St. Stanislaus Kostka was born at Rostkowo, near Przasnysz, Poland, on 28 October 1550; died at Rome during the night of 14-15 August, 1568. He entered the Society of Jesus in Rome on his 17th birthday (28 October 1567), and is said to have foretold his death a few days before it occurred.
His father, Jan (John) Kostka, was a senator of the Kingdom of Poland and Lord of Zakroczym; his mother was Małgorzata Kryska from Drobni (Margaret de Drobniy Kryska), the sister and niece of the Dukes of Masovia and the aunt of the celebrated Chancellor of Poland, Feliks Kryski (Felix Kryski)(Szczęsny Kryski). He was the second of seven children. His older brother Paweł Kostka (Paul Kostka) 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.
In 25 July of 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 fervor 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. If the confidences he then made to his tutor and later to a fellow-member of the Society at Rome are to be believed, it was Saint Barbara who brought two angels to him during the course of a serious illness, in order to give him the Eucharist. So much piety, however, did not please the older brother Paul; his exasperation led him to treat the innocent Stanislaus with violence. The latter finally lost patience, and one night after Stanislaus had again suffered the harsh comments and blows from 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.
Meantime the thought of joining the Society of Jesus had already entered his mind. It was six months, however, before he ventured to speak of this to the superiors of the Society. At Vienna they hesitated to receive him, fearing the tempest that would probably be raised by his father against the Society, which had just quieted a storm unleashed by others entering the Order. Stanislaus quickly grasped the situation and formed the plan of applying to the general of the Society at Rome. The distance was five hundred leagues, which had to be made on foot, without equipment, or guide, or any other resources but the precarious charity that might be received on the road. The prospective dangers and humiliations of such a journey, however, did not deter him.
On the morning of the day on which he was to carry out his project he called his servant to him early and told him to notify his brother Paul and his tutor in the course of the morning that he would not be back that day to dinner. Then he started, exchanging the dress of gentleman for that of a mendicant, which was the only way to escape the curiosity of those he met. By nightfall Paul and the tutor comprehended that Stanislaus had fled as he had threatened. They were seized with a fierce anger, and as the day was ended the fugitive had gained a day over them. They started to follow him, but were not able to overtake him; either their exhausted horses refused to go further, or a wheel of their carriage would break, or, as the tutor frankly declared, they had mistaken the route, having left the city by a different road from the one which Stanislaus had taken. It is noticeable that in his testimony Paul gives no explanation of his ill-luck.
Stanislaus stayed for a month at Dillingen, where the provincial of that time, the Saint Peter Canisius, put the young aspirant’s vocation to the test by employing him in the boarding-school. He arrived 25 October, 1567 in Rome. As he was greatly exhausted by the journey, the general of the order, St. Francis Borgia, would not permit him to enter the novitiate of Saint Andrew until several days later. During the ten remaining months of his life, according the testimony of the master of novices, Father Giulio Fazio, ‘he was a model and mirror of religious perfection’. Notwithstanding his very delicate constitution he did not spare himself the slightest penance. He had such a burning fever his chest that he was often obliged to apply cold compresses.
On the eve of the feast of St. Lawrence, Stanislaus felt a mortal weakness made worse by a high fever, and clearly saw that his last hour had come. He wrote a letter to the Blessed Virgin begging her to call him to the skies there to celebrate with her the glorious anniversary of her Assumption. His confidence in the Blessed Virgin, which had already brought him many signal favors, was this time again rewarded; on 15 August, towards four in the morning, while he was rapt in pious utterances to God, to the saints, and to the Virgin Mary, he died. The entire city proclaimed him a saint and people hastened from all parts to venerate his remains and to obtain, if possible, some relics.
The Holy See ratified his beatification in 1605; he was canonized on 31 December 1726. St. Stanislaus is a popular saint of Poland and many religious institutions have chosen him as the protector of their novitiates. The representations of him in art are very varied; he is sometimes depicted receiving Holy Communion from the hands of angels; sometimes receiving the Infant Jesus from the hands of the Virgin; or he is shown in the midst of a battle putting to flight the enemies of his country. At times he is depicted near a fountain putting a wet linen cloth on his breast. He is invoked for palpitations of the heart and for dangerous cases of illness (Cahier, “Caractéristiques des Saints”).
Prayers to St. Stanislaus Kostka
Pius IX 22 March 1847 granted an Indulgence of 300 days to be gained once a day by those who shall devoutly recite the following devotion in honor of St Stanislaus Kostka and also a Plenary Indulgence to those who shall have performed this devotion each day during a month on the usual conditions and visit to a church.
Prayer for Purity
My most pure protector Stanislaus angel of purity I rejoice with thee for that most wonderful gift of virginal purity which adorned thy unsullied heart I humbly pray thee to obtain for me strength against impure temptations and to excite in me a constant vigilance to guard holy purity that virtue so glorious in itself and so pleasing to God.
Our Father Hail Mary Glory be to the Father…
My most loving protector Stanislaus seraph of charity I rejoice with thee for that burning flame of love which held thy pure and innocent heart ever lifted up and united to God I humbly pray thee to obtain for me such fire of divine love as may consume all other earthly attachments and inflame me with heavenly love alone.
Our Father Hail Mary Glory be to the Father
For a Happy Death
My most clement and most powerful protector Stanislaus angel of purity and seraph of charity I rejoice with thee in thy most happy death which proceeded from the desire of seeing Mary assumed into heaven and was caused by the impulse of love towards her I give thanks to Mary who willed the fulfillment of thy desires By the merits of thy most happy death I pray thee to be the advocate and protector of my death Oh intercede with Mary and obtain for me a death if not as happy as thine at least one that shall be tranquil under the protection of Mary my advocate and thine who art my protector.
Our Father Hail Mary Glory be to the Father
Another prayer to Saint Stanislaus Kostka
Dear Saint Stanislaus, angel of purity and seraph of charity, I rejoice with you at your most happy death, which arose from your desire to contemplate our Lady in heaven, and was at length caused by the excess of your love for her. I give thanks to Mary because she thus accomplished your desires; and I pray you, by the luster of your happy death, to be my advocate and patron in my death. Intercede with Mary for me to obtain for me a death, if not all happiness like yours, yet calm and peaceful, under the protection of Mary my mother, and of you, my special patron. Amen.