June 9, 2016
Spreading the Love of St. Stanislaus Papczynski
Ordained a little more than a year ago on May 30, 2015, Fr. Thaddaeus Lancton, MIC, is one of the youngest priests in the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. The Congregation’s Founder, Stanislaus Papczyński, was canonized on June 5, 2016. Here, Fr. Thaddaeus shares how his devotion to St. Stanislaus has grown, as well as his hopes for spreading devotion to St. Stanislaus in the future.
When you entered the Marians, how much did you already know about the Congregation’s Founder, St. Stanislaus Papczyński?
When I entered the Marians in the United States, a lot of his writings weren’t translated into English. During the year of my novitiate , we had his beatification in Licheń, Poland. Our Polish members all received a blue book called Pisma Zebrane (The Collected Writings of St. Stanislaus Papczyński), translated into Polish from the original Latin so that they could read all that he had written. I remember wanting to be able to read more by him because I felt like I didn’t know him well when I entered the Marians. I had studied his life in novitiate, but there weren’t a lot of his writings that I could access.
After making first vows on August 15, 2008, Fr. Thaddaeus set about to make his wish come true. He translated two of St. Stanislaus’ works from Latin in English: Orator Crucifixus (The Crucified Orator) and Christus Patiens (The Suffering Christ: Lenten Meditations).
Which of his writings strikes you the most?
There is an excerpt from the Norma Vitae, the Rule of Life of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, in the Office of Readings for his feast day (May 18). In it, he very clearly emphasizes the role of love in a religious community, describing it as the heart and soul. Father Pakuła, the current Superior General of our Congregation, pointed out in his dissertation on St. Stanislaus and his spirituality that during St. Stanislaus’ lifetime (in the late 1600s), such a clear emphasis on love as the goal and focus of religious life was not common. That’s something that remains with me. Sometimes people who read only part of St. Stanislaus’ writings can get the impression that he was only a severe ascetic who scourged himself, fasted, and did all sorts of mortifications. But I think that this excerpt from the Office of Readings shows his real face. His writings show that he did understand, like we do today, that [the Christian life] is about love. This is very peculiarly our vocation as Marians. It is that love of God — the Holy Spirit — that purified Mary in her Immaculate Conception. That love of God is what we are to live as a community amongst ourselves. Saint Stanislaus emphasized that we are to keep far from us all dissension, all discord, all hatred, etc. He said, in essence, very practically: Let us be immaculate, let us keep away from us all that would stain that love of God within our community, so that we can be a living presence of Immaculate Mary on earth.
Looking to the future, what would you like to do to help spread devotion to your Father Founder?
There are a few things about his life that are very important to share with the faithful, the first of which is his trust in Divine Providence. Upon leaving his first community (the Piarists), he was persecuted. Then he had difficulties beginning the Marian Fathers, and yet he kept trusting. That is a great witness of trust, which is the essence of the message of Divine Mercy — that God is Father, and He uses even the worst of our situations for our good. And He indeed has — we are here today celebrating [Stanislaus’] canonization because he trusted in God in those very concrete ways in his life.
Also, St. Papczyński’s mystical experiences in Purgatory confirm for us the great need to pray for the souls in Purgatory. Praying for the souls in Purgatory is so important today. We have such a huge population in the world, and hundreds of thousands of people die each day. Stanislaus says clearly that the greatest act of charity that we can perform is praying for those souls because they cannot pray for or help themselves while they are in Purgatory.
In what ways can St. Stanislaus be a powerful intercessor for us all?
I believe he is a powerful intercessor for the cause of life. In some of our parishes in Poland, we regularly have a blessing with a relic of St. Stanislaus for couples who want to conceive a child. Praying for conception and that the conception be holy, in the sense that these couples are able to co-create with God for holy children, children of the Kingdom, is quite appropriate in light of our charism of promoting devotion to the Immaculate Conception. I would love to see that happen here. I’ve seen that at the Shrine. Couples come asking me, “Pray for me, I want to conceive but we can’t.” It would also be appropriate to use him as a way of emphasizing prayer for mothers who have lost a child and for the repose of the souls of those children. All of these acts of prayer would be a good witness to the pro-life movement, because they’re a positive statement of, “We want to conceive life, we want to bring life”; it’s not just fighting abortion.
The Marian Founder’s canonization is a great celebration for us. He has already helped so many souls, and it is my hope and prayer that many others will turn to him for help also.