“May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)
So said Mary at the Annunciation. And so echoed members of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception around the world today as they celebrated their patronal feast day, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and renewed their vows.
The solemnity this year also marks the launch of an historic four-year-long celebration to mark the Congregation’s 350th anniversary.
First, let’s talk about the Immaculate Conception.
By declaring the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed, “The Most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”
An interesting thing: A full 184 years before the Church declared the Immaculate Conception an official dogma, the Marian Fathers’ Founder, St. Stanislaus Papczynski (1631-1701), professed: “I believe everything that the holy Roman Church believes, but first of all I profess that the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, was conceived without any stain of original sin.”
A Polish mystic and preacher, Fr. Papczynski staked his life on this mystery of the faith. He also founded the Marian Fathers in 1670 based upon it. This mystery was so central to St. Stanislaus because, by being preserved from all stain of original sin, Mary became living proof to God’s love and care for all of humanity. Through her Immaculate Conception, we find solace that Christ had conquered sin and that we are called to eternal life in Heaven.
Today, Marian priests and brothers and Marian Helpers around the world make St. Stanislaus’ frequently repeated prayer our own: “May the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception be our health and our protection.”
Marians and Marian Helpers gathered around the world today to mark the celebration and to renew their “yes” to God, thereby expressing their eagerness to follow the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary by fulfilling the Father’s will and surrendering to His Providence.
“We need to prepare our hearts with faith,” said Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, rector of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in a homily at a special 10 a.m. Mass. “We need to prepare our lives; reconsecrate ourselves to God; ask God to remove all sin from our lives, to make us pure, holy, and immaculate, like the Blessed Virgin Mary; … to make us the persons He wants us to be.”
Saint Stanislaus’ spiritual sons today, now serving in some 20 countries around the world, discover in their vocations a direct link to their Founder. Saint Stanislaus demanded of his Congregation a daily and dogged pursuit of sanctification for the glory of God and the Church by means a charism calling for promotion of the Immaculate Conception; praying for souls in Purgatory; and assisting the pastors in their parish ministry.
Of course, since 1941, the Marians Fathers have added another mission to their evangelization efforts — the spread of the Divine Mercy message and devotion, as revealed to St. Faustina in the 1930s.
In his homily, Fr. Anthony noted a passage in St. Faustina’s Diary in which Jesus speaks of Faustina’s native Poland: “From her will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming” (Diary, 1732).
“John Paul II interpreted that [spark] as [St. Faustina and] Divine Mercy,” said Fr. Anthony. “I think the Marians are also a spark for the entire world, a little spark. We’ve always been considered a tiny congregation. Maybe we’re not well known in the Church or in the world … but isn’t that the way God works through Mary? She was tiny. She was a humble girl from Nazareth, and yet she was preserved from original sin at the moment of her conception by the merits of Jesus Christ. And from that point on, she always offered her life to God. At the Annunciation, she offered her life to God.”
This year’s solemnity marked the launch of a year of preparation for the 350th anniversary celebration of the founding the Marian Fathers. The exact anniversary falls on Dec. 11, 2020, marking 350 years since St. Stanislaus made what’s known as his Oblatio, an act of offering himself to God.
The Marian Fathers’ Superior General, the Very Rev. Fr. Andrew Pakuła, MIC, said in a letter to his confreres that the four-year celebration will be an impetus to spiritual renewal, a time of special grace with focus on “the strengthening of faith and of the witness of Christians.”
Father Andrew said, “I trust that our celebrations of the 350th anniversary of the origin of our religious community will contribute to the renewal of our faith and our personal bond with the Lord who called us; to the deepening of our identity and the awareness of our charism; to our giving witness to who we are and to the purpose of our existence in the Church; to our re-discovering what Christ and His Immaculate Mother, our Patroness, mean to us; to strengthening our bonds with our holy Father Founder, St. Stanislaus, who — always obedient to the Holy Spirit — gave rise to our religious community.”
The Jubilee will close on Dec. 8, 2023. That year will mark the 350th anniversary of the approval of the Marian Congregation’s first religious house in the Korabiew Forest by Bishop Jacek Święcicki.
Each year of the Jubilee will have a special theme: Consecrated for Christ and the Church (2020); In the School of the Immaculate Conception of Mary (2021); On the Paschal Path (2022); and On the Charismatic Mission (2023).
Jubilee events will be planned for each of the years for both Marian Fathers and Marian Helpers.
Watch Fr. Anthony’s homily: