Feast Day: April 11th
I always love a chance to let the saints tell the stories of the saints! I get to do that this week because St. Thérèse of Lisieux, while the Novice Master in the Carmel of Lisieux, wrote a play for the novices to perform on the Golden Jubilee of another Sister, Sr. Stanislaus, on February 8th, 1897. They were close friends because Sr. Thérèse had assisted Sr. Stanislaus in the sacristy for two years a few years prior. Now, as she reflected on the life of St. Stanislaus, the Little Flower felt in her soul a premonition like the young Polish Jesuit had felt prior to her: that she would die young but could give greater love to the world from above than while here:
Saint Stanislaus Kostka
- The Blessed Virgin and the Child Jesus
- Saint Stanislaus Kostka
- Saint Francis Borgia
- Brother Stephen Augusti, a young novice.
Scene 4, The scene takes place at Rome, in the room of Saint Francis Borgia. Moments before, that Superior of the Jesuit order, upon returning to his quarters, was surprised to find there the haggard young man, Stanislaus, who had just finished his 450-mile trek to Rome from Poland and had been left there by Brother Augusti. Francis continues his questioning of the pious aspiring-Jesuit:
FRANCIS: It’s pointless to speak about your success. Tell me, rather, what your reason is for asking to join the Society of Jesus.
STANISLAUS: My Reverend Father, it is because I want to become a saint.
FRANCIS: Don’t you know, my child, that one can become a saint anywhere; it’s not the habit or the title of the Jesuits that works this marvel.
STANISLAUS: How then is it, my Father, that all Jesuits are saints?
FRANCIS: All are not saints, and the proof is that I, their General, am a mere sinner.
STANISLAUS: How can you say such a thing without lying, my Reverend Father? The whole world says you are a saint who performs miracles.
FRANCIS: The world is mistaken, my child, no need to make much of its judgment. If ever that liar comes murmuring such flatteries in your ears, humble yourself and consider what you are in God’s eyes.
STANISLAUS: O my Father! even if I could work miracles, it doesn’t seem to me that I’d be able to be proud; the memory of my earlier life would not be erased from my memory. Ah! I am a miserable person, unworthy of the graces of the Good God!… (He weeps.)
FRANCIS: The Lord pardons even the greatest faults, but I wouldn’t believe you guilty of crimes. To unburden yourself of your sins, if you’re willing to confess them to me, Brother Augusti will leave the room.
STANISLAUS (stopping Brother Augusti): No, my brother, stay; since I’m going to be living with you, I want you to know the reasons for my repentance, so you will treat me as I deserve. (He kneels before Saint Francis.) My Father, in His mercy, the Good God has deigned to call me to Him, from the dawn of my life; but, rather than telling my [spiritual] director of this calling, I resisted the grace that summoned me for eighteen months. (He lays his head on Saint Francis’ knees and weeps bitterly.)
FRANCIS (very moved): My poor child, console yourself; your fault is atoned for by the sincere repentance you have shown. The memory of this failing in faith, far from nagging at your soul, will keep it humble, and you know it: there is no sacrifice more pleasing to God than that of a contrite and humbled heart.
STANISLAUS: My Father, what unspeakable consolation you pour over my soul!… Oh! I beg that you’ll now teach me how I may become a saint and make up for the time I’ve lost.
FRANCIS: I think the only way will be for you to despise yourself sincerely, to think the best of others, and to prove to them by every means possible the love that consumes your heart. If you make obedience the rule and the guardian of your charity, you’ll be able to do much good in a short time.
There’s a knock at the door. Brother Augusti goes to answer and comes back earning a letter which he gives, on bended knee, to Saint Francis, whispering a few words to him.
FRANCIS (opening the envelope): Brother Stanislaus, here’s a letter from Poland; your father’s writing you. (He hands him the letter.) Read it right now. (Saint Stanislaus reads the letter, and begins to cry again.) What’s upsetting you, my child? Do you regret having joined the Society of Jesus?
STANISLAUS: Oh no, my Father! I weep at seeing that my parents do not understand the Gift of God. They say I am unworthy of my ancestors and that I have dishonored their family. There is more honor, however, more nobility and glory for our house from my being here as the least among the great servants of God than if I were to become, in the world, more famous than any of my ancestors.
FRANCIS: You’re right, my son; I hope that one day your parents will approve of your vocation, but as to that, did not Our Lord Jesus say. “I did not come to bring peace, but the sword. Who loves his father and mother more than me is unworthy of me.”
STANISLAUS, (raising his eye to Heaven): Now I can say, with the psalmist: “My father and my mother have abandoned me, but the Lord has cared for me. I have chosen to be among the least in the house of my God, rather than live in the tents of the worldly.”
FRANCIS: My dear child, I can see that God Himself brought you here and wants you to stay here. In a few days, I shall give you the sacred habit; prepare yourself for this grace in silence and reflection. Thank the Lord who’s granted you the great favor of living in His house. (He puts his hand on Brother Augusti’s head.) I give you Brother Augusti as your angel; he’ll instruct you in your external duties. I know your souls resemble each other; further, I grant you permission to share your thoughts and the graces the Lord has been pleased to heap upon His children. (He stands up.) I’ll leave you; the duties of my post require that I be elsewhere.
BROTHER AUGUSTI, (kneeling down next to Saint Stanislaus): My Father, may Your Reverence deign to give us a blessing.
FRANCIS: Dear children, may the Most Holy Trinity bless you both, as I myself bless you with all my heart. (He exits.)
– Fr. Dominic Rankin’s sister, Sr. Mary Thomas, has often spoken about the plays and skits they concoct in the monastery. At first it seems too playful for such a pious place, too carefree to be celestial. Yet, isn’t it us who have flipped things upside down? Why do we take earth so seriously, and act as if heaven were abstract and far away! May the example of the saints flip our perspective back to God’s way of seeing things! (Read the rest of St. Thérèse’s play at the QR-code link:)