Aug 2, 2010




Slovakia: A Distinctly Marian Nation

Most people tend to get confused when speaking of the numerous nations that make up Central Europe. Lithuania, Hungary, and Slovenia - I confidently bet that 98% of Americans couldn’t identify them on a blank map any better than they could the now-extinct territories of Brandenburg-Prussia, the United Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, or Farther-Pomerania. Who can blame them? It seems that borders and names change every generation. It’s so much work keeping up with them. The Peace of Westphalia, which set in motion a new political order of sovereignty, has hardly proven to be a peace. Empires still come and go with wars and treaties. Revolutions, invasions, and civil wars tear countries apart. The Russians and the Germans were especially adept at grabbing new lands and adding it to their rosters of conquest. And if you include the people a little further to the southeast, of the former Yugoslavia, it gets even muddier every day.

But nations are made up of people; people who share a common culture that grows within a common but vaguely defined piece of earth that has been sanctified by a common history. The further you get from that center of commonality, the more blurred it becomes until eventually you have a different people, a different culture, and a different nation. The border is where cultures mix. Try as one might to define where a nation begins, it’s ultimately up to the people who live there to decide it.

The brokers behind the ill-conceived Treaty of Versailles made little of this truth and in 1918 overnight created a country called Czechoslovakia. Most people I meet today still use this name to describe that place below Poland and east of Germany. It doesn’t exist though and it never did, it was always two nations. The Czechs and the Slovaks. Two different languages. Two different histories. Two different cultures. Friendly with each other but definitely two different peoples. Their amicable separation in 1993 is proof of that.

Devotion to the Mother of God

What the Czechs and the Slovaks have had in common since their introduction to the Gospel is the love of the Holy Virgin Mary. Because in that borderland between the Czechs and the Slovaks was the site of the great miracle where the Mother of God raised up her Son and turned back the rampaging Mongols. This was an event that these two distinct peoples shared (as I wrote about in Our Lady of Hostyn), where the Madonna became Queen of the Marian Gardens that are Bohemia and Moravia and Silesia and Slovakia (Those of Sub-Carpathian-Rus ancestry, I’m not forgetting you, but yours belongs to the Slovak/Hungarian/Russian mix of culture that shares so much more with the Ukraine).

Despite more than 1,000 churches, chapels, and shrines dedicated to her honor in the Czech Republic, it’s interesting to note that the Blessed Virgin has never been given patronage of the peoples there. St. Wenceslaus, St. Adalbert, St. Ludmila, St. Prokop and St. Agnes of Bohemia among others have all been officially recognized at one time or another as the caretakers of the Czechs. Slovakia on the other hand, acknowledges only two, both of whom delivered Christ to them: St. Cyril and St. Mary.

Evidence of Slovakia’s devotion to Mary is shown in the shrines that stretch back in time nearly a thousand years, in the old Marian hymns and songs so lovingly composed in the Slovak language, in every home where the sanctity of the family and the purity of youth has been so jealously preserved. Along mountain passes, dangerous curves, river crossings, and just about anywhere that protection or help is needed, you’d always find a picture or statue of the Virgin Mary.

Our Lady of Sorrows of Šaštín

In 1564, part of Slovakia was under control of Lord Imrich Czobor, Vice-Palatine of Hungary, who was known for his cruelty to his pious wife, Angelica. One day while riding in a carriage through the town of Šaštín, near the edges of Moravia, Imrich became so enraged during an argument with Angelica that he stopped the carriage, kicked her out onto the side of the road, and left her there.

Humiliated before the simple townspeople, she fell to her knees and with tears in her eyes began praying aloud to Our Lady of Sorrow (103 years before the title was officially approved by the Vatican). She promised to erect a statue of the Virgin Mary if she would only change her husband’s cold heart and bring love to her dead marriage. When she looked up, the carriage was turning around. From that day onward, Imrich never again raised his voice or his hand to Angelica and their love became famous.

Angelica kept her promise to the Virgin and commissioned a wooden statue of Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows with Christ spread across her lap. It was placed in a small shrine in the town and all of the residents flocked to see it. Word of miraculous cures and granted favors began to spread and soon people flocked from all around the countryside to visit it. For over one hundred and fifty years it grew in its magnetism as a place of pilgrimage. Finally in 1732, before a crush of 20,000 pilgrims, the archbishop of Estergom proclaimed the statue to be responsible for 726 miracles. A large church with an adjoining monastery was built to house it. In 1927, Pope Pius XI declared Our Lady of Seven Sorrows to be the patroness of Slovakia.
The second half of the twentieth century brought new character to Marian devotion in Slovakia. In 1964 Pope Paul VI bestowed the title of Basilica Minor on the church at Šaštín. Meanwhile, the Slovakian bishops, still under the Communist yoke, named Our Lady of Sorrows of Šaštín the Protector of Slovakia. And in Washington DC, before there was a “Czech shrine” dedicated at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, there was already a “Slovak shrine,” dedicated in 1965 to Our Lady of Seven Sorrows.

These recent events had all been given supporting momentum by an apparition that took place in 1958 which the visionary Theresa Neumann predicted was destined to become “the second Lourdes, of Slovakia.” See below for posting on "Our Lady of Turzovka," also borrowed from Sanctus Christopher blogspot!


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