A warm welcome, a steady pace, an impressive Marian centre, a fascinating inculturation, a fraternal life full of humour and grace, here is a summary of this CANA spiritual retreat…

Nicole & Peter NOWICKI
CANA International

Warmly welcomed

The snow, cold and north wind were still present during the CANA Spiritual Retreat in Lithuania (14-20 February). But hearts were ready to welcome the breath of the Spirit. We were a good thirty people gathered in Šiluva, the main Marian centre in the country where Our Lady appeared around 1608. Saint John Paul II visited this place in 1993, two years after the declaration of independence from the USSR.

From the moment we arrived until we left, we were warmly welcomed by several families. It is always a great grace to get to know couples and families in the privacy of their homes. At the Marian Centre in Šiluva, we had the pleasure of being welcomed by Archbishop Kęstutis KÉVALAS, Archbishop of Kaunas, and of meeting Archbishop Liongina VIRBALAS SJ, Archbishop Emeritus of Kaunas, on several occasions.

A steady pace

The retreat started on Valentine’s Day… What a paradox for a retreat that is both a personal and a couple’s retreat! But it was worth it: once again, we note with joy that the Lord met the expectations of each of the ten participating couples and the thirteen servants. For some of them, it was a great moment, illustrating the expression we like: ‘In due time, I will act quickly’, says the Lord. Others discovered personal prayer, prayer as a couple, the simplicity of the brothers’ prayer, fraternal life…

The rhythm was steady. Each morning, the first personal prayer was offered in the form of “guided prayer” by a servant. In fact, the participants told us: “we are not used to praying like this, we want to learn…”. Each day, after lunch, work was organised with the Marian centre: destruction of an old building, cleaning of the immense Jesuit church, etc. This unexpected help was all the more appreciated as it was surprising both for our hosts and for the inhabitants of this small village of 600 inhabitants. The services and the work done together were done in a joyful atmosphere of fraternal life.

Gintaras SAFARINAS & Joné KUCINSKAITE-SAFARINIENE, the couple responsible for CANA Lithuania, had finalised the preparations for the retreat. The accompanying team was very united and eager to learn. We heard many lively testimonies and we sang a lot because Lithuanians like to express themselves through songs, which are sometimes real cries to God.

On 16 February, a national holiday, we celebrated the independence of Russia (16 February 1918). The rooms were decorated with the flag, the national colours and we sang the national anthem. The influence of the Soviet period (before 1991) is still felt in the current generation, which is at a turning point. The participants remember the events around independence; they speak Russian, discover English; their children are learning French and English.

On the last day, Sunday 20 February, we joined the parishioners in the famous Basilica of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, consecrated in 1786, where the families were numerous and the singing very lively. Bishop Liongina VIRBALAS SJ was kind enough to come and have lunch with us afterwards around our big table. Everyone was able to express what the retreat had brought them. After blessing us, we simply prayed for him.

The first CANA week in Lithuania took place in 2002, two years before Lithuania joined the European Union in 2004. Today CANA in Lithuania consists of 29 couples in 9 fraternities