Life of St. Stanislaus Kostka
Stanislaus was born in 1550 to the noble family of Kostka in Poland. From early childhood, he had a deep devotion to his Catholic faith and great love for the Blessed Mother and the Christ Child. However, he had to deal with hostility from his family to his strong faith all through his life. His father and older brother wanted him to embrace a life of power and pleasure, but he was set on higher goals. This Latin phrase became his motto: “Ad maiora natus sum” (“I was born for greater things”).
Sent away with his brother to attend school in Vienna, he continued in his virtue and patience through his teenage years; he loved to pray. During one period of illness, when he was unable to attend Mass, Saint Barbara and two angels brought him Holy Communion.
He lived in an era of religious turmoil, with struggles between Catholics and the new Protestant churches. He had an intense desire to join the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), an order of priests that had recently been founded to help to reform the Catholic Church and reconvert Catholics who had fallen away from their faith.
Despite the bullying of his older brother, he was committed to his vocation, and in 1566 he secretly left and walked from Vienna to Dillingen, where he met St. Peter Canisius, a Jesuit leader. He continued on foot–350 miles–to Rome, where he began the process of joining the Society of Jesus.
Like so many who met Stanislaus Kostka, the Jesuits were impressed with his quiet kindness and obvious piety. As a novice, he was asked to do the lowest jobs of cleaning and service; despite his wealthy background, he embraced these duties.
After falling seriously ill, Stanislaus died on the feast of the Assumption of Mary, August 15, in 1568. He was only 17 years old. On his deathbed, he said, “I see the Blessed Virgin Mary! And she is surrounded by angels.” After the death of Stanislaus, his brother Paul changed his life, eventually entering the Jesuits in his 50s.
Stanislaus Kostka was declared a saint by the Catholic Church in 1726, and he is the patron saint of students. His feast is celebrated on November 13.