SAINT CASIMIR of POLAND (1458-1484), holy man – patron saint of Poland and Lithuania
Today, the Church honors Saint Casimir of Poland, a royal prince who felt a calling to follow the Eternal King rather than his father, an earthly king, and who devoted his later years to prayer and assisting the poor.
Casimir grew up in a world where his life was not his own. As a prince of Poland, the second son of King Casimir IV and Elizabeth of Austria, and in the minds of his earthly parents, his life was destined to help enhance his father’s authority and increase Poland’s power.
Born the third of thirteen children in 1458, Casimir realized from an early age that his life belonged to Someone else, to a much higher King than his own father. Despite pressure, humiliation, and rejection, he stood by that loyalty to God throughout his entire life.
It may be hard for us to imagine royal luxury as a pressure and inconvenience; but, for Casimir, the riches around him were temptations to forget his true loyalty which he felt in his heart towards his Heavenly Father and Eternal King. Rebelling against the rich, fashionable clothes he was expected to enjoy, he wore the plainest of clothes.
Rejecting even ordinary comforts, he slept little, spending his nights in prayer. And when he did sleep, he lay on the floor, not on a royal bed. Even though he was a prince, many of those around him laughed and joked at his choices. Yet, in the face of such pressures, Casimir was always friendly and calm, and always faithful to the love and devotion he felt for his God.
Though his father must have wondered about him, he saw and admired Casimir’s strength. However, he showed that he misunderstood this strength when he sent Casimir, who was only thirteen years old at the time, as head of an army to take over the throne of Hungary at the request of some Hungarian nobles.
Casimir felt the whole expedition was wrong, but was convinced to go in obedience to his father, the king. He could not help but feel, at every step of the way, that he was being disobedient to his Heavenly Father. So when soldiers started deserting, Casimir was only too relieved to listen to the advice of his officers and turn back home. His feelings were confirmed when he later discovered that Pope Sixtus IV had opposed the expedition to overthrow the Hungarian regime.
Upon his return, Casimir did not return to Kraków, Poland, but instead remained for three months in a castle in Dobzki, three miles from Kraków, where he spent the time in self-imposed penance. For the next twelve years, he devoted his life to prayer and study and helping the poor. He even rejected a marriage alliance his father tried to arrange, so that he could devote his life to celibacy.
For a three year period that Casimir’s father was outside of the country, Casimir attended to the affairs of Poland with great prudence and justice, thereby allowing him to continue caring for the poor and disadvantaged.
Suffering from consumption (tuberculosis), Casimir died at the age of twenty-five on March 4, 1484, while visiting Lithuania, of which he was also the Grand Duke. He was buried in the Cathedral of Vilnius in Lithuania and canonized a saint in 1522 by Pope Adrian VI.
To honor the holiness and devotion to God for which Saint Casimir lived his short life, his shrine and tomb was visited in 1996 by Pope St. John Paul II.
We commemorate his feastday on March 4.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org, ewtn.com/library and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Collect of the Roman Missal from the Proper for Saint Casimir)
“Almighty God, to serve You is to reign; grant that, with the help of Saint Casimir’s intercession, we may constantly serve You in holiness and justice.
“Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”