Virginia Barton

11 May 2015: Celebrations


11 May 2015


It seems that while my back was turned (or rather, while I indulged in a Lithuanian Breakaway), another Royal baby arrived, the Tories surprised even the Tories, and VE Day happened for the 70th time.

One should qualify “Victory in Europe”: for half of the continent it was no victory at all; merely an exchange of one tyrant for another for the next 45 years. Churchill knew this at Yalta and probably slept uneasily thereafter.

The Baltic States are once more in the front line. One can only pray to God (and NATO and the Big Boys) that restraint and reason prevail.


bl mike prayer cardI was in Lithuania to represent BH at the opening of a Museum. This was hardly an onerous task, once my hosts had got over the fact that patently I was not he!

His saintly ancestor, Blessed Michael (Michal) Giedroyć, whose Causa at the Vatican has taken on revived impetus with a new Promoter, was being gloriously celebrated on the 530th anniversary of his death.

A flight of Augustinian nuns came to Videniskiai from Krakow where the Blessed one died and is buried. It is they who marshal research and look after his relics and the dedicated chapel in St Mark’s Church. They also teach catechetics and liturgy.

Top nun is an imposing, single-minded intellectual who does not suffer fools, I suspect. I minded my p’s and q’s in a meek sort of way, quite unlike myself. Little nun (there is always one of these) was as sparkly as a firework.


Videniskiai is a small village some 45 miles from Vilnius; it boasts a beautiful baroque church dedicated to St Lawrence. Try saying the name Videniskiai: for an Anglo-Saxon of nearly eighty years it was an almost insurmountable challenge which I got round by British mumbling. How cross my mother would have been!

“Do speak up dear, no-one can hear if you mumble into your bosom.”

Yes, I made a speech or two for BH and gave two interviews for TV, which were edited to the bone. I signed books on his behalf, shook hands with innumerable charming people, and ate a lot of food. (Rather too much.)

I missed BH to my core – so did the assembled crowd – and made rather soppy references to him of the “my hero” type.




Praying in such circumstances is well-nigh impossible, at least I find it so. Too many irresistible distractions. There was Mass with much singing, and a homily of which I understood not one word but was told later that it was excellent. Then came speeches by experts on the life of the Blessed one, the artwork connected to him, the history surrounding him, and his spirituality.

The chapel devoted to Blessed Michal in St Lawrence’s Church is where (I didn’t fail to remind the Bishop’s representative), BH’s ashes will one day rest. From now on, on the fourth day of each month, a litany will be recited for his Cause and special prayers and readings read in his chapel.


The Museum is in what was once the monastery attached to the church. It has been carefully restored and displays a multitude of artifacts connected with the Beatus, the nearby castle of Baltadvaris, and, of course, the church and monastery itself.

The 17th century frescoes, hitherto hidden under a layer of whitewash, are now disclosed; and although paler than when new, have an eerie beauty. The modern display cabinets and furniture in transparent plastic cleverly avoid obscuring details of walls and floors. An excellent combo of old and new. The place was crammed with visitors — obviously I must return.

And return I will, despite Luton Airport, which is a place to be avoided if possible. The parking was beyond the horizon and the passengers treated like the great unwashed. Not good enough, Team GB; so shaming before one’s foreign friends. But Wizz Air was great and I see they now go to Ohrid!




When I came home literally to the arms of BH, I found a dear little bunch of my favorite poeticus narcissus, left by a dear friend as a welcome home present.  Here they are, pictured above on my new T shirt. This shows a modern version of Vytis, the heraldic charge of Lithuania’s coat of arms. For the purists among you. there follows the description:

“It is one of very few containing symbolism adopted from ducal portrait seals rather than from coats of arms of dynasties, which is the case for most European countries.”

The blazon is described as:

“Gules, a knight armed cap-à-pie mounted on a horse salient argent, brandishing a sword proper and maintaining a shield azure charged with a cross of Lorraine Or.”


Oh yes! Given health and strength, I certainly will return!




  • mary says on: May 11, 2015 at 4:10 pm


    What an intrepid journey, Ginny. The village, the church, and the people sound fascinating and, of course, the cause of Blessed Michal as an overarching theme must have been the most exciting thing of all. A great purpose for a voyage.

    I have visited Vilnius and thought the Lithuanians incredibly impressive: fierce and dignified in equal measure!

    A bit like the cuisine in fact. Did you eat the cepelinai? Delicious.

    • Ginny says on: May 12, 2015 at 2:58 pm


      There was no time for cepelinai I fear, Mary; they must wait till next visit. Or until someone comes to make them in my kitchen. Two someones actually; it’s a two-person job as they take so long to prepare you need a friend to chat to!

      They are named after Zeppelins which they resemble, and are potato-based. Lithuanians cherish their traditions, including their cuisine.

      You’ll be glad to know, Mary, that there was no shortage of extremely tall and silent men. (In fact it was the women who seemed to be actually doing everything…) Ginny

  • Fr James says on: May 11, 2015 at 6:59 pm


    A wonderful account, and I look forward to hearing more from you shortly. You must explain the charming bucolic scene as well! James

    • Ginny says on: May 12, 2015 at 2:52 pm


      Fr James, by the bucolic scene, I take it you refer to the picture of the yellow cottage with the church behind? Or perhaps you wish to know more about the AGAPE feast?

      Since we approached the church from the front, I didn’t see the cotts. However, they are a familiar sight throughout the countryside, built of timber and weather-proofed by painting or staining. There are a few, very few in Vilnius to be preserved I’m told. Each cottage garden is rigorously cultivated with often the addition of a pig or cow and chickens. Maximum output of vegetables (and flowers) mean food for winter; and the pickling and preserving skills are legendary — skills nearly lost here. (When did you last pickle a cucumber?) And what about mushrooms? One could write a book about them.

      These traditions saved many a family from starving in the years of hardship. As recently as 1991 I remember a shop in Lyda, Belarus, that had nothing to buy but Russian pink champagne and watermelons. Virginia.

  • Jack L says on: May 12, 2015 at 2:58 pm


    A marvelous account, Virginia!

    I can hardly believe that 30 years have passed since we celebrated, in Oxford, the 500th anniversary of the death of “Blessed Mike.”

    Time certainly does fly — as, apparently, does “Wizz Air”. What a funny (and slightly rude) name for an airline!

    • Ginny says on: May 12, 2015 at 2:59 pm


      Oh Jack! There’s a day to remember: the 500th Anniversary of Blessed Michal’s death. It was marked in Oxford by a Mass of great joy, with seven priests con-celebrating in the chapel of the University Catholic Chaplaincy. Without referring to my diary, I think a Benedictine monk gave the homily and BH was on his legs (as Trollope would say) to fill in the details. There was a large multinational congregation, and I’m glad you were there, too!

      I know I’m naive, and perhaps ought to ask a grandson to explain, but why is Wizz Air “slightly rude” pray tell? I would NEVER fly in a “rude” aeroplane! The strip is deep purple and cyclamen pink, the operators Hungarian, and they are highly efficient.

      Unfortunately, in this country they are based at Luton airport. Virginia

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