Saint Casimir (1458-1484)
Patron of Lithuania
The Sisters of St. Casimir
“You will be called Sisters of St. Casimir,” announced Bishop John W. Shanahan, Bishop of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on the evening of August 28, 1907, to the three: Casimira Kaupas, Judith Dvaranauskas, and Antanina Unguraitis who were to receive the white veils of novices the next day. This day, August 29, would henceforth be commemorated as Founding Day of the Sisters of Saint Casimir.
When, as a young woman, Casimira Kaupas (who would one day become Mother Maria, Foundress of the Sisters of St. Casimir) made her pilgrimage to the renowned shrine of Our Lady of Vilnus, she was naturally mindful of her popular patron, Saint Casimir, whose remains were enshrined in the Cathedral of this city, and whose deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin was universally known.
Saint Casimir (1458-1484), whose father was king of Poland and grand duke of Lithuania, was born in Kracow in 1458. From his earliest youth, he was exceptionally devout. Daily he spent several hours in prayer; morning and evening prayers were a faithful observance. Often he would rise at midnight and lie prostrate in prayer. Often, too, he was observed, even in the dead of winter, kneeling at the threshold of the church, where he had come to adore the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
The young prince also loved his neighbor, especially the poor, whom he consoled with his gracious words, and frequently helped with generous alms. He was known to visit the sick and served them in their needs counting it an honor as he saw in the afflicted one the person of Christ Himself. Thus he earned the title, “Father of the poor.”
He was zealous in his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and had vowed for the sake of her Son, the Lord Jesus, to remain chaste. All his life he kept his heart pure and unsullied. Through his short but virtuous life, he had kept strict watch over his senses and appetite subjecting his body to penances and fasting.
One cannot fail to comment on his mental acuity. The guardian and teacher of his early youth, Dlugosas, affirms that the young Saint Casimir was highly talented, intelligent, and of serious intent. His father had great confidence in him desiring that eventually Casimir would become ruler of the whole land.
Saint Casimir died at the early age of 26 on March 4, 1484, a victim of tuberculosis. Although he lived only a quarter of a century, into those 26 years he packed a lifetime of holiness and example to all the world, especially the youth. Today he is the beloved patron of the courageous Catholics of both Lithuania and Poland. He is also patron of youth.
He is pictured with a crown and lily at his side and without his sword. A scroll inscribed with the words in Latin: “Omni die dic Mariae” (“Daily, daily sing to Mary”) of his favorite Marian hymn, is also shown.