Large crowds of people — a thorn in the side of Lithuania's militant atheists — attend the devotions at Šiluva, Aušros Vartai (Gate of Dawn in Vilnius and Žemaičių Kalvarija (Calvary of the Samogitians). In 1981, only the Žemaičių Kalvarija devotions at the beginning of July passed without incident.
In August, prior to the Feast of Our Lady of Šiluva, a "pig plague" quarantine, which is still in force was organized in the vicinity of Šiluva. Right up to the beginning of the festival, the faithful did not know whether it would be possible to go to Šiluva, therefore, fewer people attended than in earlier years. The atmosphere at the devotions was also depressing. Militia vehicles patrolled the yards of Šiluva inhabitants and recorded car license numbers. At the church, the people were puzzled to hear certain sermons about suicide, murder, etc. The believers wondered, "Why are such problems raised during the major Šiluva devotions, when the best people come to Mary's shrine from all corners of Lithuania? They have no intention to commit either murder or suicide . . ."
Devotions to the Merciful Mother of God at Aušros Vartai (Gate of Dawn) in Vilnius are much more difficult to disrupt: how can a pig plague be declared in Vilnius? Here the major devotions are suppressed in a different way: even the people of Vilnius have a difficult time learning of these devotions because only St. Teresa's church announces them. At other churches, only an occasional priest makes the announcement.'
The homilists usually avoid concrete problems of current life or deal with them in a distorted fashion. At the 1980 devotions, a theological seminary instructor stated that Catholics must worry not about human rights, but duties, especially stressing duties to the state.
During the 1980 devotions to the Merciful Mother of God, Wednesday was proclaimed a day of temperance, which apparently displeased the civil government; therefore the following year, though planned, it did not take place. Several sermons on the subject of temperance were actually directed against those who fight for temperance. It was stated that Catholics are responsible for the increase in alcoholism, there is no need to fight to limit the sale of alcohol, there is no need for any external means (probably directed at a temperance society and a day of temperance), Catholics need only receive the sacraments more frequently and everything will solve itself. Another homilist explained that it is unnecessary to fight for Church rights, it is only necessary to love one's fellow men.
In this way, the spirit of the faithful is undermined and the enthusiasm of the people is extinguished. What the godless government fails to accomplish, the clergy helps to achieve.
Participants in the festival, especially those who travel longer distances, rightfully demand that festival organizers and preachers be seriously prepared to serve God and not mollify the Religious Affairs Commissar.