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

CHAPTER XIV GOING HOME

When Stanislaus had been a novice nine months, Peter Canisius came one day to Rome on business. At this time Stanislaus was living in the noviciate proper, Sant' Andrea on the Quirinal. Of course the novices were all keen to see and hear the great Canisius, the man who had done such superb work in Germany. And whatever curiosity they had was satisfied, for Canisius came to the community at Sant' Andrea and gave a little sermon or talk.

It was the first of August, the month always most dangerous to health in Rome. Just for that reason, perhaps, the old Romans had made the beginning of that month a time of feasting and boisterous holiday. And an old proverb had come down, |Ferrare Agosto - Give August a jolly welcome|

Canisius took this proverb for his text, but turned it to say, |Give every month a jolly welcome, for it may be your last.|

After the talk, the novices, according to custom, discussed amongst themselves what had been said. It came Stanislaus' turn to speak. He said:

|What Father Canisius has just told us is a holy warning for all, of course. But for me it is something more, because this month of August is to be really my last month 'upon earth.|

To be sure, no one paid special attention to this strange remark. Novices often say things that will not bear too much analysis. Particularly no one would look seriously upon what Stanislaus had said, since he was at the time in perfect health.

Four days later, the feast of our Lady of the Snows, Stanislaus had occasion to go with the great theologian, Father Emmanuel de Sa, to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. For there the beautiful feast is kept with singular ceremony, as that church is the one connected with the origin of the feast. Each year, during Vespers on August 5th, a shower of jasmin leaves sifts down from the high dome of a chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore, to commemorate the miraculous snow in August which marked out the spot where the church was to be built.

As they went along, de Sa turned the talk to the coming feast of the Assumption of our Blessed Lady. Stanislaus spoke with delight, as he always spoke of our Lady.

|When our Lady entered paradise,| he said, |I think God made a new glory for His Mother, and all the saints made a court about her and did reverence to her as we do to a king. And I hope,| he added; |that I shall be up there myself to enjoy this coming feast.|

Again his words were not taken at their face value. Father de Sa thought he spoke of being in heaven in spirit for the feast.

The practice, now common, was new then, of alloting to each in the community as special patron some particular saint whose feast occurred during the month. Stanislaus had drawn Saint Lawrence for his patron. The feast of the Saint is celebrated on August 10th. Stanislaus, who had clear intimations of his quickly approaching death, and was eager to go to heaven, asked Saint Lawrence to intercede for him that his home-going might be on the Feast of the Assumption. He got permission to practice some penances in honor of the Saint. He prepared for the feast with unusual devotion. On the morning of the 10th when he went to Holy Communion, he carried on his breast a letter he had written to our Lady. It was such a letter as a boy, away from home, and homesick, might write to his mother, asking her to bring him home.

After breakfast, Stanislaus, still in entire health, was sent to work in the kitchen, where he spent the rest of the morning, washing dishes, carrying wood for the fire, helping the cook generally.

But by evening he was decidedly unwell. To the fellow-novice who helped him to bed he said quietly, |I am going to die, you know, in a few days.|

Claude Acquaviva hurried to him as soon as he learned he was ailing. Father Fazio, the novice-master, also came. Stanislaus told each of the favor he had begged from our Lady, and that he hoped strongly his request would be granted.

That was on the evening of Wednesday, the 10th. He appeared to be no better or worse on Thursday and Friday. But Friday evening he was moved from his ordinary room to a quieter place in a higher story of the house. Those who went with him noted that before he lay down, he knelt on the floor and prayed a while and made the sign of the cross over the bed, saying, |This is my deathbed.|

Now they began to believe him and were frightened a little. So Stanislaus added, with a smile, |I mean, of course, if it so please God.|
He continued in about the same condition until Sunday, August 14th. That day he said to the laybrother who was taking care of him:

|Brother, I'm going to die to-night.|

The brother laughed at him, and said:

|Nonsense, man! Why, it would take a greater miracle to die of so trifling a matter than to be cured of it.|

But by noon of that day Stanislaus became unconscious. Father Fazio was with him at once and administered restoratives. Very soon Stanislaus was himself again, bright and smiling as ever. Father Fazio began to joke with him.

|O man of little heart!| he said. |To give up courage in so slight a sickness!|

Stanislaus answered, |A man of little heart I admit I am. But the sickness, Father, is not so very slight, since I'm going to die of it.|

And, indeed, he began to fail rapidly. By evening the death-sweat stood out upon him, the vital warmth little by little withdrew from hands and feet to the citadel of his heart. When the last light of day was gone from the sky, he made his confession and received the Holy Viaticum. A great many of his fellow-novices were present, and some wept. He was a good comrade, they did not want to see him depart from them.

Then he received Extreme Unction. He made the answers to the prayers himself. Afterward he confessed again, in order to receive the plenary indulgence granted for the hour of death. And after that he talked for a little time, kindly and cheerfully, to those about him, and bidding them good-by, turned his mind and his heart to heaven.

Three Fathers stayed with him through the silence of the night, when the rest had gone to bed. Most of the time he prayed, either aloud with his watchers, or silently by himself. He left messages to his more intimate friends, and asked the Fathers to beg pardon for any offense he had given.

During the evening he had begged to be laid on the bare ground, that he might die as a penitent. Toward midnight, as he still asked it, they lifted him on the little mattress of his bed and placed him on it upon the floor. There he lay, very quiet, whilst midnight tolled from the great churches of the city. The Fathers knelt beside him, praying silently with him, or giving him from time to time the crucifix to kiss.

At length, about three o'clock in the morning, he stopped praying, and a great joy shone in his face. He looked about him from side to side, and seemed with his eyes to ask his companions to join him in reverencing some one who was present.

Father Ruiz bent over and asked him:

What is it, Stanislaus?

|Our Lady!| he whispered. |Our Lady has come, just as in Vienna.|

Then he seemed to listen to voices they could not hear. His lips moved silently, forming inaudible words. His eyes were bright and joyful. He stretched out his arms, fell back, and died with a smile upon his lips. Our Lady had come for him, and with her he went home. Dawn was breaking on the Feast of the Assumption, 1568.

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