Monday, November 13, 2006

Notes on the Memorial of St. Stanislaus Kostka.

Today the Society of Jesus remembers St. Stanislaus Kostka, a young Pole who overcame considerable adversity to fulfill his dream of becoming a Jesuit. Born into a noble family, as a young man was sent by his parents to study at a Jesuit college in Vienna. A devout youth with an ascetical disposition, Stanislaus became convinced that he had a vocation to the Society of Jesus. After a mystical experience that confirmed his sense that he was being called to enter the Society, the sixteen year-old Stanislaus asked to be admitted as a novice. Though the Austrian provincial wanted to admit Stanislaus to the novitiate, on account of the young man's age he had to seek the permission of the Kostka family. To the provincial's chagrin, Stanislaus' parents refused to permit their son to enter the Society. Not to be deterred, Stanislaus left Vienna and walked over four hundred miles west in order to appeal to the German provincial, who happened to be Peter Canisius. Sympathetic to the teenager's predicament, Canisius agreed to admit Stanislaus to the Society and arranged for him to enter the novitiate at Sant' Andrea al Quirinale in Rome. After only ten months as a novice, Stanislaus Kostka took ill with a fever and was confined to the novitiate infirmary. On the morning of August 15, 1568, he died at the age of seventeen. Beatified in 1605 and canonized in 1726, Stanislaus Kostka is specially remembered in the Society as the patron saint of Jesuit novices.

In many Jesuit novitiates, it is customary for the youngest first-year novice to preach on the Memorial of St. Stanislaus Kostka. Nowadays, the youngest novice in any given class is sure to be older than Kostka was when he died; from time to time, young men still enter the Society at eighteen, but novices as young as Kostka are practically unheard of. Nonetheless, the tradition of having the Holy Innocent (i.e., the youngest first-year novice) preach today is a means by which today's novices can recall the memory of their patron. Asking the intercession of St. Stanislaus Kostka, I pray that God will bless the novices of the Society of Jesus and that the example of Stanislaus and other Jesuit saints will inspire others to join this Company. AMDG.


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