Saint Casimir, King – Optional Memorial
Ever since the three kings came to leave their gifts at the altar of the crib in Bethlehem, the Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, has drawn generations of nobles, kings, and emperors to Himself. Today’s feast commemorates one of those kings, a young man named Casimir, King of Poland, who died at the age of 25 in 1484. St. Casimir had everything that life had to offer, and still it was not enough. And Casimir knew it. Unlike many wealthy, powerful, educated people, Casimir knew that life did not offer what the soul most deeply desired. He had his head screwed on straight and tight. He never lost sight of the higher things that truly mattered, even though his life was full of the intrigues and cares of war and state.
Any true search is open to finding. A search that begins with the premise that it will never find, or never end, is not really a search. It’s just wandering. A true searcher must be a finder. How many people claim to be searching for the truth, for God, for meaning! Yet when they unearth the elusive treasure, open it up, and see its contents, they are disappointed and move along to search for something else. Why? Because the treasure made moral demands on them, or required that prior life decisions be repudiated or modified. If a searcher sets personal conditions on what he will find, his search will never end. It will just be a reflection of the searcher’s own personality and desires.
St. Casimir searched for God as a child and youth, as all children do. But his search discovered its treasure very early. What Casimir sought, Poland provided. Casimir imbued so totally what his Catholic birthplace offered that he is considered an emblematic Polish king – faithful, pious, just, chaste, poor, and strong. A country, similar to a religion, is a carrier of meaning. It absorbs over time millions of private searches until it gives its people answers in the form of flags, national hymns, holidays, statues, and national heroes. A patriot doesn’t love patriotism. He loves a country. And a religious man doesn’t love religion. He loves a religion. He loves a God.
It is said that behind every great man is a great woman. St. Casimir never married and preserved his chastity until death. What was behind him was not a great woman but a great nation. Poland was his mistress. The faith and thick traditions of the Polish nation developed over many centuries in response to man’s search for meaning in that country. And those born into the Polish nation did not see the nation’s past as an anchor, an imposition, or a burden. They understood it as the common wisdom of their ancestors. And they were eager to honor their forefathers by faithfully receiving what they were imparting.
The fullness of these ancient traditions were imparted to today’s from a young age by his teachers, especially by holy and learned priests. Casimir learned to love the Lord’s passion, the Sacraments, the Virgin Mary, and the Church. These loves only deepened as he grew into an adult. He did not see the need to become a priest or a religious in order to live his faith. He remained a layman his entire brief life. In this he presaged the emphasis on lay vocations the Church would promote in the 20th century. He was a layman, a king, and a saint. Anything is possible in the Church.
St. Casimir, we ask your intercession to aid all leaders of governments, churches, and families to emulate your virtues; to be poor in spirit, just, pure, and faithful. With your aid, may leaders guide those under their authority to love and serve their country and their God with greater fervor.