The Blessed Virgin Mary, Comfort of the Sorrowful attracts pilgrims to Pivašiūnai for the many spiritual and physical graces. Miraculous painting in the central altar of the church is the object of veneration and piety as well as the source of peace and love in the run of couple centuries.
Pivašiūnai is a little town, situated in a hilly region near a long, bordered by a massive forest, in the southern Lithuania, 25 km North from Alytus.
Historically the town is known since the 17th century. As the reformation in Lithuania grew weaker, the landowner of the area converted from Protestantism and started to build a Catholic church, which was finished in 1648. The central altar was decorated with the picture of the Mother of God with the Baby. Most probably, already at that time the picture was considered to be miraculous while around 1750 it was decorated with a gilded metal garment and a crown. Historic sources witness that this church as well as the second one, built in 1766, perished in the fire. Both times two paintings, one of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the other of a founder of the church, were preserved. The third church was built in 1825 on a hill that people of the area were fond of and that was famous for legends telling that this used to be the place of a sacred pagan fire.
At the turn of the 20th century the parish experienced a big Polish influence. All the Masses were served in Polish until 1911 when a new rector started a national and religious revival.
Both World Wars passed the town by, only during the years of occupation many people were killed and deported. Still, at all times the Blessed Virgin Mary was guarding Pivašiūnai. In gratitude people restored the picture, which they believed to be remarkable, miraculous, holy and up lifting.
The painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Pivašiūnai
The Madonna in the picture is a typical young Palestinian mother radiating with kindness and lenience. She holds a baby in her right arm and a scepter in her left. Baby Jesus blesses with his little right hand.
The painting is very archaic and valuable. According to local legend, it is said to have come from Turkey but this can hardly be true. Strict Byzantine canons consider the Blessed Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus as separate and magnificent Saints. In Europe this subject got some emotionality. This picture also depicts not a heavenly but an earthly majesty. Our Lady here is bare-headed and elegant which shows the Western European origin of the picture.
The painting has been famous for miracles since old days. This is witnessed in the old written documents as well as by the votive plaques that people brought and hung around the picture. In 1900 there were more than one hundred of them. Only small part is left till nowadays. Old and new stories tell about its healing power. One can feel the painting dominating in the church. It makes a special atmosphere of warmth, peace and love.
On August 14, 1988 Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevičius crowned the picture and granted it with the title of Comfort of the sorrowful. The crowns were a gift from the Pope John Paul II. Since then, on the 15th of every month pilgrims from the whole country come to Pivašiūnai to venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary Comfort of the Sorrowful and ask for the heavenly guardianship and veneration. Nobody can count how many people regained peace and faith here.
Devotions on the Assumption day in Pivašiūnai have been famous since long ago. They last for eight days and attract pilgrims from Lithuania and abroad. Since 1990 more and more pilgrims come from Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, France, Italy and other countries. Believers walk on their knees around the altar.
Prior to the World War I pilgrims used to come in processions with the Church banners and little altars. They used to walk for couple days staying overnight in the farmers houses on their way. In Pivašiūnai they also used to be accommodated by local people or even sleep outside by the church. There were always many sick and handicapped and also poor people. They used to spend there couple days drinking water from local mineral sources and often times many of them would feel better, especially those, who suffered from allergies, eye infections and nervous diseases.
Many legends were told about miraculous recoveries. In the beginning of the 20th century couple of those cases were documented.
In 2000 Lithuanian bishops announced the church in Pivašiūnai a Jubilee church. Those who visit the church were entitled to receive a Jubilee year indulgence.