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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Saint Casimir: Patron Saint of Lithuania and Poland

Leon Wyczółkowski
1852 - 1936
Królewicz Kazimierz i Długosz / Prince Saint Casimir and Długosz 1873
Oil on canvas
74 x 61 cm
Private collection

One of the leading painters of the Young Poland movement, Wyczółkowski painted this work showing the patron of Poland and Lithuania, Saint Casimir (Kazimierz) (1458 - 1484) with his tutor and advisor, Father Dlugosz, the Polish historian.

Alongside portraits, Wyczółkowski produced historical paintings, genre scenes, landscapes, renderings of historically significant buildings, as well as still lifes

Father Dlugosz (1415 1480) was a canon at Cracow, and later Archbishop of Lwów (Lemberg)

Saint Casimir is a powerful and influential figure even today, more than five hundred years after his death. See the address of Blessed Pope John Paul II on 5th March 1984 to Lithuanian pilgrims who had come to Rome

Like Pope Pius XII, Blessed Pope John Paul II saw in Casimir an example for young people and those in consecrated life. He said:

"His life of purity and prayer beckons you to practise your faith with courage and zeal, to reject the deceptive attractions of modern permissive society, and to live your convictions with fearless confidence and joy.

His life also shows us the importance of the Christian family. For Casimir was one of twelve children, and from his earliest years he learned that each child is a unique gift from God and that a home built on the love of God is truly a pearl of great price.

Men and women religious can find in Saint Casimir an inspiration for their consecrated lives, as they recall how he embraced a life of celibacy, submitted himself humbly to God’s will in all things, devoted himself with tender love to the Blessed Virgin Mary and developed a fervent practice of adoring Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament. To all he was a shining example of poverty and of sacrificial love for the poor and needy."

Three years later he recalled the importance of Saint Casimir in his Apostolic Letter Sescentesima Anniversaria (On the Sixth Centenary of the "Baptism" of Lithuania) (5th June 1987)

He wrote:

"I would Iike to recall with you some of the sons and daughters of Lithuania who have left in the hearts of the people the indelible mark of their virtues and apostolic zeal.

Our thoughts and prayers of intercession turn, first of all, to Saint Casimir, whom Pope Urban VIII declared Patron of Lithuania as early as 1636.

Three years ago, you solemnly commemorated the five hundredth anniversary of his death, and those jubilee celebrations, with which I deeply associated myself, together with the whole Church, were a great moment of grace for your ecclesial community.

A descendant of the glorious line of the Jagellonians, Prince Casimir was singularly graced with virtue and was "perfected in a short time" (Wis 4:13 ).

In less than a hundred years, he was the mature fruit of the "Baptism" of his people. He was buried in Vilnius, at the heart of the nation, which for five centuries has venerated his relics with unaltered devotion, and it is significant that the jubilee celebrations will reach their climax at his tomb.

A shining example of purity and charity, of humility and service to others, Casimir placed nothing before the love of Christ and earned from his contemporaries the eloquent title of "defender of the poor".

Pope Pius XII proclaimed him special Patron of Lithuanian youth and pointed to his " noble and steadfast example" for the generations growing up amid so many adversities and snares"