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Angelic youth, whose love for Heaven's Queen,
Has gained for thee a crown by angels twined,

Oh! grant that we may reach that home serene

 Which Mary's love has aided thee to find.

- Fordham Monthly

There is in Rome a small and graceful church right opposite to the old Palace of the Popes upon the Quirinal Hill.  The palace is the Pope’s no more; and soldiers and courtiers, not of the Pope, throng the narrow street that runs before it.  Let us seek refuge from their uncongenial company in this modest sanctuary.  On entering we are taken by surprise at its beauty.  Circular in form, crowned by a dome, it has deeply recessed chapels, one of which attracts by the richness of its materials.  We read on an inscription that underneath the altar repose the remains of St. Stanislaus Kostka.  And if we pass into a room hard by we see his effigy in breathing marble.  He is as at the moment of his death, holding a picture of Our Lady in one hand and a crucifix in the other.  Young he is to die, but there is no shade of sorrow upon that sweet face.  Who is this youth, what is the story of his short life?

When the fierce flood of revolt against God’s Church and God’s truth was threatening the whole of Central Europe, Poland faithful and heroic was in grave peril of being drowned in the rising waters.  But Masovia, one of her provinces, stood above them, like a rock unsullied, untouched by the deluge.  And there, in 1550, when Edward VI. was King of England, dark days for our dear land, Stanislaus was born. John Kostka, his father, was Senator of that most democratic, yet aristocratic kingdom, and Castellan or Governor of one of its towns.  Where every freeman was a noble, nobility was no special privilege.  But John was of one of the leading families, and several of his relatives and of the relatives of his wife held high places in the State. 

As with so many of God’s Saints, marvels foretold the greatness of this child before his birth.  Stanislaus, the second son he had a brother Paul, older by thirteen months was born on the 28th of October.  After the solemn baptism in the parish church, the child’s godfather laid the baby on the ground before the altar of the Blessed Sacrament. It was a fitting consecration for one who was to be so highly favored by this sublime Mystery and so great a lover of his Lord in the Holy Eucharist. 

Under a strict home training, Stanislaus grew up a sweet and winning child.  The first act he could recall in after years was the dedication of himself entirely and forever to God.  To this he was so faithful that no wonder his parents used to say: "He is an angel now, he will be a Saint hereafter."  The Castellan kept open house, but if anyone at his table dared to say a coarse word when Stanislaus was present, the boy would raise his eyes to Heaven and then fall off into a swoon.  And his father had to keep strict watch that the conversation should never turn on forbidden topics.  As the brothers grew up, John Kostka looked around for some school where the faith of his sons would be secure, a privilege not easy to find in those evil days.  The Society of Jesus, then but lately founded, had been invited by the Emperor Ferdinand I. to open a college in Vienna, his capital.  He had lent to them a house belonging to the Crown to serve as a boarding-house for the young men of good family who flocked from all parts of Austria, Germany, and the neighboring countries to profit by the celebrated teaching and sure orthodoxy of the Jesuit masters.  Even Protestants sent their sons thither. 

Paul and Stanislaus arrived in Vienna in July of 1564, accompanied, as fitted their rank, by a tutor, John Bilinski, by a Bavarian valet, Pacific!, and two servants.  It was a great delight to Stanislaus to live in such a Catholic atmosphere.  The boys shared the refectory with the Fathers, and took part in the services in the church on Sundays and holy days.  These were celebrated with all possible splendor as a reparation for the Protestant wrecking of sanctuary and of ritual.  The altar was our young Saint’s place of preference.   He loved to hear three Masses every day, and to visit the church at his moments of leisure; and when there in public, he attracted all eyes by his deep though unconscious reverence, as he knelt in the choir stalls saying his beads or Our Lady’s Office, often raised up from the ground in ecstasy.  But he strove when it was possible to conceal his fervor from his companions by hiding himself behind the benches. 


Scarce eight months had passed before the free-thinking Emperor Max, who had succeeded to the throne, reclaimed the boarding-house, at the prayer of his protestantizing nobles, from the Jesuits: and though he did not break up the college, the two young brothers had to seek lodging in the city.  Paul chose one in the house of a Lutheran gentleman, who lived in what was then the fashionable quarter, in the midst of all the gaiety and pleasure so attractive to a young nobleman of sixteen.  A party of fellow students, two of their cousins, shared the house with them, and they seemed to join as much amusement as possible with the pursuit of their studies.  Nor was the tutor much different from them in his tastes. 


But the heart of Stanislaus was already set on leaving the world, and he divided all his time, as before, between study and prayer.  He did not at first show any special talents in class, but by dogged and continuous work he got to the head of the sixth form, or as it is called in Jesuit terminology, the school of rhetoric.  Besides his ordinary tasks, he learned to speak German.  Many of his well-filled note books were preserved as relics in Poland, until the great Revolution.  He never wore the brilliant national dress of his countrymen, and one of his great trials was being obliged to learn to dance.  While his brothers were playing cards after dinner, he slipped away to visit the Blessed Sacrament in the Jesuit Church.  He never would go out with them of an evening to theatres or amusements, but when they had returned and were asleep he rose at midnight to pray for a long time, and then finished with a severe discipline, the effects of which he found it difficult to conceal.  Yet there was nothing stiff or morose about him, but, as is ever the case when self-control is all round and complete, Stanislaus was unchangingly bright and merry.  His chubby and rosy face won the hearts of those whom he met. 

But a life so different from that of his brother and of his brother’s boon companions made him, as is often the case, "grievous" unto them "to behold," and Paul would vent his anger by words and even by blows.  He beat Stanislaus with a stick, he kicked him, and he reproached him with living the life of a country clown instead of that of a gentleman.  He constantly insisted that his father had sent him to Vienna on purpose to go into good society, and to mix with his equals.  His companions in their old age owned that they, too, had joined in this ill treatment, and often jumped upon this holy boy and trampled him under foot, as though they had stumbled over him by accident, when in the dark he was lying prostrate on the floor of his room rapt in prayer.  One night his companions complained that he was keeping them awake by sitting up late to read a spiritual book. Stanislaus, without a word, went to bed, but kept his candle lit at his side to finish his reading.  Just as happened to St. Aloysius, he fell asleep; the candle burnt to the socket and set fire to the curtains.  The flames and smoke aroused the others. Everything was in a blaze around his head, and they shouted to him to get up.  He awoke, leapt out of bed, but not even a hair of his head was touched. 


While unwilling to follow his brother to the parties and balls of the city, there was nothing he would not do for Paul, for he was exceedingly fond of him.  He would even tidy his room and clean his boots, and render any service to him, however menial.  But nothing that he did softened the harshness of his brother or of his companions.  They called him "Jesuit," as a word of scorn, and the tutor, if he interfered when Paul actually ill-treated his brother, laid all the blame of what our Saint suffered on his refusing to live as his station demanded. 


The strain became more than Stanislaus could bear.  The bad treatment, the perpetual persecution were not perhaps the sole cause.  The long night vigils, the self-inflicted penances, the constant application of mind and, perhaps as much as any other thing, the unsatisfied yearning for religious life resulted in a dangerous illness during December of 1566.  Was it delirium or a vision of the evil one, when at the outset of his sickness, a great black dog seemed to leap up to his bed to attack him?  Three times it came on and three times by the sign of the Cross our Saint drove it back and then it altogether disappeared. Stanislaus grew rapidly worse.  He asked for the last Sacraments, but no priest could ever be allowed to pass the threshold of the Protestant landlord.  This privation was bitterer to our Saint than death.  He had a great devotion to St. Barbara, and he knew that to her was attributed the special power of obtaining the last Sacraments for the dying.  During seven successive nights, Bilinski had watched by the bedside of his charge.  Suddenly one evening, Stanislaus touched the tutor and bade him kneel down; "See!" he exclaimed, "St Barbara is coming into the room with two angels, who are bringing me Holy Communion." 

Then the sick boy sprang up in bed and, on bended knees repeated three times the Domine, non sum dignus.  He then opened his mouth, as though he were going to receive, and after that stayed for some time in an attitude of deep reverence.  The tutor had become so worn out, that he was at length forced to leave a servant to watch the patient for one night.  At day break he returned to the sick room and Stanislaus beckoned him to his side, and assured him that he was quite well.  Naturally, Bilinski thought he was wandering, but the doctors when they came confirmed the statement of the holy youth.  What Bilinski did not know, but what Stanislaus told to two of his confessors, was that Our Lady had appeared to him and laid her Divine Child on the bed, and that He and the sick youth had embraced and caressed each other.  Before the vision disappeared the Blessed Virgin had ordered him to enter the Society of Jesus.


This was no new idea to him.  For sixteen months the conviction of a real vocation had been in his mind. He had even bound himself by vow to enter religious life.  The certainty that his father would refuse consent, the uncertainty whether the Society would receive him had made him keep his counsel to himself.  God had called him, of that he could have no doubt.  He knew that he "must be about his Father’s business," and though he were to cause his earthly father and mother "to seek him sorrowing," he knew his Master’s words, "that he who loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me."  Longer silence and inaction now became impossible.  Stanislaus went to lay his request before Father Maggio, the Provincial of the Austrian Province of the Society of Jesus.  That Father was, however, just setting out his visitation of Poland, then a part of his province, and he refused to receive the youth against his father’s wish.  No other reason was needed than that the risk lest such a step might endanger the very existence of his order in a country already deeply tainted by Protestantism.


In vain our Saint turned to Cardinal Commendone, the Papal Legate at Vienna, who was at once a firm friend of the Society of Jesus and an old acquaintance of the Kostka family; he had known them when he was Nuncio at Warsaw.  Not even the Cardinal was able to shake the determination of the Provincial. Stanislaus then turned with fresh confidence to God.  He renewed the vow he had made, and bound himself to journey the whole world over until he could find some Jesuit house, some Provincial who would accept him.


The Saint addressed himself in confession to a Portuguese Jesuit, Father Antonio, a man of high standing, a former Master of novices, and at that time confessor to the Empress Dowager Mary.  This Father whose position gave him a certain liberty of action, made no hasty reply.  But after commending the decision to God, he advised the Saint to seek admission from Blessed Peter Canisius, so justly named the Apostle of Germany, who was then Provincial of Upper Germany, and was believed to be at Augsburg.  If the Provincial refused, he counselled him to go on as far as Rome and beg the sainted General, St. Francis Borgia himself, to receive him into the Society.


Our Saint prepared for flight by accustoming his brother to his prolonged absences from home.  He procured a peasant’s dress of coarse stuff and a straw hat to match, besides a girdle and a pilgrim’s staff.  When next his brother, with his usual cruelty, attacked him, Stanislaus, instead of bearing it in silence, threatened that if he went on in that way, he would be forced to go away, and that Paul would have to answer for the consequences.  This unusual conduct sufficed to throw his brother into a fury, and he made Stanislaus leave at once.


That night our Saint passed in prayer, and early next morning, Sunday, the I7th of August, 1567, he went to hear Mass and to receive Holy Communion in the Jesuit Church.  He obtained from Father Antonio the letter of recommendation which he had promised.  As soon as ever he was safely outside the walls of Vienna he renewed his valiant vow.  He then changed his clothes, giving those he had taken off, as St. Ignatius had done, to a beggar whom he met.  Before leaving he had told the servant that he would not be back for dinner.  No one but Father Antonio and a young Hungarian friend, who shared in his aspirations, knew of his decision.


When night came on and Stanislaus did not return, Paul, Bilinski, and their landlord, Kimberger, felt sure that he had gone to join the Jesuits.  Accordingly, early next morning, they went to the college, only to find that he had certainly not been received into the Austrian Province, but had probably gone off to Rome.  They returned home in a fury, they cross-questioned the valet, Pacifici, and as soon as day dawned hurried after the fugitive.  Bilinski and Kimberger drove off in pursuit in one direction in a carriage, while Paul rode away in another.  The two former seem to have come in sight of him, but at that moment their horses they had gone forty-five miles stopped dead, nor could the driver make them move an inch further.   Paul overtook his brother, but did not recognize him under his disguise, although he spoke to him and asked about Stanislaus.  The peasant replied that the youth had gone along that road in the early morning.  Paul flung some money to the unknown boy, put spurs to his horse and galloped off.  He paid the guards of the gates of the various places through which his brother would have to pass, that they should arrest him when he appeared.


Stanislaus thanked Our Lady for having protected him, and, when all danger seemed over, pushed forward.  Fortunately, he met a Jesuit who was on his way to Dillingen, and who, to shelter him, took him past the two next towns in a carriage.  But the pilgrim insisted on making the rest of his way on foot.  At length he reached Augsburg, apparently in the early morning. Blessed Canisius however was not there, but several miles away, at Dillingen.  Stanislaus would brook no delay, and started off at once in company with another Jesuit.  


Our Saint was still fasting in hopes of receiving Holy Communion and, not many miles further on, he stayed at a wayside church.  The hand of the spoiler, alas! had been before him, the church had been reformed, neither tabernacle nor Blessed Sacrament was there.  Stanislaus burst into tears.  But suddenly a throng of glorious angels appeared, lighting up the desecrated sanctuary.  One of them bore the Ciborium, and the rest knelt down around our Saint, while once more he received His Lord and Love from heavenly hands.


At Dillingen he found Blessed Peter Canisius in the large Jesuit College, which had been opened in that town.  Stanislaus threw himself at his feet and presented him the letter written by Father Antonio.  He met with a warm welcome from the holy Provincial, and had Canisius seen his way to it he would have gladly accepted the youth as a member of his own Province.  For he must have admired his courage, and, during the short interview, the holy and experienced old man must have read the secret virtue of the soul of Stanislaus.   As he was dispatching two Jesuits to complete their studies at Rome, B. Peter thought it wisest and safest, according to young Kostka’s own wish, to send him along with them.  This was surely a Divine overruling, that with the other youthful Saints, Aloysius and John Berchmans, he might glorify the Holy City in life and in death!


Meanwhile, to test his constancy, Canisius made the high born Pole act as a servant to the young students in the college.  The Saint joyfully embraced the toil and the lowliness of this post.  He added to it severe austerities and an almost constant fast. The boys were greatly struck by his gentle humility and readiness to be of service, and his example was to many a call to follow him along the narrow way.


We know but little of the long autumnal journey over the Alps and Apennines to the Eternal City.  The central house of the Society in Rome for there were several, was then next to what is now the splendid church of the Gesu, wherein the body of St. Ignatius de Loyola is enshrined.  The General of the Society of Jesus at that time was the aged St. Francis Borgia, who had left his ducal coronet to wear a heavier crown, to rule over an order which was even then spread throughout the world.  He received the travelers on October 25, 1567, in the little room where his founder had written the Constitutions of the Jesuits.  We may be sure he welcomed Stanislaus with special affection, for B. Peter Canisius, in the letter of introduction he had sent, said of him, "I expect great things from him."


One of the great works of St. Francis Borgia during his Generalate was the organizing of separate houses of probation for the novices.  It would seem as if the model novice was to inaugurate the first of them, the new house of St. Andrea on the Quirinal, just founded by a lady of royal Spanish blood, Jane de Aragon, the mother of Mark Antony Colonna, the hero of Lepanto.  It had been opened only a year before Stanislaus came to Rome.


At first, however, this house was not large enough to receive all the Jesuit novices at the same time who were then within the Holy City, so that some stayed on at the central house, while others remained at the Roman College, such as it then existed; or rather the novices were changed about, making part of their two years of trial in each of these different religious houses.  Thus all three were hallowed by the presence of our Saint.  The life of the Jesuit novice is truly a hidden life, and few, if any, incidents broke the calm of the short ten months which Stanislaus spent in Rome.  Among those of various lands who were his companions there were many who had played no unimportant part on the world’s stage, and many were in after years to win still purer fame in God s service.  But one and all recognized in the gentle Polish youth their master and leader in the path of virtue.  The future General of the Society, perhaps the best known, after St. Ignatius, Claud Acquaviva, who had been a prelate in the Vatican, was told off to give the spiritual exercises to the Saint on his arrival, but he owned that his pupil had an abler teacher, for he was taught by the Holy Ghost.


Obedience, the flower of a Jesuit’s virtue, was with Stanislaus so perfect that not even a thought ever rose in his mind against any command, nor did any present the slightest difficulty to him.  Neither did he ever fail through the fickle member the tongue so thoughtful was he before he spoke, so gentle and so wise were his words.  They were full, too, of charm and set all hearts on fire with love of God, coming as they did from a heart aflame with ardent charity.  He had a special gift of lifting the conversation in a joyous and easy way up to highest thoughts.  Our Lady and the privilege of a religious vocation seemed his favorite topics.  His face would flush and tears of joy would come to his eyes when he thought of this grace.  He had written out those of the rules which concerned him and carried the copy always about him.  One page of this is still treasured as a precious relic.


His countenance, which had grown pale by sickness, breathed forth a sort of fragrance of holiness that drove out evil thoughts from tempted minds and fostered holy desires in those who saw him.  His very portrait seemed to have this effect.  He crucified his flesh by every means that his superiors would allow, and he ever thirsted for more penance.  One of our English Confessors, Father James Bosgrove, who escaped the traitor’s death at Tyburn only by being reprieved while on the road, met St. Stanislaus one day in the streets of Rome.  The cruel imprisonment he afterwards endured in the London prisons, the tortures he went through therein never blotted out the impression which that angel face had made upon him.  The prayer of our Saint grew more ardent as his end drew nearer.  To him, as to St. Aloysius, distraction was unknown.  His day was, in fact, almost an unbroken prayer.  His modest, down cast eyes used ever and again to be cast upwards towards Heaven with a deep sigh as of earnest longing.  He went about the house as if lost to all but God, and his lips moved in colloquy with Him.  His eyes were constantly brimming over with tears, and in time of prayer these flowed down in streams.  Often he seemed rapt in ecstasy.


As on the face of Moses, so the reflection of God’s presence was seen at times in this angelic youth, and his face shone as a flame.  But still more frequently the divine fire which burnt within his heart produced such effects that he was unable to conceal them, for the heat within was so intense that it brought on spasms and fainting fits.  Again and again clothes dipped in the chill water of the garden fountain had to be applied to his chest, or, during the winter time he walked out in the novice s garden, when the bitter north wind was blowing, that it might temper the flame that consumed him and was wasting away the structure of his earthly tenement.  His superiors gave him in charge of one of the novices, a doctor by profession, with orders to watch over him and use any restoratives that science could apply.  His love of Mary was, after that of Jesus, the reigning power of his soul.  He could not find phrases sufficient to express her worth, and the Rosary and Little Office were recited by him every day with a visible delight.


In the early part of the summer of 1568, B. Peter Canisius had come to Rome, summoned by St. Pius V., to give his advice as to the means of advancing the faith in Germany.  The Novice-master invited this saintly and experienced man to come and give a spiritual exhortation to his little flock, and many of the Fathers from the other houses in the holy city asked and obtained permission to be present.  It was the 1st of August, the harvest time, when the Romans make merry as though to brave the deadly fever which then stalks over Rome.  He took for his text a local proverb --Ferrare Agosto--Welcome to

August; and he taught from it the wise lesson to enter upon each month as if it were our last, and to get ready by fresh diligence to meet our God.


It was the custom for the novices after an exhortation, to gather in little groups and talk over what they had heard.  Stanislaus said that while the warning was useful for all, to him it came as a summons from God that he should die that month.  He was in his ordinary health and no one seems to have attached much weight to what he said.  That same day, as is the custom in many religious houses, each novice drew from a heap of tickets the name of a patron Saint of the new month.  The martyr St. Laurence fell to Stanislaus.  He asked his superiors to allow him a long list of penances in the Saint’s honor.  But they refused permission for the larger portion.  Four days after, Stanislaus went on a visit to his favorite sanctuary of Our Lady, the Madonna of St. Luke at St. Mary Major’s: it was the beautiful festival of the Dedication of the Basilica, when a miraculous fall of snow had marked out the site of the church and gained for that day the title of Our Lady of the Snow.  He had for a companion a venerable old professor of Sacred Scripture.  Talking on the way about the coming of the feast of Our Lady’s Assumption, which is kept so solemnly every year at St. Mary Major’s, the young Saint plainly said he hoped to witness it in Heaven.  The Father thought he only meant that he would see its glories in spirit.

Madonna of Foligno

The Madonna of Foligno is a painting by the Italian High Renaissance painter Raphael. First painted on wood panel, it was later transferred to canvas.

On the 9th of August, the eve of St. Laurence, he performed a public penance in the refectory, and went next morning to Holy Communion.  He carried on his breast a letter, addressed to Our Lady, begging for the privilege of being admitted to enjoy the coming feasts of the Assumption in Heaven, and imploring St. Lawrence to present this his request to Mary and to further it by his prayer.  He spent that morning working in the kitchen.  The fire and, no doubt, the heat reminded him at once of hell and of the martyrdom of his patron on the gridiron.  Before the day was done Stanislaus felt so ill that he was forced to inform the Brother who had charge of him, and as he was being carried upstairs to his bed, he again said that he should die in a few days.  His Master of Novices and Claud Acquaviva came to visit him, and to both he told the request he had made to his Heavenly Mother, and that he hoped by that time his prayer was heard.  On Friday, two days later, a slight tertian fever declared itself, and he was borne in the arms of a German novice, whom he had known in Dillingen, up to another and more airy room.  When he reached it, he knelt down beside the bed and prayed for a short time, and then, before getting into it, he blessed it and said, "I shall never get up again," adding, to calm the sorrow of those around him, "At least, if it please God!" 

Sunday came, the eve of the Assumption, and, though no serious symptoms had shown themselves, the Saint assured a Brother who was waiting on him that he would die that night.  "It would need a greater miracle for you to die of so slight an illness, than to be cured of it;" was the reply, "unless, indeed, Our Lady wishes you to spend the Assumption with her in Heaven. " But before the day was half past a sudden fainting fit, accompanied by the loss of strength, showed that his words were too true.  "O man of little heart!" said the Novice-master laughingly, as the patient regained consciousness; "do you lose courage for so slight a matter?" "I am a man of little heart," replied the Saint; "but the matter is not so light for I shall die of it."  The symptoms grew more serious, and at nightfall he made his confession, and the Holy Viaticum was brought to him.  The sight of his Lord revived him.  His whole frame trembled with emotion, while the light came back to his eyes.  As the novices knelt around him, weeping bitterly at his approaching death, he humbly begged pardon for the faults he had committed and thanked his superiors for their great goodness to him.  He especially begged that the Father General should receive his expression of gratitude for having received him into the Order.  Then with deep devotion he made his last Communion, and received Extreme Unction.  He reverently repeated all the responses of the holy rites. 

One thing alone troubled him, a doubt as to whether he had ever been confirmed.  The state of things in Poland, in Austria and Germany, and the short time Stanislaus had been in Rome would have accounted for the omission, had there been any.  It was urged that it was now too late, and one of the Fathers comforted him by recalling the singular graces which he had received, and he thus regained his peace of mind. 

After receiving Extreme Unction, he repeated his confession to gain the Indulgence granted at the hour of death.  Then the dying youth talked for a brief space, his face all beaming, to those around him.  A blessed rosary was put into his hands and the Father, who had had charge of him when at the Professed house, and had come to visit him, asked him, for he kept on kissing the medal, what he was doing with his beads.   "They are my most blessed Mother’s," he replied with a bright smile.  "Courage," the Father said, "for you will soon see your Mother and be able to kiss her hand!"  The very thought transported him with such joy that he lifted up his hands and eyes, as though he already beheld her.  He kept repeating the holy names, and then every now and again, "My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready!" 

Stanislaus for a third time made his confession.  He had asked time after time to be laid on the ground that he might die as a penitent.  At last the request was so far granted that a pallet was stretched on the floor and he was placed upon it.  The night was wearing on.  He inquired about his fellow novices and when he found they had gone to bed he renewed his messages and greeting, and begged again their forgiveness for all the scandal he had given!  There were kneeling around him his two Novice-masters and a few other members of the community.  As he felt his hour draw near, he said to his confessor, "The time is short."  "Yes," the Father replied, "it remains" "That we be ready," added the Saint. 

Then he followed fervently some other prayers said by the Fathers, grasping his crucifix all the while. They feared to tire him; but when they ceased, he at once began to pour out his soul in Latin, thanking God for all His favors, especially for having died for him and for having called him to religious life.  

Then he kissed devoutly the wounds of his Crucified Lord and bowed his head over the Crown of Thorns. He called for a little note book in which he had marked down his monthly patrons, and begged those around to pray to those Saints for him.  He was asked if he was prepared to die, and his joyous reply was, "My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready!" 

The morning of Our Lady’s Assumption was come, the dawn was near.  Suddenly he ceased his prayers, and his face beamed with a wonderful joy.  He gazed around the room and seemed as though he wished those present to join in an act of reverence to some high and holy personage who was present.  He kept saying that he saw distinctly Mary and a band of angels and then the face with the radiant smile upon it settled down into the peace of death.  Stanislaus lay there with a blessed candle in one hand, his crucifix and rosary in the other.  The bystanders looked at each other as if to ask whether or not he were dead.  One of them raised to Stanislaus eyes a picture of Our Lady which lay beside him.  This had always met with a response.  Now there was none.  It was evident that his soul had gone to God.  It was shortly after three when he entered upon his reward. 

We almost seem to know St. Stanislaus, with his pleasing but pale face, though with a bright flush on his cheeks and his eyes bright when not dimmed by a mist of tears.  He was of middle height, full grown and strong.  As in the beautiful statue at Rome, so did his brethren find him, when rising at an early hour they saw him lying as though in a calm sleep, but gone from them to God. 

After Stanislaus flight from Vienna, Paul Kostka had returned to his father in Poland, and both of them were very indignant at what had happened.  The old Castellan wrote a violent letter to Stanislaus, which reached him while still alive, threatening to come himself and bring the fugitive back in chains.  The Saint sent back a firm but gentle reply, and Paul was dispatched to Rome to carry out his father’s threat, but did not arrive until a month after his brother’s death, only to find the whole city ringing with the fame of the sanctity of Stanislaus.  He returned home a changed man.  The funeral had been attended by crowds, and the fame of our Saint’s holiness spread quickly to Poland.  Two years later, 1569, the body was found incorrupt.  A versified life of the Saint was published at Krakow in 1570, and in 1602 Clement VIII gave an authorization for the work to be published in Rome and in the Brief he five times called Stanislaus by the name of Blessed. 

The news of this honor was received with rapture in Poland, and the family of Kostka especially shared in the universal joy.  Our Saint’s father and mother and two brothers were then living, though the father and Albert, one of his sons, died shortly after.  Even before the death of his holy mother, Paul gave himself up to a life of great prayer, austerity and charity.  He even begged to be received into the Society of Jesus, though then a broken-down old man.  The permission was granted, but he passed away before he could carry out his designs.  He had never ceased to lament to the very end with bitter tears his cruelty to his holy brother.  Strangely enough he died on the I3th of November, 1605, the day of the month afterwards chosen for the Saint’s feast.  The tutor, Bilinski, became a priest, and conceived great devotion for his holy pupil.  He died with the portrait of the holy youth before him and St. Stanislaus came to comfort him in his agony. 

In a crisis when Poland, the bulwark of Christendom, seemed to be going down before the hordes of the Great Turk, the king of that valiant country sent to Rome to beg for the skull of St. Stanislaus.  The Poles had chosen the Saint for one of their national patrons.  The victory of Chocim, in 1621, was attributed to the arrival of the precious relic.  Nor was this the only time when his countrymen owed to his intercession their safety in moments of like peril.  The great John Sobieski held with a small force a post for twenty days against a Turkish force fifteen times more numerous than his own, and this success he attributed to the intercession of St. Stanislaus. 

It was on the I3th of November that St. Stanislaus remains were translated to the exquisite little church where they now repose.  In 1726, the holy Dominican, Pope Benedict XIII., raised St. Stanislaus with his brother Saint, Aloysius Gonzaga, to the highest honors of the altar, that of a canonized Saint. 

During the evil days of French invasion a good Canon, at great peril to himself, received the precious relics from St. Andrea s and carried them for safety to Austria.  When Pius VII came to his own again, the relics were restored.  But the powers that be have not respected a sanctuary hallowed by so many Saints and by the tomb of one of the Kings of Savoy, who had laid down his crown to become a lay-brother of the Society of Jesus in that holy house.  The novitiate was pulled down in spite of the petitions of the ladies of Poland, and the graceful statue and memories of the Saint were transferred to a new building alongside the church.  The skull, or at least a portion of it, escaped the perils of the revolutionary wars, and this is now the precious treasure of the exiled Fathers of the German Province of the Society of Jesus. 

May the memory of our brave young Saint be a shield to the youth of every land in moments of danger! May he intercede for his heroic Fatherland!  And may young and old alike follow him in his devotion to Our Lord and in his deep affection for Our Lady! 


A little babe brought to the Fount of Grace 
  And cleansed by Mother Church in Christ’s Sweet Blood 
And angels smile down on that sleeping face, 
  And write his name in Heaven among the good. 


A tiny child that loves to run away 
  To some dark corner, and with eyes upturned, 
Small hand a-clasp, in ecstasy to pray, 
  His childish heart with love of Jesus burned. 


An angel-youth, not like the giddy crowd 
  That fill the streets, and when he passes by 
They stop their sports and dare not speak aloud, 
  As if he were an angel from on high. 


A perfect novice, seraph-like and sweet, 
  As some fair rose that sheds its fragrance round, 
As sighing for the time when he shall meet 
  His Queen, his Mother, in her glory crowned. 


A saint in Heaven, dear to Christ’s own heart, 
  At home at last, the crown and palm branch won. 
Safe with his Mother, nevermore to part, 
  His travels are o’er, and rest, sweet rest, begun. 


Pray for us Stanislaus, by that great grace 
  Bestowed on thee when our dear Lady came, 
With Saints and with attendant angels bright, 
Bringing to thee the King, whose holy Face 
  Enkindled in thy bosom such sweet flame 
That but to die for Him were keen delight. 


- Marcella A. Fitzgerald

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