Saint of the Day – 13 November – St Stanislaus Kostka SJ (1550-1568) Jesuit Novice (28 October 1550 at Rostkovo, Poland – between 3 and 4 am of 15 August, feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1568 at Rome, Italy from a high fever). Patronages – • against broken bones• aspirants to the Oblates of Saint Joseph • last sacraments• Poland. Attributes – Lily, Jesuit habit, Jesus, Most Blessed Sacrament. St Stanislaus was Beatified on 19 October 1605 by Pope Paul V and Canonised on 31 December 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII.
His father, Jan Kostka, was a senator of the Kingdom of Poland and Lord of Zakroczym; his mother was Małgorzata Kryska from Drobni). He was the second of seven children. His older brother Paweł (Paul) survived to be present at beatification ceremony of Stanislaus in 1605. At home, the two brothers were taught with firmness, even severity; its results were their piety, modesty, temperance, and submission.
“I expect great things of him,” wrote St Peter Canisius of St Stanislaus Kostka. He certainly had in mind accomplishments like those of St Francis Xavier and other early Jesuits. But young Stanislaus died before he could do anything. Except live for God and become a saint.
Polish nobleman John Kostka was not pleased with the spiritual inclinations of his second son. He did all he could to discourage Stanislaus’s desire for Christian service. Paul, a brother two years older than he, bullied him and tried to lure him into more worldly pursuits.
On 25 July 1564, they arrived at Vienna with their tutor to attend the Jesuit college that had been opened four years before. Stanislaus was soon conspicuous, among his classmates during his 3 years of schooling, not only for his amiability and cheerfulness of expression but also for his growing religious fervour and piety.
His brother Paul said during the process of beatification: “He devoted himself so completely to spiritual things that he frequently became unconscious, especially in the church of the Jesuit Fathers at Vienna. It is true,” added the witness, “that this had happened at home to my brother at Easter when he was seated at table with our parents and other persons.”
Among other practices of devotion he joined while at Vienna the Congregation of St Barbara, to which many students of the Jesuit college belonged. The confidences he then made to his tutor and later to a fellow-member of the Society at Rome, he declared that it was Saint Barbara who brought two angels to him during the course of a serious illness, in order to give him the Eucharist. He also said that the Blessed Mother came to him in a vision, encouraging him to become a Jesuit. So much piety, however, did not please the older brother Paul; his exasperation led him to treat the innocent Stanislaus with violence. Stanislaus suffered the unjust treatment with remarkable stoicism and patience but there came one night when, after having again suffered the harsh comments and blows from his brother, he turned on Paul with the words: “Your rough treatment will end in my going away never to return and you will have to explain my leaving to our father and mother.” Paul’s sole reply was to swear violently at him.
Thus, upon recovering, Stanislaus determined to join the Society of Jesus. With Paul in hot pursuit, he fled to Dillingen where Peter Canisius welcomed him. Then to demonstrate his determination, Stanislaus walked the 350 miles to Rome and there Jesuit general St Francis Borgia accepted him.
Stanislaus kept a journal during his novitiate. His notes reflect both a youthful idealism and an adult commitment. Here are a few excerpts:
“Consider how hard it is for a person to be separated from any place he has loved deeply. How much harder the soul will find it when the time comes to leave the mortal body, its companion so dear. And the great fear it will experience in that moment because its salvation is at stake and it must stand in the presence of the one it has so offended. If the just man will scarcely be saved, what about me a sinner?
But think of the great joy the good will feel at the thought of the service they’ve paid to God. They will be glad because they’ve suffered something for love of him back there and didn’t fix their hope and attention on the things of this world that we leave so soon. Think of the joy that the soul will feel in its escape from the prison of this body. So long has it lived in perpetual exile, expelled from its own heavenly home. How much greater its uncontainable joy and complete satisfaction when it arrives in its own country to enjoy the vision of God with the angels and the blessed.
I am so ashamed and confused because I see how many have been lost on account of a single mortal sin and how many times I have deserved eternal damnation.
I shall reflect on myself and ask: “What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I do for Christ?”
However, Stanislaus did not complete his training. Nine months into his novitiate he again became very sick. Saint Stanislaus had drawn as his monthly patron for August the glorious martyr Saint Lawrence and in his honour he performed daily some penance or devotion. On the eve of his feast, he obtained leave to take the discipline; in the morning he went to Communion and then laid before the image of the saint a letter addressed to Our Lady, in which he begged that he might die on her Feast of the Assumption and he prayed Saint Lawrence to present to her his petition. That night he was seized with a slight fever, which, however, rapidly increased and on Assumption Eve, he received the last sacraments. Then, as he lay dying, he had brought to him a little book containing a litany in his own writing of his monthly patron saints, whom he constantly invoked. At 3 a.m. on the Feast of the Assumption, he face suddenly lit up with joy and he breathed forth his soul to the Mother of God, who had come to conduct him to heaven. His confidence in the Blessed Virgin, which had already brought him many signal favours, was this time again rewarded. And shortly afterward he died. Stanislaus was only seventeen years old when he “arrived in his own country to enjoy the vision of God.”
The entire city proclaimed him a saint and people hastened from all parts to venerate his remains and to obtain, if possible, some relics.