Late in the afternoon on August 25, small groups of young people (most of them between fourteen and twenty years of age) began appearing at Tytuvėnai. Their arrival was quiet, without the customary cursing and shoving such gatherings bring. These smiling young people "occupied" every shelter, and gradually, almost imperceptibly, were absorbed, a thousand-strong, by the town. Interestingly enough, the townspeople welcomed them, inconspicuously accommodated them, and showed a quiet solidarity with their intentions. They knew that these young people would not ruin their tools or steal or set fire to their hay sheds or barns. Not one was seen smoking.
Meanwhile, a uniformed official, sensing that something was happening, stood alertly with several plainclothes men in the center of town, looking for unfamiliar automobiles.
The beautiful, recently remodeled Baroque-style church, had been tastefully painted in bright colors with predominantly orange and gold accents that greeted everyone who entered.
During the evening service the mass was sung in Latin by a Latvian choir. The attending young people responded to the prayers clearly and in unison. During Holy Communion the entire congregation rose up and knelt at God's table.
The next morning, long before the earliest mass, the church was already filled. In one, then another part of the church, young voices began hymns which the entire church then sang.
When the services ended, the young people lined up in fours outside the church. They had decided their behavoir on the march would be the same as in church: they would not talk, they would not answer outsiders' questions, they would sing hymns and pray. Many held bouquets of flowers; others clutched rosaries. They had planned this march as an atonement for their own sins, as a sacrifice for the sins of others, as a symbol of the nation's temperance movement, and as a cry for the rebirth of Lithuania's youth.
With the words of a prayer, the walk began. It was a majestic sight in these times to see a procession of a thousand praying young people. Although some older people could be seen, it was clear that the young ones dominated. A few photographers appeared. Who could know their true intentions? Yet no one turned away his head or hid his face; everyone walked deep in thought, determined, prepared for any atheistic attack. The townspeople and salesclerks stood along the edge of the street in front of the stores or watched through windows, awed by the unusual scene. In the meantime, the city executive committee chairman shouted into a megaphone for the marchers to disperse, but their prayers drowned out his voice, and he had to move or end up among the marchers. Occasionally when cars passed the marchers, some of the drivers offered rides to the tired or infirm. Others, turning into side roads, let out passengers who joined the crowds lining the road. Some of the newcomers brushed away tears, others joined the procession. Awe, joy, and anxiety filled every face. Could it be that Lithuania was rising again?
Slowly a grey Volga slipped by. Inside sat Minister Mikalauskas accompanied by several security agents. In front of them stopped the regularly scheduled Kaunas — Tytuvėnai bus; upon exiting, its passengers joined the march.
At the Šiluva Chapel, the youths, concentrated in deep prayer, renewed the intentions of the march. In the church they attended mass, celebrated by a young priest who also delivered the homily. Once again almost the entire congregation received Holy Communion.
After the mass several representatives of the Confraternity of the Most Blessed Sacrament returned to the chapel and transferred their rosaries to representatives from other cities. \ln Lithuania, a number of cities say the daily rosary together fcr an entire month for the intentions of the confraternity. At the end of the month representatives travel to Šiluva to pass the "rosary torch" to another group of cities.)
After the services, strengthened in spirit and filled with determination, the pilgrims separated to go home. Those who were travelling alone were detained by the KGB, who took them to their stations and interrogated them as to who were the organizers of the procession. But the procession had been organized by the infinite love of God in protest against evil.
* * *
One Marcher's Description
of Her Impressions
"The first march from Tytuvėnai to Šiluva was organized and held by the Confraternity of the Most Blessed Sacrament five years ago. It consisted of three hundred persons.
"This year on August 26 a thousand persons gathered for the traditional Confraternity march; most of them were young people.
"From the Tytuvenai church we walked toward Šiluva (about 7-8 kilometers), saying the rosary, reciting litanies, and singing hymns. After praying briefly at the Šiluva Chapel, we assembled in the church for a mass celebrated by a priest who had participated in the march.
"The thousand-strong congregation was united by a single intention: to atone to Christ in the Eucharist and to Mary for the nation's sins and to ask them to save Lithuania from alcoholism and moral decay as Lithuania had once been saved from Protestantism.
"A wave of spiritual rebirth is passing over Lithuania. More and more young people are joining the battle for spiritual salvation. We ask Mary in the company of Christ to stand at the forefront of this resurgence, to bless us, and to grant us strength and wisdom in this difficult task. We ask her help in nurturing our spiritual lives; the success of our work depends on our inner strength, on the integrity of our intentions. The processions to Šiluva are not external demonstrations. Their value is determined by the sincerity of our prayers and whether we are prepared to receive the Lord's grace.
"A priest who participated in the march urged us to fight the greatest evil of our time, alcoholism, which leads to other misfortunes. This demands great and painful sacrifices, but that must not lessen our determination.
"The services ended when the last words of the hymn 'Marija, Marija' faded away. Our flowers, dreams, and resolutions were left at Mary's feet.
"The march is not yet over. It has only begun. We dispersed across Lithuania carrying with us a great dream: to battle for our own spiritual progress and to struggle against alcoholism. May a sober and virtuous young generation of Lithuanians flourish, faithful to Christ and Mary. May they be the most beautiful flowers at the Lord's feet.
"And when it becomes difficult, when we tire, when we are tempted to follow the easier path, may our good Mother Mary call us away from the misguided path and give us the strength to stand once again at the forefront of this beautiful movement.
(From Rupintojelis (The Pensive Christ), issue no. 10)