The Commissioner for Religious Affairs, Petras Anilionis, would not allow the following verse to be included in the 1984 Catholic Calendar-Directory since the poem was written, it seems, by the correspondence-course priest, Jonas Matulionis:
I extend my hands to your holy tomb,
Brooding there in the silence of Antakalnis,
Where the fullness of beauty never wanes
And the universe is immersed in heaven's prayer.
In the warmth of life, with a rich word.
I step along the paths of noble thought. . .
Along the path of your redemptive youth—
I find the sacred truth of goodness.
From our Vilnius, City of the Gates of Dawn.
You soared in silent prayer to heaven's canopy.
You bore to the Highest the bloom of youth
And found there the crown of glory.
We scatter petals of prayer beneath your feet
And honor you in the throng of saints . ..
I extend my hands before your holy tomb.
With petitions — in the silence of prayer.
After the March 3, 1984 Saint Casimir solemnities, which the KGB tried in various ways to play down or at least to disrupt, the faithful did not gather in great numbers at the Tomb of Saint Casimir until the end of the jubilee. No one officially organized pilgrimages from the larger cities to visit the relics of Saint Casimir in the Church of SS. Peter and Paul. Believers came to Vilnius only in small groups, or urged by zealous pastors. Throughout, an air of hesitancy prevailed, a fear of organizing anything more, so that no one would have to suffer.
Somewhat more worshippers gathered for the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul, but to the great surprise of all, during the sermon the pastor of Turgeliai and dean, Kazimieras Vaičionis, spoke angrily about those who demanded religious freedom: "They need rights! They write protests!!! Let them pray more! They need to pray, and not to collect signatures and all kinds of protests . . ." the Reverend Dean Kazimieras Vaičionis said to those assembled.
Similar currents were felt during the closing celebration of the Jubilee of Saint Casimir. The preachers were hand-picked to avoid any strong statements regarding the present troubles of the Church in Lithuania. During the whole octave, Mass was celebrated by the local priests, except for the main Mass of the day. Getting to confession on the occasion of religious celebrations is a problem: There are few priests sitting in the confessionals, sometimes only one or two. Faithful in poor health do not even try to get in line.
Everyone knows that the pastor is the authority in his own church, and that no one can act without his permission. However, under special conditions, zealous priests in Lithuania without wishing to hurt the pastors or cause them unpleasantness, speak from the pulpit without permission from the pastor. If you ask the pastor for permission, it will be embarassing for him not to allow it; if the pastor allows it, then a great share of the responsibility for the sermon delivered will fall on his shoulders. A good priest would rather assume the risk himself, unwilling to have another blamed for his actions.
And it is necessary to speak! Many of the faithful, for lack of information, are confused on the simplest questions. Besides, intellectuals, students and those pursuing a career, by going to church publicly and especially by participating in processions or the choir, jeopardize their positions and risk unpleasantness from the government. Almost all students serving in church are constantly pers-cuted, derided, and threatened in school. They especially need an encouraging word and a good example, and they expect it in the first place from the clergy.
During the closing ceremonies of the Saint Casimir Jubilee, August 30, after the evening Mass, the pastor of Pociūnėliai, Father Antanas Jokubauskas, ascended the pulpit. The preacher had hardly begun to speak when from the sacristy emerged the pastor, Docent Pranciškus Vaičekonis, an instructor at the Kaunas seminary, shouting and gesticulating for the organ to play, and for the people to disperse. The congregation, however, would not budge, and the organ remained silent. The preacher continued to speak calmly. Losing control, the pastor rushed to the microphone in the santctuary, control, the pastor rushed to the microphone in the sanctuary, him not to interfere with the sermon.
Seeing that the people were not dispersing and that the priest continued preaching, Dr. Vaičekonis began excoriating Father Jokubauskas, "People, do not recognize him! The church is no place for rallies!. . ."
Suddenly, the lights began to go out one after another and the church grew dark. When Father Jokubauskas began speaking about the imprisoned priests, the pastor sent two men in surplices to escort the preacher from the pulpit. The men in surplices had hardly begun ascending the pulpit when someone from the crowd suddenly jumped up, restraining one of the functionaries. However, the first had already reached the preacher, and touched him. Father Jokubauskas, making the Sign of the Cross, turned to descend. At that moment, the pastor charged into the crowd, trying to push his way to the pulpit. The faithful at first made way, but suddenly the crowd pushed forward and forced the excited pastor into the sanctuary.
As Jather Jokubauskas left the pulpit, the congregation began to applaud. In Lithuania, it is not the custom to applaud in church, however, because there was no other way of showing agreement with the preacher, the faithful, regardless of tradition, applauded so thunderously that one could not hear the pastor loudly scolding the crowd and the preacher. As soon as the applause died down, the pastor reprimanded the faithful and the preacher even louder. To drown out the pastor, the people resumed their applause. And so it went, back and forth. Seeing that the pastor would not stop scolding, the crowd began singing the hymn, Marija, Marija. It was a sad and frightening experience. It would have been better to see a militiaman or some government official pushing a priest around, or striking him.
The next evening before Mass, during the announcements, the pastor recalled the events of the evening before and repeated that politicking and rallies had no place in church, even though Father Jokubauskas had not mentioned politics in his sermon. He had spoken about the contemporary experience of the Church in our country. During Mass, the sermon was preached by the pastor of Turgeliai, the Reverend Dean Kazimieras Vaičionis. After speaking eloquently at first about Saint Casimir, he touched on contemporary events. To the great surprice of the faithful, the preacher spoke with satisfaction about the fact that "We are a part of the great Soviet Union." that "we have to get along with our brothers, the Russians," that "there is hope that in one of the churches of Vilnius, services in the Russian language will be introduced," and "the essential characteristic of Saint Casimir's regime in Lithuania was his great concern for the catechization of the Russians." One got the impression that the main reason for the sermon was to show that the Lithuanian nation had been the best of friends with, "their brothers, the Russians". The attitude of the faithful was as though they were at a rally: Some smiled sardonically, others shrugged, while still others did not know what to think.
The last day of the festival there was one more surprise. Before the principal Mass, the pastor, Father Vaičekonis, asked the faithful to go out into the churchyard to meet the bishops who were coming. The people lined up at the main gate of the churchyard and beyond to the street and waited for the guests. After a long wait, the worshippers heard services starting in church. It seems that the bishops had come in by a side gate, and entered through the sacristy. Those waiting at the main gate felt tricked.
It seems that instructions for the bishops to enter the church by way of the side door before the Lithuanian services had been given, as much as can be ascertained, by KGB agents watching the ceremonies. They were afraid that the people who had gathered would greet the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius. (Still banned by the government from administering his diocese after more than twenty years. — Trans. Note)
For the Polish services, the bishops were allowed to enter the church by the main doors. The pastor, Father Vaičekonis, acceding to the wishes of the KGB, introduced the arriving bishops, administrators of dioceses and members of the Saint Casimir Jubilee Committee at the beginning of the services, and last of all, he mentioned Bishop Steponavičius, without even saying that he is the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, although the offices of the other bishops were solemnly announced.
While the faithful waited outside for the bishops to show up, other people filled the church, and those standing at the gates could not get in. When the sermon, which was preached by His Excellency, Bishop Antanas Vaičius started, the loudspeaker at the main door where many of the faithful were, kept going out of order. The faithful ask one another. "Are we supposed to keep considering the regular breakdown of the loudspeakers during services an accident?"
On Saturday, August 25, youth from Marijampolė (Marijampolė, originally named after the Blessed Virgin Mary, was renamed Kapsukas in honor of one of the early Lithuanian Communists. — Trans. Note) tried to pray together at the Tomb of Saint Casimir. The KGB was on their heels, unabashedly following the youth right into the sacristy. Thus, not even a few minutes of free time could be found in church for prayer in common by the young people — up until the evening services, couples were married, one after another. After the evening Mass, when the young people had barely begun to sing, the choir in the loft began rehearsing the Tu Es Sacerdos (sic), even though people were still praying in church. There seems to have been no need the next day for that hymn which had been prepared for the bishops' arrival, since the bishops entered the church informally, by the side door.
Father Algis-Kazimieras Gutauskas, pastor of Our Lady of the Dawn Gate in Vilnius, serves as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, Bishop Steponavičius, the Ordinary, is in exile in Žagarė, a small town on the Lithuanian-Latvian border.
To: His Excellency Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius,
Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius
His Excellency Bishop Liudvikas Povilonis, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Kaunas and the Diocese of Vilkaviškis
His Excellency Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys
His Excellency Bishop Antanas Vaičius, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Telšiai
Monsignor Kazimieras Dulksnys,
Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Panevėžys
The Reverend Dr. Pranciškus Vaičekonis,
Pastor of the Church of SS. Peter and Paul, Vilnius
A Report of the Scandalous Incident During the Saint Casimir Jubilee Celebration
"The holiness of Saint Casimir is not to be silenced . . ." This thought was often repeated in sermons during the jubilee celebration of our nation's patron, Saint Casimir. One after another, these sermons urged love of God, zeal in witnessing the Truth of Christ, respect and gratitude to God for the sainted prince, the source of our spiritual energy, from which Lithuania will not stop drawing life-giving sap, as long as there is one Lithuanian alive desiring to remain faithful to the Creator's will.
The enthusiasm arose from the spirit of the residents of Vilnius and their guests, as witnessed by the participation of the faithful in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, both at the principal Mass and at evening services all week long, and their union in great numbers with the Eucharistic Jesus.
This was a beautiful example of living faith. Even one atheist was forced to admit that religion is still very much alive in our country.
Yes, no matter how systematic attempts are made to extinquish it, the fire of godly ideals burns in the believing people's hearts, into which no little spiritual pain and bitter doubt was injected by events Thursday, August 23, at evening services which began at 8:00 PM. If a war is being mounted against God and religion, the principal factor in maintaining fidelity is unity among us. In union there is strength.
This is an old principle confirmed by history. The idea of unity was often brought up during this celebration, and implored during the Prayer of the Faithful at Mass.
But lo and behold, on the day mentioned, something took place which demonstrates the absence of that unity so vitally essential for us. At the end of the Holy Mass, the faithful saw a priest in the pulpit: Surely not another sermon? It was. The priest made the Sign of the Cross and began to speak. No sooner had he begun than the loudspeakers were turned off. A voice was heard from the altar, saying. "Hooligan! Troublemaker! Be quiet! Who invited you?"
Reverend Dr. Pranciškus Vaičekonis hurled himself into the crowd: "Get out of here! What are you listening for? Go home! I do not recognize him!" The priest pushed people out of the church. The Reverend Doctor's behavior seemed to many to transgress the rules of etiquette. He said he did not recognize him. Strange! In the crowd, a whisper could be heard, "That's Father Jokubauskas!"
The crowd recognized him, but the priest, a professor at the seminary, did not. However, he should have recognized him, since Father Jokubauskas (according to the Catholic Calendar-Directory for 1982), was ordained to the priesthood in 1954, and Father Vaičekonis, in 1952. So, they are related by at least a couple of years spent together in the seminary.
The preacher continued, while the pastor returned to the sacristy and the crowd fell into a rapt silence, broken by two signal bells in succession to the organist. Apparently someone wanted him to start playing the organ. They began ringing the altar bells. In the sanctuary, men in white surplices stormed about. There was a kind of panic, but the sermon went on. Slowly one by one, the lights were extinguished until finally, it became completely dark in the church, while the crowd expressed its annoyance audibly.
The darkness did not prevent the sermon from continuing. The crowd listened with even greater interest: No one even tried to leave the church, except for those mentioned earlier who, pushed by the pastor, left at the beginning of the sermon. There were just a few of those, while a throng almost filling the church listened.
The darkness enabled one of the functionaries to ascend the pulpit. In the half-light, the man was seen to put his hand on Father Jokubauskas' shoulder. Saying "Amen", the priest made the Sign of the Cross and was conducted from the pulpit. The throng began to applaud warmly. Suddenly, the lights went back on. Father Vaičekonis once more rushed from the sacristy into the crowd, trying to quiet those applauding. But those in the front row of the crowd pushed the pastor so hard that he almost ended up in middle of the sanctuary. It was fortunate that one of the functionaries was able to shut the sanctuary gates in time. Perhaps the angry crowd would have advanced farther. The pastor immediately rushed to the microphone (now working!) shouting. "Don't hold any rally! To organize rallies, go out into the street and squares! This is a church! The Blessed Sacrament! Don't disturb the people praying!"
When the pastor fell silent, the crowd seemed to calm down. However, Father Vaicekonis, taking advantage of the silence, tried again in more or less the same words, to shame the crowd for the applause which had spontaneously broken out, and for the shouting: "Hurrah!", "God!", and the like. The throng would not allow itself to be shamed. On the contrary, with renewed applause, they shouted down the pastor who, in the name of "unity", had tried to silence the preacher.
After this failure, the pastor returned to the sacristy. The crowd gradually calmed down. Only a murmur of discontent was audible. A high note was heard, intoning Marija, Marija . . . palengvink vergijq!. . ." ("Mary, Mary . . . save us from oppression . . .") The melody rang out mournfully indeed, echoing from the baroque ceiling, and many of the crowd greeted Father Jokubauskas, shaking his hand in the name of sincere solidarity. "Courage, Father!" The eyes of the faithful glistened with tears . . . only individuals here and there remained hesitant, or failed to understand.
Why did the need arise to silence Father Jokubauskas? What did he say? Did he proclaim falsehood? Far from it! The congregation could have greeted so warmly and cordially only a courageous statement of the truth! It went like this (in summary):
The holiness of Saint Casimir's personality has not faded one bit for five centuries. This is witnessed by the enthusiasm of your large gathering even though atheism is wrecking the Catholic Church in Lithuania by the most organized means. We pray for vocations to the priesthood, since there are already about 130 parishes without priests! Could it be that there are no vocations? Not so — there are vocations! However, the atheists do not allow all those young men who wish, to enter the seminary.
(At these words, the main lights were turned off.)
The priest went on to urge people to abhor sin and evil in their lives. He encouraged them, saying that no matter how much the darkness of sin tries to prevail , God will win out, we shall conquer. He affirmed that the faithful are not allowed to fear sacrifice, even death, if fidelity to the Church and God requires it. Indeed, what is an idea worth if one is unwilling to sacrifice and die for it? He mentioned those who are already walking the way of sacrifice: the priest-prisoners Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tam-kevičius.
(Here the rest of the lights were extinquished, and the preacher was escorted out.)
Is it possible to attach a political meaning to these words? Yes, it is politics, but it is the politics of Christ, the Church, God and only God! The preparation of priests is the exclusive responsibility of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and not of the civil government! The atheists, by the most refined trickery and deceit, are overtly wrecking the Church in our hearts. Only the cowardly and the naive can fail to see this! To detest the work of the devil — sin — is the Catholic's calling — the theme of Saint Casimir's life! Unity with those suffering is a duty of neighborly love. (Our Holy Father acted no differently by remembering Lithuania so sensitively these days.) To visit the prisoner is a good work. We visit prisoners by constant prayer and frequent remembrance of their honorable sacrifice. We have no other means . ..
And here Father Kazimieras Vaičionis, speaking during evening services, August 24, declared that the fact that Lithuania was incorporated in the Soviet Union is a blessing from God! Is this not politics?
So we are in a tragic situation. We are urged to pray for unity, but under what flag: that of Christ's Truth or atheistic politics? We want our lives to be lived only under the banner of Christ, to that end we are doing everything, often at great risk.
Postscript: On June 29, in the Church of SS. Peter and Paul, during a religious festival, Father Vaičionis tried to say in a sermon that there is no need for petitions or collecting of signatures — that this only hurts the Catholic Church. So this time, we merely state the above-mentioned painful fact (We cannot remain silent, we hear the voice of conscience, we believe that by keeping silent we would do wrong,) without collecting signatures, even though we could.
Let us offer a few suggestions. During such religious festivals, we would like to see more priests in the confessional, especially during evening services or prior to them Otherwise, long lines form, and this inconveniences the faithful, most of whom put off the sacraments. Why are religious festivals needed if people cannot take full advantage of God's grace? Priests would come to the confessional just ten or fifteen minutes before Mass, but most often, after Mass had begun. Forgive us, but this is strange, and incited wonder. The loudspeakers cut out precisely during services (e.g., March 3), or remain turned off near the doors (August 26). In such a case, those in the churchyard could not hear the sermon. It must be remembered also that most participants in the festival stood in the churchyard and on the street.
Faithful of Vilnius who participated in the evening services August 23, for the Festival of the Jubilee of Saint Casimir.
August 27, 1984
In commemoration of the 500 Year Jubilee of the death of Saint Casimir, Bishop Kazimieras Paltarokas' monograph, Karalaitis Šv. Kazimieras (The Prince, Saint Casimir), was translated in Lithuania into Esperanto and into Estonian, and Simas Sužiedėlis' work, Karalaitis Kazimieras (Prince Casimir), into Estonian. Both translations are in typescript.