Lent: March 4th
Friday after Ash Wednesday; Optional Memorial of Saint Casimir
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Gospel Verse: Cf. Am 5:14:
Seek good and not evil so that you may life, and the Lord will be with you.
The first four Masses in Lent serve as a general introduction to Lent. They describe the essentials of a Lenten program. This Mass is concerned with fasting and teaches us what true fasting is. The Opening Prayer of today's Mass asks God to guide the Lenten penance we have begun.
Today is the feast of St. Casimir who was born in 1458 and was the son of the King of Poland. At an early age he saw through the superficiality and corruption of court life. Throughout his short life—he died of consumption at the age of 26—he dedicated himself wholly to the service of God and of his fellow-men. His love for the poor was immense. He was also renowned for his devotion to the Eucharist and to the Blessed Virgin.
Meditation—The Tree of Knowledge and the Cross
The sin that was wrought through the tree was undone by the obedience of the tree, obedience to God whereby the Son of man was nailed to the tree, destroying the knowledge of evil, and bringing in and conferring the knowledge of good; and evil is disobedience to God, as obedience to God is good. And therefore the Word says through Isaiah the prophet, foretelling what was to come to pass in the future—for it was because they told the future that they were "prophets"—the Word says through him as follows: I refuse not, and do not gainsay, my back have I delivered to blows and my cheeks to buffets, and I have not turned away my face from the contumely of them that spat. [Is. 50, 6] So by obedience, whereby He obeyed unto death, hanging on the tree, He undid the old disobedience wrought in the tree. And because He is Himself the Word of God Almighty, who in His invisible form pervades us universally in the whole world, and encompasses both its length and breadth and height and depth—for by God's Word everything is disposed and administered—the Son of God was also crucified in these, imprinted in the form of a cross on the universe; for He had necessarily, in becoming visible, to bring to light the universality of His cross, in order to show openly through His visible form that activity of His: that it is He who makes bright the height, that is, what is in heaven, and holds the deep, which is in the bowels of the earth, and stretches forth and extends the length from East to West, navigating also the Northern parts and the breadth of the South, and calling in all the dispersed from all sides to the knowledge of the Father.
Things to Do:
- Today's reading from the book of Isaiah declares that the fasting desired by the Lord is not so much denying oneself food (although this is important) but rather, consists in "Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; / Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own." Many families take these words to heart by having an inexpensive, penitential dinner on Fridays in Lent (such as beans and rice) and then giving the extra money to the poor.
- Many families give each child one pretzel during Friday dinners in Lent. Remind your children of the spiritual significance of the pretzel.
- Pray the Stations of the Cross today with your family. An excellent version with beautiful meditations composed by our Holy Father is his Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum. Some other recommended versions are: Eucharistic Stations of the Cross, and the more traditional Stations of the Cross written by Saint Alphonsus Liguori can be found in most Catholic bookstores. Here are some guidelines for praying the Stations of the Cross in your home.
- Any of the linked activities (Fun Pretzel Project, Lenten Scrapbook, Candelabrum for Stations of the Cross) are a wonderful way for your children to spend their Friday afternoons throughout this season of Lent.
St. Casimir, to whom the Poles gave the title of "The Peace-maker," was the third of the thirteen children of Casimir IV, King of Poland, and of Elizabeth of Austria, daughter of the Emperor Albert II. ...Devout from his infancy, the boy gave himself up to devotion and penance, and had a horror of anything approaching softness or self-indulgence. His bed was often the ground, and he was wont to spend a great part of the night in prayer and meditation, chiefly on the passion of our Saviour. His clothes were plain, and under them he wore a hairshirt. Living always in the presence of God, he was invariably serene and cheerful, and pleasant to all. The saint's love of God showed itself in his love of the poor who are Christ's members, and for the relief of these the young prince gave all he possessed, using in their behalf the influence he had with his father and with his brother Ladislaus when he became king of Bohemia. In honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Casimir frequently recited the long Latin hymn "Omni die dic Mariae," a copy of which was by his desire buried with him. This hymn, part of which is familiar to us through Bittleston's version, "Daily, daily sing to Mary," is not uncommonly called the Hymn of St Casimir, but it was certainly not composed by him; it is three centuries older than his time.
The nobles of Hungary, dissatisfied with their king, Matthias Corvinus, in 1471 begged the King of Poland to allow them to place his son Casimir on the throne. The saint, at that time not fifteen years old, was very unwilling to consent, but in obedience to his father he went to the frontier at the head of an army. There, hearing that Matthias had himself assembled a large body of troops, and finding that his own soldiers were deserting in large numbers because they could not get their pay, he decided upon the advice of his officers to return home. The knowledge that Pope Sixtus IV had sent an embassy to his father to deter him from the expedition made the young prince carry out his resolution with the firmer conviction that he was acting rightly. King Casimir, however, was greatly incensed at the failure of his ambitious projects and would not permit his son to return to Cracow, but relegated him to the castle of Dobzki. The young man obeyed and remained in confinement there for three months. Convinced of the injustice of the war upon which he had so nearly embarked, and determined to have no further part in these internecine conflicts which only facilitated the further progress into Europe of the Turks, St Casimir could never again be persuaded to take up arms though urged to do so by his father and invited once more by the disaffected Hungarian magnates. He returned to his studies and his prayers, though for a time he was viceroy in Poland during an absence of his father. An attempt was made to induce him to marry a daughter of the Emperor Frederick III, but he refused to relax the celibacy he had imposed on himself.
St Casimir's austerities did nothing to help the lung trouble from which he suffered, and he died at the age of twenty-six in 1484 and was buried at Vilna, where his relics still rest in the church of St Stanislaus. Miracles were reported at his tomb, and he was canonized in 1521.
—Excerpted from Butler's Lives of the Saints
Patronage: against plague; bachelors; kings; princes; single laymen; Lithuania (proclaimed by Pope Urban VIII in 1636); Lithuanian youth; Poland; diocese of Grodno, Belarus,
Symbols and Representation: Lily (for purity); crown; grand ducal cap
Highlights and Things to Do:
- St. Casimir died at age 26 due to tuberculosis. Teach the young people in your family about this saint who was so ready to die at such a young age, that they may realize that sanctity is fully attainable regardless of their state in life.
- Read more about St. Casimir:
- Casimir's remains lie in Vilnius Cathedral in Lithuania in a silver sarcophagus.
- See Catholic Cuisine for some food ideas for St. Casimir's feast day.
- See Domestic Church for some ideas on how to celebrate this saint at home.
- Don't be a Catholic who doesn't know Scripture! In the Gospel today there is a good Scripture verse to memorize that will deepen your trust in your Heavenly Father: "If you, with all your sins, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to anyone who asks him!" —Matt 7:11
Monday of the Third Week of Lent
Station with San Marco al Campidoglio (St. Mark at the Capitol):
The Station is in the church of St. Mark, the full official name San Marco Evangelista in Campidoglio, St Mark the Evangelist at the Capitol, which was built in the fourth century in honor of the evangelist, by the holy Pope Mark, whose relics are kept there. This was the one of the oldest churches constructed. The church has undergone several reconstructions and restorations, including a heavy Baroque restoration.
For more on San Marco al Campidoglio, see:
For further information on the Station Churches, see The Stational Church.