|Siluva - Apparition of Our Lady|
On our pilgrimage we will also have an opportunity to visit Siluva, which is one of the first apparition sites of Our Lady in Europe. In order to appreciate the holiness of this religious site, it is necessary to know its history.
Lithuania was actually one of the last European countries to accept Christianity. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 13th Century when Christianity began to be celebrated in Lithuania but Catholicism became very popular in Lithuania thereafter. In 1475, a young man called Peter Giedgaudas, a diplomat for Vytautas the Great, built the first church in Siluva and officially gave the land to the Catholic Church. Later, he also returned from Rome with a large picture of Our Lady holding the Child Jesus, which he put in the sanctuary of the new church.
Fifty years later, the Calvinist heresies swept through Europe and many of the leaders of Lithuania converted. Unfortunately, in 1532, the governor of Siluva also converted and forced his new beliefs on the people of Siluva. He outlawed Catholicism and claimed the church land for the protestant church.
In 1532, the parish priest was Fr. John Holubka. When he heard of these controversies, he built an ironclad box and placed all the church belongings including the Image of Our Lady and the documents which proved that the land belonged to the Catholic Church. He then buried it near a rock near the parish church in Siluva. Shortly after this, the church was seized and the Catholicism was outlawed.
This would remain the norm in the village of Siluva for the next seventy six years. Then in 1608, one sunny summer’s day, some children were playing in the fields. Suddenly they heard the sound of sobbing and they turned to see a beautiful young woman, standing on the rock, holding a baby in her arms, crying. The children said she was crying so much that some of the tears fell on the rock. This apparition shocked the children and they ran and told the local Calvinist pastor and their parents.
Although the Calvinist Pastor did not believe them, news of the apparition spread very quickly through Siluva. The following day a large group of people gathered near the rock. The Calvinist minister heard about the gathering and decided to go to the site to re-assure the crowd. While they were all gathered there, Our Lady reappeared again holding the child Jesus in her arms and crying profusely. This apparition shocked the people present but eventually the Pastor asked Our Lady why she was crying. Our Lady told them, “There was a time when my beloved Son was worshipped by my people on this very spot. But now they have given this sacred soil over to the ploughman and the tiller and to the animals for grazing”. After she said this she disappeared.
The news of this apparition spread though Siluva very quickly. A very old blind man heard this story and recalled a night also eighty years ago when he helped Fr. John Holubka to bury an iron box in the church grounds. He left immediately and with the help of some friends, was taken to the apparition site. As soon as he reached the site, his eyesight returned. This miracle shocked everyone who was present and he immediately pointed to the spot near the rock where he had helped the priest to bury the iron box. In this box, contained all the legal documents which proved that the church belonged to the Catholic Church, but most importantly, it also contained the Image of Our Lady which was perfectly preserved. After this apparition, thousands of people converted to the Catholic Faith and Siluva became a pilgrimage site thereafter. It is estimated that over 11,000 people attended a celebration of the nativity ten years later. The Vatican formally recognised the apparition in 1775 when Pope Leo issued a Papal Decree. It was also one of the main sites visited by Pope John Paul II when he toured Lithuania.
Siluva has remained a Catholic village ever since, in spite of the Russians best efforts to destroy the faith of the village. When we visit Siluva, you will have an opportunity to visit the church where the Image of Our Lady with the child Jesus is displayed as well as see the other religious items, including the iron box, which were perfectly preserved by the parish priest almost 400 years ago. They have also built a church around the rock in Siluva so we will have time to pray in this small but exceptionally holy chapel. Siluva is a beautiful and holy place and everyone always is inspired by the story and miracles of the apparition of Siluva.
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