St. Casimir, prince of Poland

From Butler's Lives of the Saints 1895:

From his life compiled by Zachary Ferrier, legate of Leo X., in Poland,
thirty-six years after his death; and an authentic relation of his
miracles, with many circumstances of his life, by Gregory Swiecicki,
canon of Vilna; also the commentary of Henschenius, p. 337.

A D. 1483

ST. CASIMIR was the third among the thirteen children of Casimir III.,
king of Poland, and of Elizabeth of Austria, daughter to the emperor
Albert II., a most virtuous woman, who died in 1505. He was born in
1458, on the 5th of October. From his childhood he was remarkably pious
and devout. His preceptor was John Dugloss, called Longinus, canon of
Cracow, a man of extraordinary learning and piety, who constantly
refused all bishoprics, and other dignities of the church and state,
which were pressed upon him. Uladislas, the eldest son, was elected king
of Bohemia, in 1471, and became king of Hungary in 1490. Our saint was
the second son: John Albert, the third son, succeeded the father in the
kingdom of Poland in 1492; and Alexander, the fourth son, was called to
the same in 1501. Casimir and the other princes were so affectionately
attached to the holy man who was their preceptor, that they could not
bear to be separated from him. But Casimir profited most by his pious
maxims and example. He consecrated the flower of his age to the
exercises of devotion and penance, and had a horror of that softness and
magnificence which reign in courts. His clothes were very plain, and
under them be wore a hair shirt. His bed was frequently the ground, and
he spent a considerable part of the night in prayer and meditation,
chiefly on the passion of our Saviour. He often went out in the night to
pray before the church-doors; and in the morning waited before them till
they were opened to assist at matins. By living always under a sense of
the divine presence he remained perpetually united to, and absorbed in,
his Creator, maintained an uninterrupted cheerfulness of temper, and was
mild and affable to all. He respected the least ceremonies of the
church: every thing that tended to promote piety was dear to him. He was
particularly devout to the passion of our blessed Saviour, the very
thought of which excited him to tears, and threw him into transports of
love. He was no less piously affected towards the sacrifice of the
altar, at which he always assisted with such reverence and attention
that he seemed in raptures. And as a mark of his singular devotion to
the Blessed Virgin, he composed, or at least frequently recited, the
long hymn that bears his name, a copy of {507} which was, by his desire,
buried with him. His love for Jesus Christ showed itself in his regard
for the poor, who are his members, to whose relief he applied whatever
he had, and employed his credit with his father, and his brother
Uladislas, king of Bohemia, to procure them succor. His compassion made
him feel in himself the afflictions of every one. The Palatines and
other nobles of Hungary, dissatisfied with Matthias Corvin, their king,
son of the great Huniades, begged the king of Poland to allow them to
place his son Casimir on the throne. The saint, not then quite fifteen
years of age, was very unwilling to consent; but in compliance with his
father's will he went, at the head of an army of twenty thousand men, to
the frontiers, in 1471. There, hearing that Matthias had formed an army
of sixteen thousand men to defend him, and that all differences were
accommodated between him and his people, and that pope Sixtus IV. had
sent an embassy to divert his father from that expedition, he joyfully
returned, having with difficulty obtained his father's consent so to do.
However, as his dropping this project was disagreeable to the king his
father, not to increase his affliction by appearing before him, he did
not go directly to Cracow, but retired to the castle of Dobzki, three
miles from that city, where he continued three months in the practice of
penance. Having learned the injustice of the attempt against the king of
Hungary, in which obedience to his father's command prevailed upon him
to embark when he was very young, he could never be engaged to resume it
by a fresh pressing invitation of the Hungarians, or the iterated orders
and entreaties of his father. The twelve years he lived after this, he
spent in sanctifying himself in the same manner as he had done before.
He observed to the last an untainted chastity, notwithstanding the
advice of physicians who excited him to marry, imagining, upon some
false principle, this to be a means necessary to preserve his life.
Being wasted with a lingering consumption, he foretold his last hour,
and having prepared himself for it by redoubling his exercises of piety,
and receiving the sacraments of the church, he made a happy end at
Vilna, the capital of Lithuania, on the 4th of March, 1482, being twenty
three years and five months old. He was buried in the church of St.
Stanislas. So many were the miracles wrought by his intercession, that
Swiecicki, a canon of Vilna, wrought a whole volume of them from good
memoirs, in 1604. He was canonized by pope Leo X., whose legate in
Poland, Zachary Ferrier, wrote the saint's life. His body and all the
rich stuffs it was wrapped in, were found quite entire, and exhaling a
sweet smell one hundred and twenty years after his death,
notwithstanding the excessive moisture of the vault. It is honored in a
large rich chapel of marble, built on purpose in that church. St.
Casimir is the patron of Poland, and several other places, and is
proposed to youth as a particular pattern of purity. His original
picture is to be seen in his chapel in St. Germain des Prez in Paris,
built by John Casimir, king of Poland, the last of the family of Waza,
who, renouncing his crown, retired to Paris, and died abbot of St.
Germain's, in 1668.

* * * * *

What is there on earth which can engage the affections of a Christian,
or be the object of his ambition, in whose soul God desires to establish
his kingdom? Whoever has conceived a just idea of this immense happiness
and dignity, must look upon all the glittering bubbles of this world as
empty and vain, and consider every thing in this life barely as it can
advance or hinder the great object of all his desires. Few arrive at
this happy and glorious state, because scarce any one seeks it with his
whole heart, and has the courage sincerely to renounce all things and
die to himself: and this precious jewel cannot be purchased upon any
other terms. The kingdom {508} of God can only be planted in a soul upon
the ruins of self-love: so long as this reigns, it raises insuperable
obstacles to the perfect establishment of the empire of divine love. The
amiable Jesus lives in all souls which he animates by his sanctifying
grace, and the Holy Ghost dwells in all such. But in most of these how
many worldly maxims and inclinations diametrically opposite to those of
our most holy heavenly king, hold their full sway! how many secret
disorders and irregular attachments are cherished! how much is found of
self-love, with which sometimes their spiritual exercises themselves are
infected! The sovereign king of men and their merciful Redeemer is
properly said to reign only in those souls which study effectually, and
without reserve, to destroy in their affections whatever is opposite to
his divine will, to subdue all their passions, and to subject all their
powers to his holy love. Such fall not into any venial sins with full
deliberation, and wipe away those of frailty into which they are
betrayed, by the compunction and penance in which they constantly live,
and by the constant attention with which they watch daily over
themselves. They pray with the utmost earnestness that God deliver them
from all the power of the enemy, and establish in all their affections
the perfect empire of his grace and love; and to fulfil his will in the
most perfect manner in all their actions, is their most earnest desire
and hearty endeavor. How bountifully does God reward, even in this life,
those who are thus liberal towards him! St. Casimir, who had tasted of
this happiness, and learned truly to value the heavenly grace, loathed
all earthly pomp and delights. With what joy ought not all Christians,
both rich and poor, to be filled when they hear: The kingdom of God is
within you! With what ardor ought they not to devote themselves to make
God reign perfectly in their hearts! How justly did St. Casimir prefer
this pursuit to earthly kingdoms!

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