Barbora Žagarietė (1628-1648)
Barbora Žagarietė (about 1628 – 1648 year). According to continuous 400 narrative and written tradition, Barbora Žagarietė was born at the beginning of the 17 th century. She distinguished herself bu heroic Christian virtues and died under obscure circumstances. The old Žagarė church stands on the hill named after her.
Historicity of Barbora Žagarietė.
It is known that the identity of the virgin of Žagarė was first officially mentioned by the Bishop of Samogitia Antanas Tiškevičius. In his report to the Holy See in 1755 he wrote: “I suppose it is worth mentioning one virgin’s, dear to God, mortal remains. Among the living there is no one who could know this virgin’s name or descent – only in a dream she has appeared to some people and named herself Barbora”. Making reference to a story passed from lip to lip just a few years after her death, an extraordinary event initiated the cult of Barbora believing that she is a mediatrix and intercessor before God. When during one of the military interventions of the Swedish troops into Lithuania in the 17th century the invaders robbed and burnt down the Old Žagarė church together with the mortal remains of the deceased in the crypt, the body of Barbora, found in the ashes after the fire was intact, only blackened. Having no doubts about the truthfulness of that unusual incident, Bishop Antanas Tiškevičius in the above mentioned report to the Holy See continued: “Though submerged in the ashes of the dead, untouched by the roaring fire, not burnt in any part, including the hair – the unharmed body of the virgin was taken out of the ashes and laid respectfully into a coffin as a true witness of God’s might and her merits. Even now it is intact, only blackened”. In the same document, the Bishop of Samogitia prior to describing seven miracles that had been brought through Barbara’s intercession in 1735 – 1748 noted: “A great number of the ill-fated, tormented by incurable illnesses seek safety at the virgin’s coffin and in no time experience it. The narration would become immensely wide if all the eliminated ailments were at least run over”.
Prohibitions to Venerate Barbora Žagarietė.
After having transferred the mortal remains of Barbora to the crypt of the rebuilt Old Žagarė church in 1714, o few centuries lasting public devotness for the virgin of Žagarė started and has never classed ever since believing that she is a saint. In 1878, when Lithuania was enduring the yoke of the tsarist Russia, on the orders of the occupational authorities the crypt with the remains of Barbara was walled up. However, the attempts to weaken the faith to God through Barbora’s intercession in that way were fruitless. On the contrary, when nineteen years’ later repairing the church the body of the virgin was found still intact – the devotion for Barbora grew to a great extent.
History of the Mortal Remains of Barbora Žagarietė.
The remains of Barbora Žagarietė reposed in a glass coffin in the crypt of the church beneath the High altar. Since the occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union in 1940, the attacks against the phenomenon of Barbora Žagariete had never stopped. Hostility had become especially strong in the period of 1957 – 1963. In 1963, the occupational administration had the church shut down and the mortal remains of Barbora taken somewhere. Nowadays, only a symbolic casket in the same crypt and a memorial tablet on its entrance door remind us about the virgin herself. To get deeper into the remarkable life of Barbora Žagariete, further search of the documents in the archives is carried out, examination and registration of the testimonies of witnesses are implemented. Recent excavation work attempting to find a possible burial site of Barbora has not given any results.
Registration Book of Barbora’s miracles.
A hundred years’ after Barbara’s identity had bun mentioned for the first time in the middle of the 18 th century, on January 7 th 1860, Bishop Motiejus Valančius commissioned Fr. Limaževičius, parish priest at the Old Žagarė church to register the miracles or other God’s graces accomplished through Barbora’s intercession. This task gave the outset to the socalled registration book of miracles where until December 14 th 1940, ninety seven cases had been recorded. None of those miracles, however, has been canonically investigated. Moreover, the book was thought to have perished. Only when Lithuania restored its independence in 1990, Fr. Boleslovas Babrauskas S. J., parish priest at St Peter and Paul’s church in Žagarė, commensed the search of it and three years later, in 1994 the book was found. This priceless registration book has survived thanks to Fr. Pranciškus Ščepavičius who during that difficult to Lithuania‘s Church Soviet period had worked as priest in the Old Žagarė church. No doubt, the book in still the best witness of the miracle worker Barbora’s sanctity fame – fama sanctitatis, which has never been interrupted by any changes or occupational regimes.
The Beatification Responding to the Bishop Eugenijus Bartulis of Šiauliai request No. 0376/04 of November 11 th 2004 to start the Beatification and Canonization Cause of Barbora Žagarietė, the Holy See on May 13 th 2005 informed that referring to the regulations issued by the same Congregation on February 7 th 1983 and assigned for the bishops executing the investigation of the Causes of the Saints, there are no obstacles to initiate the Cause. Making use of the above mentioned permission and referring to the request of the faithful of the Šiauliai diocese, on September 24 th 2005, Bishop Eugenijus Bartulis solemnly initiated the Beatification and Canonization Cause of Barbora Žagarietė. To plead the Cause, the following Tribunal members have been appointed: the Postulator of the Cause – Fr. Marius Dyglys, the Delegate of Justice – Lc. D., Fr. Egidijus Venskus, the Counsel for the Defence – Lc. D., Fr. Saulius Paliūnas, the Notary of the Case – Lc. D., Fr. Tomas Kedušis.and Canonisation Cause.
Immortalization of Memory.
To express gratefulness to the Servant of God Barbora Žagarietė for healing his sister Sofija, in 2006, Alfonsas Lažinskas had an oak – tree road – side pole (by Rimantas Zinkevičius) put up in the Old Žagarė churchy ard which on August 6 th of the same year was blessed by Bishop Eugenijus Bartulis.
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- Matulytė E., Opinion of Sanctity and Worship of Barbora Žagarietė in Žiemgala, [Bachelor's research work of religion studies, R. Adv., Dr. A. Motuzas]. St. Anthony Institute of Religion studies. Kretinga, 1998. 37 p.
- Margevičiūtė V., Barboros Žagarietės – XVII šimtmečio liaudies šventosios kulto istorija Lietuvoje, [Bachelor's research work, Adv. Dr. Jonas Boruta SJ]. Vilnius University, Faculty of History, Of Modern History Cathedrial. Vilnius, 1999. 38 p.
- Karoblytė E., God’s Graces Accomplished through the Intercession of Barbora Žagarietė,[Bachelor's research work of religion studies, R. Adv., Dr. A. Motuzas]. St. Anthony Institute of Religion studies. Kretinga, 2001. 33 p.
- Stupelytė J., Sanctity Fame of the Servant of God Barbora Žagarietė in Lithuania: traditions and the present. [Master's research work, R. Adv., Dr. A. Motuzas]. Vilnius Pedagogical University, Faculty of History, The Catholic Faith Cathedrial. Vilnius, 2007. 72 p.
- Dyglys M., Veneration of the Servant of God Barbora Žagarietė in Žiemgala. [Master's research work, R. Adv., Dr. Jonas Boruta SJ]. Telšiai Bishop Vincentas Borisevičius Priest Seminary. Telšiai, 2008. 65 p.
- Mitrikas K., Žagarė church history, [Bachelor's research work, R. Adv., Dr. P. Spurgevičius, Dr. L. Klimka]. Vilniaus pedagoginis universitetas, Faculty of History, Universal History Cathedrial. Vilnius, 2007. 43 p.