Even though St. Stanislaus Kostka was born more than 400 years ago, he experienced something many students experience today – bullying.
As a young child, one of seven born to a noble family in Poland, Stanislaus was educated with his older brother, Paul, by a private tutor. At the age of 14, the two brothers were sent to study at the Jesuit College in Vienna. Stanislaus was a kind, intelligent and pious young man, but his piety was disdained by his older brother, who continually bullied him, lashing out at him verbally and physically.
At age 16, Stanislaus became very ill and feared he was going to die. It was his great desire to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, but the young man was living in the home of a strict Protestant who would not allow the Blessed Sacrament to be brought into his home.
Stanislaus turned in prayer to St. Barbara, asking for her help in receiving the sacrament. His prayer was answered when the saint, carrying the Host, appeared to him, accompanied by two angels. Soon after, the Blessed Virgin Mary also appeared to him, assuring him that he would be healed and that it was God’s desire that the young man should enter the Jesuit order, the Society of Jesus.
Stanislaus knew that his family was strongly opposed to his decision to become a Jesuit, and that he was too young to enter the order in Vienna without his father’s permission. So he devised a plan to travel on foot, disguised as a beggar, some 400 miles to the Jesuit Order in Bavaria, where Father Peter Canisius, now a saint and Doctor of the Church, served as provincial.
St. Canisius sent Stanislaus on to Rome, another very long and dangerous journey over rugged terrain, to petition the order’s superior general, Francis Borgia, for entrance into the order.
Stanislaus was accepted into the Jesuit order at age 17. He would spend 10 months as a novice, growing in holiness while completing his chores and making penance with humility and cheerfulness. His great love of Jesus in the Eucharist showed as a light in his face whenever he received the Sacrament during Mass.
Soon, the saintly novice became gravely ill once again. He wrote a letter to Mary, asking for the favor that when it came time for his death, it would be on the anniversary of her Assumption.
Stanislaus’ prayers were answered. He died in the early morning hours of Aug. 15, 1568, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. He was beatified in 1605 and canonized Dec. 31, 1726.
St. Stanislaus is known as the patron saint of novices, youth, young students and seminarians. His intercession is also sought by those who suffer from serious illness.
When St. Pope John Paul II was a doctoral student in Rome he was known to stop often to pray at the tomb of St. Stanislaus which rests in the Church of St. Andrew on Quirinal Hill in Rome.
While praying at the tomb of St. Stanislaus during his pontificate, Pope John Paul II exclaimed, “The path of his brief life … can be likened to a great cross-country race towards holiness, which is the goal of every Christian life.”
In a 2018 message for the 450th anniversary of the death of St. Stanislaus, Pope Francis encouraged youth to remember that “on all the paths of your daily life, that you too are capable of performing this ‘race.’ You too are driven by the love of Christ and strengthened by his grace. Be brave! The world needs your freedom of spirit, your confident gaze on the future, your thirst for truth, goodness and beauty.
“Saint Stanislaus teaches you that freedom, which is not a blind race, but rather the ability to discern the goal and to follow the best ways of behavior and life. He teaches you always to seek first of all friendship with Jesus; to read and meditate on his word and welcome in his Eucharist his merciful and powerful presence, to resist the conditioning of the worldly mentality.
“Saint Stanislaus teaches you not to be afraid of the risk and dreams of true happiness, whose source and guarantee is Jesus Christ.”
St. Stanislaus is proof that sanctity does not require a long life or an early death — only a life, whatever its length, lived with and for the Lord. For young people in today’s world, 17-year-old Stanislaus shows them that saints can and do look like them. St. Stanislaus, pray for the youth of our Diocese and inspire them, like you, to love the Lord.
• Message of the Holy Father Francis for the 450th anniversary of the death of Saint Stanislaus Kostka
• St. Stanislaus Kostka - Patron Saint of Holy Disobedience
• New Advent: St. Stanislas Kostka
• Ignatian Spirituality St. Stanislas Kostka