and sisters. Finally, on February 11 of that same year, he accepted as one of the goals of his Order, that assistance be provided “with utmost diligence, piety, and zeal” for the Poor Souls in Purgatory, especially soldiers and victims of epidemics.
Father Papczyński’s frequent appeals and personal witness intensified concern among his brethren for the faithful departed and gave it an entirely new scope. The Marian Order occupied, at this time, a very developed spirituality in regard to the last things, which above all expressed the idea of ars bene moriendi [art of dying gracefully], as an absolutely indispensable condition of obtaining eternal life. For this reason, Christians, and especially consecrated religious had the responsibility, to not only concern themselves with their own salvation, but also to assist dying and the deceased brethren.
Equally numerous confraternities, comprising lay people, promoted various forms of support for the deceased. The Marians, as hermits, had a daily obligation to recite the Office of the dead, prescribed for them by Bishop Jacek Swiecicki during his canonical visitation, which initiated the legal establishing of the Order, but only the personal charism of Father Founder made it a constitutional element of Marian spirituality.
Let’s not be afraid to say that Fr. Papczyński’s fervent compassion for the deceased was of a divine origin. The charism of our Founder not only augmented the holiness of the Church in purification (deceased brethren), but also had a fundamental influence upon the community of his spiritual sons. We see that the Church’s decision — given through Bishop Swiecicki — did not show itself sufficient, to set the spiritual assistance for the souls in Purgatory as the community’s charism. This was made possible thanks to Fr. Founder’s spirituality and his zealous apostolate on behalf of the “cause of noble love” — as he himself called it — in his Order and in the Church, by promoting it among the laity joined in Marian spirituality through the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception.
In accordance with the explicit directive of the Holy See, the renewed Congregation of Marian Fathers must continue the work of its Founder. The life of Fr. Stanislaus, friend of the suffering in Purgatory, and his first Marian companions, show, that the mandate of the Church has to meet itself in the interior flame within itself of the gift of God granted to the Marian community in the person of its Founder, so that this charismatic mission find its fruitful fulfillment.
Promoter of the call of the laity to holiness
Fr. Stanislaus Papczyński also perceived helping others in attaining salvation and getting involved in the work of the Church as his particular mission. He shows this praise of pastors, who dedicate themselves to the spiritual formation of the faithful:
“O how admirable are Christ’s helpers, who only because of His love, sincerely and carefully place before the children,[…] all that is necessary for salvation, for leading a life in a Christian manner,[…] No work of mercy is greater and more fruitful”
(The Mystical Temple of God).
He wished to belong to such helpers of Christ. For this reason, while staying as chaplain with the Karski family, he wrote a book entitled Templum Dei mysticum [The Mystical Temple of God], which may be daringly called a handbook for striving for holiness, meant also for the laity. The book was to serve one’s growth in the understanding of self and God, discovering the sure road to salvation, and the Christian model of perfection (cf. The Mystical Temple of God). In the opinion of historians, Fr. Papczyński’s treatise was – if not the first – then certainly one of very first Polish works promoting the vocation of laity to holiness. This work was so important in its time that it underwent several reprints.
In The Mystical Temple of God Fr. Papczyński expressed his firm conviction that lay people, and not only religious and priests, are called for holiness, and he also wanted to remind his contemporaries of this basic truth. He wrote:
“Man created by God and consecrated to Him through the sacrament of baptism, is His Mystical Temple. […] Therefore, let everyone give greater attention to the magnificence of his primordial state and acknowledge in himself the image of the Holy Trinity worthy of honor and at the same time striving to this, so as to possess the honor of the divine likeness by the nobility of conduct and the exercise of virtues […] that in the meantime, when it becomes manifest, who he is, he showed himself like to the One who wondrously formed him in His likeness in the first Adam, and yet more wondrously reformed in the second.”
The life of every person, if he offers all his thoughts and deeds to God on the altar of his heart and follows the Gospels teachings, will become a gradual path in the imitation of Christ, so as to participate in His glory.
“You, the Christians, “are the Temple of the living God”
(2 Corinthians 6:15). What a glory is yours! What a dignity!”
This universal vision of the call to holiness should be connected to the delight of the Founder of the Marian Community in the mystery of the Immaculate Conception – the grace of a new creation, which is meant for every person redeemed by Christ; as well as Mary’s personal holiness, whom he called the first Shrine built in the center of the Church and inhabited by God (Inspectio cordis). Fr. Papczyński desired that all people would attain full blessedness, because of this he proposed a road to holiness for all believers, while also imploring salvation of the deceased. In this way he became the promoter of the call to holiness for the laity – an idea definitely seized in our times by the Second Vatican Council.
It is worth mentioning here that Fr. Papczyński’s longtime field of apostolic activity gathered many lay people into various confraternities. Pursuing the history of Fr. Stanislaus’s engagement in this type of pastoral work, it is not hard to see that it permeated the whole priestly vocation of the Founder of the Marian Community.
As a Piarist, during 1663-1667, Fr. Papczyński was the promoter of the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Grace at the Piarist Church in Warsaw, which according to some he himself founded, and according to the opinion of others he greatly popularized. In 1671, that is the moment of his “transition” in his religious vocation, for half a year he cared for the archconfraternity of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M. allied to St. Jacob’s Church in the Kazimierz a borough of Krakow.
As Founder of the Marian Order, he obtained from the Holy See in 1681 — that is prior to the pontifical approval of his institute — a document, which was understood (at least the papal breve was so interpreted by Bishop Stefan Wierzbowski, and after him by our Founder and consecutive generations of the Marians), as permission to establish confraternities of the faithful allied to the Marian churches, which Fr. Stanislaus himself defined as the confraternity of the Immaculate Conception assisting the faithful departed. In promoting the idea of the confraternity he followed the accepted practice of his times: aside from seeing it as a form of personal sanctification for the laity, he perceived it as, maybe, a unique opportunity for the lay faithful to spiritually influence others and thus to include them in to the apostolate of the Church.