Blessed Teofilius Matulionis

photograph of Blessed Teofilius Matulionis, 20 October 1933, photographer unknown; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsMemorial

Profile

The middle of three brothers born to the peasant family of Jurgis Matulionis and Ona Juocepyte; after his mother died, his father re-married, and the couple then had seven more children. Teofilius studied at Antaliepte, Lithuania from 1887 to 1892, then Dvinsk (modern Daugpilis, Latvia) from 1892 to 1900, and then at the seminary in Saint Petersburg, Russia; he could speak Russian, Latvian and Polish. At one point he questioned his vocation, left seminary, and supported himself by teaching, but later returned to seminary. Ordained a priest of the diocese of Mohilev, Belarus on 17 March 1900.

He assisted briefly in several parishes in Latvia, and on 26 June 1900 was assigned to Latgalia, Latvia. From 1910 to 1929 he was assigned to the parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Saint Petersburg, an area where Catholics were a distinct minority, and where they came under increased persecution following the Communist takeover of Russia. The Bolsheviks confiscated all churches in 1922. Father Teofilius was imprisoned from 1923 to 1925 for failure to cooperate with the Soviets in the persecution of Archbishop Jan Cieplak.

Chosen Auxiliary Bishop of Mohilev, Belarus and Titular Bishop of Matrega by Pope Pius XI on 8 December 1928, he was consecrated in secret on 7 February 1929. On 24 November 1929 he was arrested and sentenced to hard labour in a prison camp north of Arctic Circle for the crime of having had contact with people outside the Soviet Union. In prison he would often get up in the middle of the night to celebrate Mass in secret, distributing the Eucharist to other prisoners when possible. The privations of the prison broke his health; Father Teofilius was re-located to solitary confinement in a prison in Saint Ptersburg and finally turned over to Lithuania as part of a prisoner exchange.

Chosen Archbishop of Kaišiadorys, Lithuania on 9 January 1943 by Pope Pius XII. In 1946 he released a pastoral letter to his diocese; the Soviet authorities imprisoned him for ten years for actively practising his vocation. Released in 1956, he was placed under house arrest in Birštonas, Lithuania to prevent his returning to active work as a bishop. On 25 December 1957 Matulionis consecrated Vincentas Sladkevicius a bishop without the consent of the Communists. The authorities mocked him for celebrating the consecration is his kitchen; Matuliones shamed them for forcing him to such a reduced state. For his disobediance, the Communists exiled him to Seduva, Lithuania for the rest of his life. Martyr.

Born

Died

  • during a routine search of his apartment by Soviet authorities, he was given an injection by a KGB nurse and dropped dead on 20 August 1962 in Seduva, Radviliškis, Lithuania
  • his body was exhumed and autopsied in 1999; tests indicated that he had been poisoned
  • interred in the crypt of the Transfiguration Cathedral of Kaišiadorys, Kaisiadorys, Kaišiadorys District Municipality, Kaunas, Lithuania

Venerated

Beatified

Readings

You are a martyr. It is you who must bless me. Pope Pius XI during an audience in the Vatican on 24 March 1934

It is an honor to the Lithuanian nation to have such a hero. Pope Pius XI

MLA Citation

  • “Blessed Teofilius Matulionis“. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 July 2019. Web. 20 August 2019. <>