Sunday, May 18, 2008

May 19th: Lithuania - Our Lady of Siluva

Feast Day: September 8th

(Picture: Holy Card Lover)
Lithuanian shrine to the Weeping Virgin, to which over a hundred thousand formerly came annually to pray to Mary for help, some to be cured. In the early sixteenth century, when much of the country was Protestant and Lithuania was fighting both Russia and Sweden, a few shepherd children saw the vision of a beautiful young woman holding a sleeping child in her arms. Dressed in white, she was crying, her tears falling on her little one. The children ran home to return with their parents and neighbors, among them a Lutheran minister serving locally. The lady told them that all the cause of her sorrow was the absence of the old church that had honored her Son and had once been on the spot where she was. An old man whose blindness was later cured at the shrine verified the lady's story. He directed the digging there and an old chest filled with altar vessels and a picture of the Virgin was brought to light. Buried records told of a church there in 1457, long since destroyed. A new church was built on the old grounds and the picture of Mary enthroned within. Pilgrims came from great distances to the hallowed spot. Since 1940, when Lithuania was incorporated into the U.S.S.R., the state of the shrine is uncertain. (Fr. John A. Hardon)
During Soviet times attempts were made to suppress the shrine at Siluva (pronounced Shil-va), but these were resisted by Lithuanian Catholics:
"The Soviets dramatically discouraged visits to the shrine or even mention of it in the press. When special devotions were held at the site, cars were not allowed within four miles of the shrine, and the border was patrolled by the militia. Cars parked on the perimeter of this disallowed area were towed away or heavily fined. But one way or another, the faithful still managed to attend, risking much.

The government made it difficult for pilgrims to participate in the devotions: policemen used to stop and fine drivers without any real reason and block even the smallest roads. A soviet monument replaced the statue of Mary in the Town Square. Processions at that time were strictly prohibited and their organizers and participators punished and fired from their jobs, nevertheless pilgrims still went to Siluva. Friends of the Eucharist (the members of an underground Catholic association) were especially active in organizing the processions even though KGB cars followed people on the road." (Knights of Lithuania)

An excellent website by the Knights of Lithuania includes sections on the history of Siluva, information about the painting itself, two hymns to Our Lady of Siluva, and a timeline. The Knights themselves are American Catholics of Lithuanian ancestry.

The website of the Catholic Church in Lithuania gives a history of Lithuanian Catholicism (click on the links for more information), details of other Lithuanian pilgrimage sites, and information about the two existing Lithuanian saints (St. Casimir and Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis) and modern witnesses of the faith who are now undergoing the canonisation process.

Our Lady of Siluva is celebrated in a chapel at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington.

Finally, yet more from the Knights of Lithuania - an article on Lithuanian Christmas customs, and some Lithuanian recipes.
Prayer to Our Lady of Siluva

O Most Holy Virgin Mary, Thou who didst appear to the shepherds in the fields at Siluva, Thou whose tears did bathe the rock where once an altar stood, Thou who didst with plaintive voice say: “You plow and seed here where formerly my Son was honored,” grant that we, moved by Thy tears, may, once as our Forefathers did, revive the spirit of adoration of Thy Son in our fallow hearts, strengthen the tottering structure of the shrine which is the family, and seek forgiveness for our negligence and sins.

O Mother of God, we desire to raise up the glory of Your revelation from forgotten ruins, that we may all the more honor Thee, the Patroness of Lithuania, and with Thy help obtain for us the spirit of a living Faith. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

1 comment:

Leonie said...

Just wanted to say thank you for all your work - we looked at Portugal and Our Lady of Fatima this week and are delving into Chia and Our Lady of China this week. All as a result of your inspiration!