Christian PilgrimagePilgrimages in LithuaniaJohn Paul II and Lithuania

Overcome evil with good.
Vido Venslovaičio fotografija


Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis is so far the only Lithuanian of modern times whom the Church has raised to the altars. Many people find they have points in common with the life of this holy man who was born and raised in a family of peasants, made great efforts to get an education, was orphaned at an early age and was severely tried by illness and other sufferings. He was a prophet of the Church’s social teaching in response to the urban problems of his day. He was also a soul in search of a contemplative life who found himself immersed in public affairs, often caught in the middle of bitter disputes.

Joining Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis in prayer involves a challenge for every Christian’s spiritual life. He was “a man according to God’s heart”, who lived in intimacy with the Lord. And his life is quite recent, not grown over with old exotic legends. The straightforward interior of the chapel at the Marijampolė Basilica with the tomb of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis disposes people to reflect on life’s challenges in a spirit of Christian realism.

This holy man’s “Journal” reveals the intensity of his interior life. Spiritual friendship with Blessed Jurgis can be cultivated fruitfully through reading this spiritual diary, engaging one’s intellect and embarking on the paths of meditation presented in his personal notes. Many of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis’s favourite phrases contain unforgettable guidance for life or content for prayer, while his episcopal motto, “Overcome evil with good”, offers a fresh perspective on the Apostle Paul’s exhortation. The ideas in Blessed Jurgis’s “Journal” serve not only to form individuals, but also to help build communities. They present guidelines and topics for spiritual talks, and especially for days of recollection or retreats. His well known mandate to “organize and dedicate yourselves” has brought together people of various states of life. His spiritual legacy is particularly cherished by the members of the Association of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis.

The liturgical commemoration of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis is on January 27, the date he died (and was born to heaven). In addition, the basilica in Marijampolė each year in July holds a weeklong solemn celebration of the anniversary of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis’s beatification. That feast includes the possibility to gain an indulgence on July 12, as well as on the Sunday before and the Sunday after that. During the celebration, a novena is prayed asking Blessed Jurgis to intercede on behalf of the sick. It has also become traditional to celebrate Holy Mass on the 12th of every month, at midday, in the basilica’s Chapel of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis and in his honour. Mass is also celebrated in the chapel every Friday, praying for a variety of intentions. During liturgical services, various prayers with ecclesiastical approval are said, including the Litany of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis, a prayer for health, and a prayer for the canonization of Blessed Jurgis. In Lūginė, the native village of Blessed Jurgis, events for the Christian formation of young people are held, along with pilgrimages and prayer services.

The intercession of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis is especially important for building up a new European community of nations. His self-sacrificing service in the multi-ethnic city of Vilnius and his efforts to heal the historical wounds in Lithuanian-Polish relations gave much fruit, and continue to give fruit. Pilgrims from other countries, Poland in particular, stream continually to the places associated with this man of God.

The year 2007 brought two significant anniversaries – 80 years since the death of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis and 20 years since his beatification, while 2008 marked the 90th anniversary of his consecration and installation as bishop of Vilnius. Prayers are constantly offered for his canonization, that is, that he be declared a saint. During the 34 years since his cause of beatification and canonization was opened, the accounts of almost 1,000 special graces received through the intercession of the holy archbishop have been published.