Today is the feast of St Casimir (1461-1484), the patron saint of Poland and Lithuania. When he was a teenager, St Casimir chose to disobey his father’s command that he lead an army into Hungary to depose the King. At fifteen years of age, Casimir made a commitment to peace over war. He chose to live a prayerful life dedicated to peace and care for the poor. A young leader, Casimir remained firm in faith through prayer, fasting and good works, until his death. He was just 23 when he died.
Fr Joseph Cardijn formed the young leaders of the YCW as people of faith who would give witness to their relationship with Christ in the workplace. In his second lecture of the series, which we know as The Hour of the Working Class, Cardijn states: “Every one of these millions of workers has a divine mission to fulfil, a practical divine vocation on earth, which no one else can fulfil in his or her stead, because they are all human beings, enjoying God’s friendship on earth.” This has always been true from the time when Adam was a boy. Everyone works. Work is part of being human.
When St Casimir walked away from being the leader of an army, he did so with the realisation that the work of war is not what God intends. His life is a good example of what Cardijn communicated to the leaders of the movement he helped to form, namely, that the practical divine vocation of earthly work is to help God complete creation.
The Gospel reading for the Mass celebrated in memory of St Casimir is from John’s Gospel (15:9-17). Jesus gives his followers very clear instructions: “If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” If I was going to use this as a scene in a play for young students to perform, I would have the youngest actor say, “Remind us again, Jesus. What are your commandments?” And perhaps that is what did happen in the time of the oral tradition, before the Gospel was written and shared with the known world. For Jesus does tell us what he commands us to do: “This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.”
I am certain that the “practical divine vocation on earth” is built on genuine friendship, which are those relationships that are inclusive, not exclusive. Such relationships are generative. They are “the fruit that will last.” This, then, is the change we should be seeking in our world and our actions should contribute to the fulfilment of God’s plan.
And what might those actions look like, sound like, feel like? What can be done to improve the lives of others, both those whom we know and the millions of others who we do not know? Jesus tells us, as do also his followers, including St Casimir and (St) Joseph Cardijn, to pray and to fast (meaning, “forget self”) and do good works. And those good works include all those simple and not-so-simple things that bring people together in friendship. Not just old friends, but also new friends. Actions that welcome strangers so that the circle of friends grows and grows with lots of fruit for people to enjoy.
Read more …
A brief biography of St Casimir – Catholic Online: Saints and Angels
The Church and the worker – the second lecture in the 1948 Godinne lecture series, known as The Hour of the Working Class, delivered by Fr Joseph Cardijn.