With deep regret we announce the death of Rev. Father Casimir (Birkett), C.P., which took place in the early hours of Sunday morning, March 21st. He had been in indifferent health for some months and, when medical examination revealed that his condition was rapidly deteriorating, he received the Last Sacraments with resignation and complete submission to the Will of God.
A native of Dublin, where he was born on October 18th, 1892, Father Casimir was known in the world as Edward Birkett. From his earliest years he had many associations with the Passionists at Mount Argus where for some time he served Mass as an altar-boy. In 1910 he entered the Passionist Alumniate at St. Mary’s Retreat, Carmarthen, S. Wales and four years later made his Religious Profession at St. Gabriel’s Retreat, The Graan, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, on August 24th, 1914. Subsequent to his completion of the usual course of ecclesiastical studies he was ordained by Most Rev. Dr. Whiteside, Archbishop of Liverpool, at St. Anne’s Retreat Sutton, Lancs., on February 28th, 1920.
After his ordination Father Casimir was a member of the community of St. Joseph’s Retreat, Highgate, London, whence he was transferred to St. Paul’s Retreat, Ilkley, Yorks. On the division of the former Anglo-Hibernian Province, he joined St. Patrick’s Province and went to St. Mungo’s Retreat. Glasgow where for some years he filled the office of Vice-Rector. From 1941-1944 he was appointed Vice-Rector of St. Paul’s Retreat, Mount Argus, Dublin, where the remaining years of his life were spent.
For the work of conducting missions and retreats, Father Casimir was eminently fitted, with a strong, clear voice, a well-prepared programme of sermons and an immense capacity for work. As a confessor, also, his gentle counsel and prudent direction were sought by many and he brought to this particular part of the ministry all the patient sympathy and understanding of a kindly disposition.
For some years he was Spiritual Director of the Dublin Metropolitan Gardai Catholic Obsequies Association and when failing health prevented him from more active work he threw his energy into the laborious task of caring for the November Dead List, and the various Novenas in honour of Passionist Saints – an undertaking fulfilled with meticulous neatness and exactitude.
Acceptance of God’s arrangement of things was, perhaps, the keynote of Father Casimir’s spirit of deeply solid and sincere piety, a further special feature of which was his filial devotion, to the Mother of God, in particular, to her Rosary. It was the inspiration of these which called forth from him a generous religious life and brought him great consolation in the last days of his illness.
Solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated at St. Paul’s Church, Mount Argus, Dublin, after which the funeral took place to the cemetery adjoining the Retreat. May he rest in peace!
(The Cross, Vol. XLV, 1954-55; p.6.)
To some death comes peacefully and quietly, to others only after a long and painful agony. To some death comes suddenly, to others after an illness which gives timely warning of the inevitable end. To Father Casimir of the Holy Rosary death came peacefully and quietly after an illness of less than three months duration. In the early hours of Sunday morning, March 21st, 1954, he passed away peacefully in his sleep. In the morning he was found calm and composed, with serene countenance and a peaceful smile upon his lips as o£ one who has at last found rest.
Known in the world as Edward Birkett, the late Fr. Casimir was born in Dublin on October 18th, 1892, the Feast of St. Luke, which incidentally was the day on which Our Holy Founder passed to his eternal reward more than a century before. As a boy he was familiar with the black habit of the Passion for he attended our church at Mount Argus, and for some years served as an altar boy. His solid piety and simple, upright character offered good ground for the seed of a religious vocation, and in 1910, he entered the Alumniate, then situated at St. Mary’s Retreat, Carmarthen, S. Wales. Three years later he was accepted as a novice at St. Gabriel’s Retreat, The Graan, Enniskillen, where he made his religious profession on August 24th, 1914, taking the name of Casimir of the Holy Rosary. On the completion of his course of studies he was ordained at St. Anne’s Retreat, Sutton, Lancs., by Most Rev. Dr. Whiteside, Archbishop of Liverpool.
After his ordination Fr. Casimir was a member of the community at St. Joseph’s Retreat, Highgate, London, whence he was transferred to St. Paul’s Retreat, Ilkley, Yorks. On the division of the former Anglo-Hibernian Province, Fr. Casimir elected to join St. Patrick’s Province, and went to St. Mungo’s Retreat, Glasgow where for some years he filled the office of Vice-Rector. From 1941-1941, he was appointed Vice Rector of St. Paul’s Retreat, Mount Argus, Dublin where the remaining years of his life were to be spent.
For many years Fr. Casimir was engaged on missions and retreats, a work for which he was eminently fitted as he had a strong, clear voice, an energetic pulpit style, a well-prepared programme of sermons, and an immense capacity for work. Beautifully written out in full in a clear and legible script, his sermons were model mission discourses, well-reasoned, persuasive, appealing and full of devotion. It was quite characteristic of him that he kept a note-book in which he listed the date and place of each sermon that he preached. From this it can clearly be ascertained that his two favourite subjects were ‘Our Blessed Lady’ and ‘Heaven’, closely followed by ‘The Sacred Passion’ and ‘The Blessed Sacrament’. His last retreat was preached to the Christian Brothers, Carriglea School, Dun Laoghaire, in July, 1948.
Fr. Casimir was also highly esteemed as a confessor, especially by those who were diffident or discouraged. His gentle counsel and prudent direction were sought by many; in fact it would be impossible to estimate the innumerable souls to whom he gave the benefit of his experience in the Sacrament of Penance. He was patient, kind, long-suffering, sympathetic, understanding, compassionate – in a word, a model confessor. During his last illness many of his regular penitents made anxious enquiries as to when he would resume duty in the confessional, surely no mean tribute to his skill in the direction of souls.
Fr. Casimir was extraordinarily neat and methodical in all his undertakings. To every task, however trivial it might seem to others, he brought all the meticulous care that was second nature to him. He was an expert hand-printer, and most generous in placing his time and skill at the disposal of his brethren. Names for the confessionals, posters for the church-doors, names for the call-bell – for many years all were done by Fr. Casimir. Did any priest need a new biretta? Fr. Casimir would very quickly oblige, for he was equally skilled with a needle. When failing health prevented. him from more active work, he threw his energy into the laborious task of caring for the November Dead List, and the various Novenas in honour of St. Gabriel, St. Gemma Galgani, and St. Maria Goretti. His card-index was a model of neatness and exactitude; one of his last requests some months before he died, was for a press with special compartments to keep all in good order.
Fr. Casimir was always most exact in keeping the observance, and he was never known to be late for choir. During his last illness, when he was unable to attend the community retreat, it was noticed that he followed it in spirit. At any hour of the day he could recall to mind the particular duty indicated in the retreat horarium; undoubtedly his heart was in his monastery at all times. Especially at Christmas time or a ‘gaudeamus’, Fr. Casimir liked to enliven the community recreation with a song or recitation. Sometimes these were of his own composition, with humorous allusions to matters of community concern, or the chronicles of the current year. His comments were always of a kindly nature – they often raised a smile and never caused a hurt.
His spirit of piety was deep and sincere. It was not of a shallow or superficial nature, and he often expressed his rooted dislike of the more sentimental aspects of some modern forms of devotion. His own special preference was for those tried and tested by time, for solid books of devotion, the Rosary (which was his special favourite), and the old traditional things. He was fond of copying out little items which appealed to him, and collected many of them in a notebook, which he titled in his neat script “Words of Wisdom”. Amongst them was one which seemed to epitomise his whole life:
“Stamp in, O God, at any cost
The likeness of Thy Son;
Filial submission to Thy Will
Is heaven itself begun.”
It is not perhaps great poetry, but the sentiment is admirable. Devotion to God’s holy Will in all things was the keynote of Fr. Casimir’s character. It led him to the religious state; it helped him when the way was sometimes difficult, and it brought him consolation in the last months of his life.
He had been in indifferent health for some time, and steadily losing weight to an alarming degree. The doctor advised a thorough examination, and shortly after Christmas, Fr. Casimir entered a Nursing Home for a medical check-up. This quickly disclosed a radical kidney ailment, which was both inoperable and incurable. His condition rapidly deteriorated, and the Last Sacraments were administered. Fr. Casimir received the news with fortitude and resignation and freely offered himself to God with complete submission to the Divine Will. On Saturday afternoon he was quite calm and recollected and able to look forward to receiving Holy Communion on Sunday morning. But during the night God said ‘Enough’ and took him to Himself.
Solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated on Tuesday, March 23rd by Rev. Fr. Michael, C.P., a class mate of the deceased, following which the funeral took place to the cemetery of the Retreat. May he rest in peace.
April 3rd, 1954. Edmund of the Blessed Virgin, Rector.