Father Alfonsas Svarinksas writes:
...Your visit has been postponed to next year (it should have been September 9). Such is God's will! I am happy and in good spirits. (For two years now, I have had neither a long nor a short visit!) I am alive and well. On Sundays I rest: I sleep a couple of hours longer, read and pray. For everything I am grateful to the Lord God. Life has been good to me. God grant that we wiI I all meet in heaven, and together with all the powers of heaven, sing "Holy, holy..."
Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius and Father Sigitas Tamkevičius
People always respond to love with love, especially children and youth. Love of God and people is the eternal virtue, for Faith and Hope go only as far as the gates of heaven.
September 7 is the anniversary of the death of Cardinal Josyf Slipyj. (After WorId War II, Father Svar inskas and Metropoli tan SIipyj were fellow inmates in a Soviet labor camp. Svarinskas saved SIipyj's life. -- Trans. Note) Perhaps that evening you could remember him. The children will make the Way of the Cross and the master of the house will pray. August 14, 1985
Father Sigitas Tamkevičius' writes:
On May 6, I began my third year of imprisonment. In a couple of years, I have become well acclimatized to my new way of life, although it is said that it is impossible to become accustomed to deprivation of freedom. Throughout my life, almost without interruption, there was one kind of regimen or another: For eleven years in middle school, I constantly heard the bell. Three years in the army, I went to bed and arose on command. For five years in the seminary, I not only studied phi Iosophy and theology, but observed external and internal discipline of heart and conscience.
Then followed twenty-one years of work, during which I also had to be exactly on time at the altar, in the pulpit or in the confessional... The bell of life summoned me over and over again: now on sick-call, now on retreat, now to other priestly duties. I was always in a hurry.
Now, too, a bell summons me to work, to rest, to lie down and get up. This bell for me is like the voice of the Lord: I go where he summons me and in my heart I am at peace because I know that the Lord is always with me, even at those moments when I sometimes forget his proximity. Life in the presence of God brings peace, joy and blessing: When you lie down and when you rise, when you work and when you rest, when you are well and when you are burdened with illness, and at all times you know that the Heavenly Father is with you, that He loves you, that without His knowledge, not even a hair of your head wi11 fa 11.
People quite often worry themselves sick because they have tried to pile all of life's worries and troubles on their own weak shoulders, and to trust the Lord too little. In reality, one must do everything one can and what one cannot, turn over to God in prayer without self-reproach. Let Him put everything in order.
There was a time when I could mediate the needs of the living and the dead at the altar of God, deliver sermons and administer the sacraments. And now, my basic occupation is the simplest physical labor. Is this so tragic? Not at all. In human life, there is only one tragedy, not to have God or to separate oneself from him by sin. That is what is terrible!...
Perhaps there is nothing we need in life as much as patience. Whatever happens, to accept everything quietly, to put up with it and offer it to God. Neither work nor inconvenience frighten me. After all, our Master worked hard for long years and by His labor He consecrated our work and our troubles...
In prison, one would like the time would pass more quickly. I often think that I should wish, not for speedy or empty passage of time, but that time should be useful for me and for others, for whom I have dedicated my life. Therefore, every day I offer God my incarceration, my longing for my dear ones, exhaustion, physical infirmities when they occur, and everything which can be offered just so Our Lord would be better loved, that people would draw near to eternal truth and goodness...
May 10, 1985
Father Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis writes:
... Thank you for the prayers which accompany me everywhere, this time, for the entire journey of two months from Vilnius, the City of the Gates of Dawn, to the camp in Siberia which is 6000 kilometers from my homeland. In these regions of Siberia, there have been many Lithuanian exiles. They brought us to the camp on the morning of September 8. Back in the homeland, it was still the dead of night, since there is a six hour time difference. Throughout the journey, my great travel companion was prayer, and especially this morning: the opening of the Šiluva festival, the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God, and our National Holiday
(Not to be confused with Lithuanian Independence Day, February 16. --Trans. Note) In prayer I remembered every single one: in the homeland, in camp, on the sick-bed and laboring in the heat of the day.
Those six days in Vilnius, in the homeland, were a source of great joy for everyone. For this gift, I wi11 always thank God. And if they have taken me again, this too is God's holy wi11, and I thank Him for it. There is nothing more pleasant than to do His will. In prayer I ask, and I ask you to help me with your prayers, that I may implement what God wants of me. What I have to do, He wi11 show me. Whatever happens and wherever I am, I know that God is with me. He gave me everything, He gave me the priesthood. For that I am grateful and I pray for the grace to be worthy of it. Help me, you too, in this request. O good people, were you not sent by God?
During the two months' journey through six prisons: Vilnius, Smolensk, Voronezh, Chelyabinsk, Irkutsk and Chita, through the Urals deep into Siberia, the hand of God has wondrously conducted and protected me. Here there was both joy and also hours for penance. Strangers would meet me as though someone had informed them in advance that a priest was coming. Everywhere I met people who respect the priesthood, regardless whether they believe in God or not. They would show their respect and share the most basic necessities. God alone cares so for the human beings He has created. Christ taught: "Ask, and it wi11 be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you." (Mat 7, 7)
There were hurtful words also. After all, this is necessary too. If they insulted Christ, can it be otherwise with his soldiers, his priests? This road, this journey by stolypin (convict transport -- Trans. Note) is something that many of our brother priests need. Then there would be more of the spirit of sacrifice, love of God, country and humankind...
Just as in the last camp, so in this one, we are allowed to write and to recieve mail only in Russian... Please convey my greetings to everyone who remembers, prays or inquires about me. I pray for everyone. In prayer with everyone, in prayer for everyone.
September 14, 1985
Father Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis' address: 674470 Chitinskaya obl. Aginskij r-on p. Novo-Orlovsk uchr. Lja-jag-14-11
Vladas Lapienis writes:
...They took me away from Vilnius on April 19, and brought me to the camp on May 28. The trip took more than five weeks, or thirty-nine days and nights.
In Pskov prison, I had to stay in a cel I with criminals from Apr iI 20 until May 5. In other transit jails, I spent shorter periods. In this camp, there is not a single prisoner my age. All are much younger than I. Many of them ask, "Why does the KGB in your republic arrest, interrogate and hand over for trial old people like you, when no other Union republic or autonomous republic tries or ships to camp such old people. Similar questions were raised not only by prisoners on the way and in the transfer prisons, but even by some prison administration staff. I did not know how to answer their question.
The words of Our Lord Jesus Christ are being fulfilled, "You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Mt 10,22)
... Everywhere and at all times let us trust in the goodness, patience and wisdom of God. Let us not blaspheme because of trials sent by God. All things work together for good unto those who love him. The best mission is suffering among those suffering...
To toil with Jesus is not difficult. He goes ahead, and I simply follow him.
June 21, 1985