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Greater Things The Story Of Saint Stanislaus Kostka by William T. Kane

CHAPTER III EARLY DAYS

Bilinski and Paul Kostka went back to Vienna, much troubled at heart. They really loved Stanislaus, for one thing, though they had been pretty rough with him. And for another, they had to face the anger of the Lord John Kostka, when he should hear of Stanislaus' flight.

Shortly after they had got back, a young friend of the runaway came to them and said:

|If you look between the leaves of such-and-such a book, you will find a letter which Stanislaus left for you.|

They looked and found the letter. It was very simple and straightforward, a genuine boy's letter. He had run away, he said, because he had to. He was called to enter the Society of Jesus. He had to do what God wanted of him. He knew they would prevent him if they could. And so he just went. He left them messages of affectionate regard, and begged them to forward his letter to his father.

Bilinski sent this letter on at once. Paul also wrote, as did Kimberker and even the servant who had gone with them in the carriage. Each tried to shift the blame from himself, told of the strange behavior of the horses, explained that everything possible had been done to overtake the fugitive.

And when their letters came, there was high wrath in Kostkov. The Lord John raved and swore. He blamed everybody, but most of all Stanislaus and the tricky Jesuits who, he said, were back of the whole scheme. He wrote to Cardinal Osius that he would not rest until he had broken up the Jesuit college in Pultowa and driven every schemer of them out of Poland. As for Stanislaus, he would follow him across the world, if need were, and drag him back to Kostkov in chains.

He was a great lord, the Lord John. He loved his second son, Stanislaus, most dearly, and he loved dearly the honor of his house, which he thought that son had stained by hi& conduct. A son of his in beggar's garb, tramping the highways of Europe, begging his bread from door to door! It nearly broke his heart.

He had princely blood in his veins, he was a Senator of Poland, he might even become a king. His dearest hopes were in Stanislaus, his second son. Paul, the eldest, was wild and unsteady. And though there were two other sons and a daughter, none gave such promise as Stanislaus. So that the Lord John looked chiefly to him to carry on the great name and make it more glorious still. No wonder he raged!

Stanislaus had figured all that out beforehand. It hurt him too, hurt terribly. But what can one do when God calls? God had made all the Kostkas, given them name and rank. God was the Lord of Lords. It was heart-breaking to Stanislaus to leave his father in anger. Yet he trusted that since that was God's will - well, God would find a way to bring peace out of all this trouble. He put all his fears and heartache away from him, and went out to do what God wanted.

He had always done that, even when he was a little tad in the rough castle at Kostkov. God had taught him, God had helped him wonderfully. But more wonderful still to our eyes is the way the boy listened to God's teaching and obeyed it.

We think things come easy to the saints. We read or hear of wonders in their lives, which are evidently God's doing; and we say:

|Of course the saint was good and holy. But it was all done for him. God made everything smooth. The saint was never in my boots for a minute.|

And all the time we forget the things which the saint himself did, the superb efforts he had to make.

So Stanislaus began to pray as soon as he well began to speak. Do you think he would not sooner have kept on with his play? Do you think he did not naturally hate the effort just as any boy naturally hates effort?

He lived amongst rough men, men used to the ways of camps and the speech of soldiers. Yet he not merely kept his own lips| clean, but he shrank, as from a blow, from every coarse or indecent speech in others. He did not go around correcting people. He was too sensible for that. He was not a prig or a prude. But he knew, as we know, that vile speech is hateful to God; and, as so many of us do not do, he set his face against it.

Did that cost him no effort? Had he no human respect to fight against? Think of how many times you may have grinned, cowardly, at a gross remark or shady story of a comrade - because you were not fighter enough to resent it! And then give this Stanislaus, who did resent, credit for his stouter courage, his more manly spirit.

His biographers tell us that he was simply' free from temptations against purity. That does not mean what many may think it means: that he was physically unlike other boys, that he had no animal desires, that he had nothing to fight against. It means that he was such a magnificent fighter that he had won the battle almost from the start. It means that he was not content, as so many of us are, with merely pushing a temptation a little aside, and then looking around in surprise to find it still there. He was like a skillful boxer, who wards off every blow of his adversary, so that he goes through the contest absolutely untouched. He watched, as we are too lazy to watch; he kept out of danger, where we foolishly run into it; he did not wait until temptation had set upon him and nearly battered him down before he began to resist; he saw it coming afar off, just as we can if we look out, and he met it with a rush that sent it again beyond reach or even sight.

OF COURSE he was the same as other boys; OF COURSE he had the same inclinations, the same promptings of the animal man; but with them he had more daring, more force and energy of will to cooperate with God's grace.

You always find it that way. The things the saints seem to do with ease are terrifically hard things, huge battles, regular slugging fights. The ease, if there be any, is not in the things they did, but in the men who did them.

You have seen skilled pianists sit down at their instruments and run off into brisk flowing music what looks like a hopeless jumble of notes. You may have seen an artist sketch in, whilst chatting idly, a swift, striking portrait. Well, all really good men are artists too; artists in fighting. And Stanislaus was one of the cleverest and strongest artists of the lot.

He began early, just as the musician Mozart did, just as the painter Raffaele did; and he studied hard at his art, just as all great artists have done. He began by saying his prayers well, not mere lip prayers, but heart prayers. He began by getting on easy terms with God, with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, with our Blessed Lady. He learned to talk with them as we learn to talk with our fathers and mothers. He told them his troubles, his plans. He talked everything over with them. And it no more made him queer or stiff or unpleasant than talking things over with your comrades or your parents makes you queer or stiff or unpleasant. If you believe in God, it is the most natural thing in the world to try to take Him into your confidence.

Then it is easy to see how, as Stanislaus grew older, he liked to pray, he liked to talk about God and our Lady. You see, he had grown to know them. They were not remote, far away. They were as near to him as his own folk. They were his own folk. And it is easy to see how, keeping in God's sight all the time, he kept his soul clean and his heart merry.

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