August 20 – Archbishop Teofilo Matulionis: anecdotes

August 17, 2017

In 1935, Blessed Archbishop Teofilo Matulionis visited the US and one lady in New England, who owned a restaurant, told the Bishop and the priest that was traveling with him, that the meal was free as she didn’t have priests pay for their meal. The Bishop remarked, “Only in America.”

He suffered horribly and his exile to the Solovki Islands was incredible!  The prisoners were forced to lay tree trunks over the slippery and swampy road-beds. Sometimes a tree would fall on a prisoner and submerge him in the muddy swamp. No one was permitted to leave what he was doing at the time to render assistance. Hence, the road system on Solovki Islands is literally built on the corpses of many a prisoner.

Bl. Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis imprisoned in 1933. In Panevėžys, the people asked if Bishop Matulionis would give them his cane that he had since prison, which he did. The cane was entrusted to the city museum. When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in 1940 and communist officials took over many artifacts were destroyed. It is not known whether the cane still exists.

On one occasion Bishop Matulionis explained the meaning of the three small crosses on his Episcopal coat of arms. They were meant to signify the difficulties of his life: student days, priestly endeavors and Episcopal difficulties. He added, however, “My life has given another meaning to those three crosses: my three prison sentences. The 1st, in 1923, when the Supreme Court in Moscow imposed a 3 year sentence, of which I served 2/3. The 2nd in 1929, when I was sentenced to 10 years, and returned to Lithuania. The 3rd one, when I was given 7 years, to which they added 1 additional year. You see, the 2 smaller crosses and 1 larger one.”

Photo of Bl. Matulionis taken during his third prison sentence from Vladimir in 1947-1954, Bishop T. Matulionis was transferred to the Invalid House in Mordovia, where he stayed until 1956.

As the French writer, A. Camus remarked, “A man’s greatness consists in at least daring to say ‘no’ to the world, which he cannot change, but which he ought not to accept.” Archbishop Matulionis dared not only to say a resounding “no” to atheistic communism, but also tirelessly worked so that others would not accept the communist world.

Undying Mortal : Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis, Shepherd, Prisoner, Martyr by Pranas Gaida

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 588

Pranas Gaida‘s book on the life of Venerable Matulionis is available in several languages. In Portuguese, with the forward written by Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. Other information here.


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