March 1, 2016
From Death to Life: Interview with Fr. Andrzej Pakuła, MIC, General Superior of the Congregation of Marian Fathers
• In January 2016, Pope Francis approved a miracle received through the intercession of Blessed Stanislaus Papczyński, which opens the way for his prompt canonization. What does the Pope’s decision mean to you, personally?
FR. A. PAKUŁA MIC: Approval of the miracle through the intercession of Blessed Stanislaus was a moment of joy for me, and a great joy at that. It is also the culmination of our efforts. From the very beginning, I was involved in the process, because I am also the General Postulator. Papal approval is a confirmation of the efforts we put into the canonization process, as well as the relevance of the person of our Father Founder, his work, and the sanctity of his life that pleased God and the Church.
• Describe the canonization process. At what stage is the miracle examined?
FR. A. PAKUŁA, MIC: After the decree recognizing the heroic virtues of the candidate for elevation to the altars is proclaimed, the examination of the alleged miracle begins. I emphasize that when we speak of a miracle, it need not be a miraculous healing. Once, someone told me about a miracle of multiplying rice that happened in Sudan. The sisters were praying through the intercession of their Foundress, and a small quantity of rice sufficed for feeding a great number of people. In our case, both miracles — for the beatification and the canonization — were miracles of healing. The process of examining a miracle is always the same. It starts with collecting medical documentation, interviewing witnesses, and obtaining expert opinions. If the doctors give a positive opinion, then the diocesan process begins. At the end of this stage, the materials are submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Canonization, which examines everything over again. Then, the document called Positio — the complete documentation of the case — is prepared and passed on to the experts. Next, the Medical Consultative board, composed of seven doctors, gathers at the Vatican; it will examine the case from the medical point of view. If the Consultative board recognizes the case as scientifically inexplicable, then it is submitted for review to the theologians, who will discern if the given miracle was indeed performed through the intercession of the candidate for elevation to the altars. They will also classify the miracle. After this, the case goes to the general meeting of the Congregation for the Causes of Canonization, and — having received the cardinals’ positive decision — the Pope asks for the Consistory’s opinion and sets the date for canonization.
• What can we say today about the miracle through the intercession of Blessed Stanislaus?
FR. A. PAKUŁA, MIC: Personally, I am astonished and have been pondering it for quite some time. Both miracles leading to beatification and canonization are similar in content. In both cases, we dealt with an illness or a situation in which people found themselves in or near death. In the first case, we have medical confirmation that the fetus wasn’t alive, yet following prayers, the amazed doctor stated — despite his inability to believe it — that the fetus had been brought back to life. In the second case, we have a hopeless situation that arose due to complications, pneumonia, respiratory failure, and septic shock. After three weeks of treatment, the doctor pronounced that — short of a miracle from heaven — the patient would die. Due to prayers, a few days later, her health began to improve, and today there is no trace of the past illness. She has been completely healed, although this cannot be explained scientifically. In both cases, we see the work of God who brings back life from death and does it gratuitously every time. This is reminiscent of the Immaculate Conception, because the Mother of God also received that gift without merit. Naturally, people prayed and hoped that God would perform a miracle. This hopeless situation aroused a strong faith that the Lord God can bring from death to life.
• Does Blessed Stanislaus Papczyński, who lived in the 17th century, still represent an attractive figure for modern men? What does he have to say to our generation?
FR. A. PAKUŁA, MIC: I think that in the case of people so far removed from us in time as Fr. Stanislaus Papczyński is, his “speaking” to us depends — among other things — on how well we know his biography. He proved a colorful and extremely interesting figure, especially if we consider his life experiences. He suffered trials and adversities in every stage of life. In his childhood, he struggled to learn the alphabet, and then — following prayers — he suddenly became a gifted child, intellectually ahead of the others. He had health problems and fell seriously ill in Lviv, where it seemed he would die of that infectious disease. He had problems when he decided to join the Piarist Fathers, since not everyone in his family was seeing this plan positively. Then he had problems while at the Piarist Order, because it was undergoing a transformation at that time. He had problems with leaving the Piarists and founding the Marian community. Finally, he had difficulties obtaining the Holy See’s approval for his new Order. It would seem that this man could tell our modern times that it is worth believing despite the greatest adversities and illnesses; that it is worth dedicating one’s life to God even if all signs on earth and in Heaven say that He has forgotten us. The cross does not mean resignation, but it can mean God’s greatest love and closeness; that God’ plans for that person are greater than for the others. It is possible to find happiness in toil, of only one has the light of faith.
• Where does devotion to Stanislaus Papczyński develop most vibrantly?
FR. A. PAKUŁA, MIC: In Poland, naturally; although proportionally not as much as in the United States. We publish a quarterly Marian Helper there. If we decided to print all the miracles and graces obtained through his intercession, their descriptions would fill up the entire magazine. People who cannot pronounce the words Stanisław Papczyński (since to them, they are inimitable sounds of a foreign language — and we all know that Polish is difficult) found in him an intercessor in various life situations, from the simplest such as winning the NFL game, finding a job, or resolving health problems, to the most difficult ones with results that can qualify for a miracle from the medical viewpoint. Also in Brazil, where there were instances of miracles — I have no doubt as to that — since one of them happened in the life of a medical doctor who personally collected the documentation regarding the healing of a small child. Devotion to Blessed Stanislaus also spreads in the Philippines and other countries where our Congregation serves.
• In what manner does the Founder inspire the Marians around the world today?
FR. A. PAKUŁA, MIC: It seems to me that in the wake of the beatification of 2007, the person and legacy of the Founder is being re-discovered in our Congregation. I’ll venture to say that the Lord God reminds us of that figure through these events. First, He tells us about Papczyński’s saintly life; way of faith, love, and dedication; living out his religious vows. Secondly, He tells us to read anew Papczyński’s founding charism, and for this reason the Committee on the Constitutions is now working on the nature and spirit of the Marians. In addition, we hold a reflection on the charism of our Congregation and its more precise implementation to life. Also, we make all possible efforts to ensure that the charism of the community founded by Blessed Stanislaus may find proper manifestation in our works; therefore, in addition to our customary works, as it were, such as running a parish, a mission, retreats, or religious education, we also run centers of Marian formation, Marian and Divine Mercy shrines, and hospices. Recently, the Polish Province established in Licheń a center of NaProTechnology.
• How are the preparations for the canonization going?
FR. A. PAKUŁA, MIC: The level of familiarity with the works and life of our Founder is different in our Provinces. Poland, for example, has already published all of the Founder’s works translated from Latin, and is, therefore, in a privileged situation. In Brazil, on the other hand, this work is still ahead of our confreres. The baroque Latin used by Father Founder presents many challenges to the translators. As part of preparations for the canonization, the confreres in the various provinces endeavor to popularize his person and message. Naturally, we will pay special attention to the thanksgiving events at our parishes and centers that we run worldwide, since it would be difficult for many of our confreres and friends to come to Rome from remote parts of the world.
• To close, how would you briefly define Blessed Stanislaus Papczyński’s message first for you, as the General Superior, and then for the Congregation and modern man?
FR. A. PAKUŁA, MIC: For me, it is a constant reminder of the primacy of God and His grace, of keeping the faith despite difficulties and failures, which has a strong link to the Marian spirituality of the Founder and his love for the Immaculate Conception. As for the Congregation, it is a kind of reaffirmation of the Founder’s “fatherly” ties with his spiritual sons, which is necessary for a better understanding of our vocation. As to the man in the street, it is Father Stanislaus’ words about man being a mystical temple of God, where He wants to dwell and for whom He gave up His life. I believe it is good to always remember that.
• Thank you for the interview.
The interview was conducted by Fr. Łukasz Wiśniewski, MIC.
Source: KAI (Catholic Information Agency)