The State of Virginity

The State of Virginity
I should like you to be free of all worries. The unmarried man is busy with the Lord's affairs, concerned with pleasing the Lord; but the married man is busy with this world's demands and occupied with pleasing his wife. This means he is divided. The virgin - indeed, any unmarried woman - is concerned with things of the Lord, in pursuit of holiness in body and spirit. The married woman, on the other hand, has the cares of this world to absorb her and concerned with pleasing her husband. I am going into this with you for your own good. I have no desire to place restrictions on you, but I do want to promote what is good, what will help you to devote yourselves entirely to the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Thursday, December 31, 2009

MEDJUGORJE? WHAT THEY THINK!

"Medjugorje? What They Think!" is a book filled with testimonies from around the world. The inteviewees are archbishops, bishops, priests and lay people from various countries and cultures. One thing they all agree upon is: Our Lady is leading us to her Son, Jesus, and She is helping us to open our hearts to God and to His grace. To read these testimonies is to share in a number of Medjugorje experiences, which the pilgrims have expressed in their own personal and unique ways. Readers are likely to find in them echoes of their own experiences. Above is a photo of this wonderful book which I snapped on my bed. Below are excerpts taken from this book.

From the very beginning, I was convinced that Our Lady was present here. My wish for all priests is that they receive the grace to believe in Our Lady's apparitions and the grace to do what she is asking us. Our own priests are convinced. They have "touched" her presence here. For me, the conversion of the pilgrims is one of the noteworthy proofs. Some pilgrims, who had not been to confession for 40 years, have finally done so here, and they continue to live their faith on their return to Lebanon. Many physical healings also occur. One young man, who came here with brain cancer, was completely healed. He is married for two years now, and they have a baby. There are many healings. We are preparing our reports.There are many signs. Medjugorje is a joy. It is heaven on Earth! (Fr. Boulos Fahd, Spiritual Counsellor of the Catholic Television "Telelumiere" Lebanon.)

It is an experience of the Christian faith lived to the full. People here are believers and they live the faith as can be plainly seen. The faith permeates their whole being, heart and soul. We are all part of the same family. We are all brothers and sisters. (Mons. Thomas L. Dupre, Bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts USA).

Concerning the actual apparitons, the presence of Our Lady here, I would say that it is difficult to give a precise opinion after so short a time. I do not possess all the elements necessary for discernment. What I can say is that something is happening here. I had the grace to meet the visionary Marija and to be present during her prayer. Something happens that goes beyond my reasoning. An analytical intelligence always wants to explain everything, but I think that we simply have to admire all that is happening. Our Lady challenges us here. To those who doubt, She may shed some more light with time... (Mon. Jean-Vincent Ondo, Bishop of the Diocese of Oyem, Gabon.)

There are many conversions here, which can lead to spiritual vocations: priestly vocation, religious vocation, active lay vocation ... There is an atmosphere of pilgrimage, order and prayer. I do not see anything negative. I am positively impressed. We have seen people praying in deep recollection. The ambience is good. (Mon. Julio Ojeda Pascual, OFM, Bishop of San Ramon, Peru.)

Many Austrians have come to Medjugorje during recent years. Many speak about it positively and with enthusiasm, because they experience personal change. In this place of grace and of Our Lady's presence, they had deep experiences of Jesus Christ in the sacraments, especially in confession and in the Eucharist. This atmosphere of liberation impresses them. They speak about peace, about harmony between God and men and between men. Harmony brings peace, and the most beautiful fruit of peace is joy. From the very first moment, I was impressed by the pilgrims, as well as by the atmosphere of prayer, of inner joy and peace that radiates from everywhere. As Christ himself says, I believe that the good tree can be recognised by good fruits.(Mons. Dr. Ludwig Schwarz, Auxiliary Bishop of Vienna, Austria)

Since 1998, I have been coming to Medjugorje every year with a large group of pilgrims from Switzerland. What I experience with them here, I have never experienced anywhere else. Almost all of them make a personal confession, almost all of them have a deep personal experience, which - for most of them - has a profound impact on their lives. Not only does it change their professional and personal environments, it changes their very lives. (Fr. Roman Gruter from Switzerland)

I try to live the messages of Medjugorje. I meditate the Scripture, I go to monthly confession, I revere the Eucharist and pray the Office, I try to fast, and I noticed a difference in my homilies after fasting. I have embraced the "Medjugorje Spirituality"as far as you can call it that. It is important for me to read the message every day, and to listen to tapes of Fr. Slavko and Fr. Jozo, more than anything else. And all the time you get new insights. There is a great depth in the messages. When the monthly message comes, I write it sentence by sentence and I meditate on it, and I feel a deep inner joy from doing so. They make me very happy. Medjugorje is here to strengthen our faith in God's Word. For western society, this is the critical thing. Do not prejudge Medjugorje. Come and see! (Fr. John Cooper, Pastor of St. Robert's, Morpeth, England.)

The basic message of Medjugorje is absolutely solid. We are living in 2002, but men and women are still made of body and soul. We all have traces of original sin. Our needs are the same as they were in the time of the apostles and in any other generation. Basically, we are God's children and our cries are as loud as in any generation. Therefore, the message has to be the same! We cannot do without God. This is the marvellous thing about Medjugorje. We find here a Divine oasis, and this is the living Church as it should be. Tradition is not a dirty word, although it seems so to some people! The life of a priest consists in bringing people back to God, people who have wandered away because they thought religion was irrelevant. Thank God that he is God and provides places like this. I have been to other places, but Medjugorje is the shining light today in our society. (Mons. Pearse Lacey, Retired Bishop of Toronto, Canada)

I came to Medjugorje for the first time in 1983. I have been here about seven or eight times. Each visit is always a great grace. I have heard hundreds of testimonies of people who have experienced conversion, and who found faith in Medjugorje. What impresses me most as a priest is that you have no problem here with empty confessionals! In Vienna, in some parishes, we have one or two confessions per month, while here, a priest has to be careful not to begin hearing confessions too early in the morning, because he will not be able to get out of the confessional until evening! The grace here is tangible and visible even to the blind! (Fr. Leo Maasburg, a priest of the Diocese of Vienna who was working on the Cause of the Beatification of Mother Teresa)

Living in this way, abandoning oneself to God, is madness in the eyes of the world. I don't live like this because otherwise I wouldn't have anything else to do! This way of life involves swimming against the stream. Why? Because of whom? For what reason? I carry Jesus and Mary in my heart, and "the world" does not know them. I live this kind of life purely for Them. Living in Medjugorje on a permanent basis is not at all the same as coming here on pilgrimage, which can lift some to the seventh heaven! Rather it is a laborious daily journey through the desert where we have to seek the source of life and the meaning of our existence. Every day is full of both joy and tears, happiness and suffering. I know that God's reward is great. The prayer rhythm here in Medjugorje melts hearts. Even the most hardened hearts open here. (Melinda Dumitrescu, violinist from Romania living in Medjugorje.)

After coming here, I met Fr. Svetozar who knew that one of my college degrees was in English, and that I had taught some English before, so he asked if I could help with that in Mother's Village. I also started to help by doing some music in the church for the English Mass. In May 2001, I became the director for English Mass and the English liturgy, and now, I have been doing precisely that for two solid years It has been an incredible blessing. Living here in Medjugorje for two and a half years, has been like going to school. I have learned so much about human relations, about the beauty and the frailty of the human heart. (Jamie Marich, a student from the USA)

Friday, December 25, 2009

MY CHRISTMAS WISH 2009


(The above Christmas photo was taken in St. John's Cathedral, Kuala Lumpur.)

Just now I read again the book entitled "Medjugorje? What They Think!" which I brought home with me from Medjugorje. As I was flipping through the pages, I came across the interview with Rita Falsetto who went to Medjugorje as a volunteer for eight years. Fr. Dario Dodig spoke to her in 2001, a few days before she left. In response to Father Dario's question, "What would you say about your experience of Medjugorje as a result of your stay here?", she said:

When I first came here, it was more to support the humanitarian aid. As I began to work with Father Slavko I began to pray more, to attend the evening programme, the rosary, Podbrdo, Krizevac. As time passed by, my spiritual life was opening up, and getting progressively better. I was learning more about my Catholic faith. I was learning a lot from Fr. Slavko basically by watching him, observing him, being here during his Adorations and in general just praying more. Fr. Slavko, as we all know, lived everything he spoke about the messages of Our Lady. He lived fasting, prayer, conversion; he was a living example of how to live the messages of our Lady. Through that, I felt myself getting to know God and Our Lady and the beautiful traditions of the Catholic faith. (Excerpted from page 76 of the book: Medjugorje? What They Think!)

Next, I was reading the interview with Stephen and Wende Paliakas who spent 10 months in Medjugorje as volunteers in Mother's Village.
Stephen: At first my family thought I was crazy, "Why don't you go and get a job and start to earn some money to pay the bills?" However, we were persistent, we felt called in our hearts to do this and when they understood eventually they became supportive of us, but initially they thought we were nuts!

Wende: The only time in America we heard about Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina was during the war, so many people in their heads thought that the war was still raging. Many people thought we were coming to a dangerous place. Instead, we were coming to a place that was full of peace. When we go home we will make sure they understand this is a place of peace. We will try to get them to come as well.

Stephen: This is the safest place in the world!

Wende: It is protected by Our Lady!
(Excerpted from page 86 of the book: Medjugorje? What They Think!)

Then there is Melinda Dumitrescu, a violinist from Romania who decided to live permanently in Medjugorje. According to her:

Living in this way, abandoning oneself to God, is madness in the eyes of the world. I don't live like this because otherwise I wouldn't have anything else to do! This way of life involves swimming against the stream. Why? Because of whom? For what reason? I carry Jesus and Mary in my heart, and "the world" does not know them. I live this kind of life purely for Them.

By renouncing a career in music, I renounced many comforts, including that of obtaining the passport of another country when the opportunity was available to me. Now when I am invited somewhere, I always have to undergo many procedures in order to obtain a visa. In order to continue to play here in this parish, I need a residence permit. God will provide. It will please me greatly if it was possible to arrange that those who desire to put their lives at the service of this parish as volunteers, could receive all the necessary documentation. I know that I am not the only one here with this kind of problem. There are many volunteers in Medjugorje who want to do something worthwhile but they all encounter the same problem. One never knows when the law is going to change, and this is so in other places besides Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Living in Medjugorje on a permanent basis is not at all the same as coming here on a pilgrimage, which can lift some to the seventh heaven! Rather it is a laborious daily journey through the desert where we have to seek the source of life and the meaning of our existence. Every day is full of both of joy and tears, happiness and suffering. I know that God's reward is great. (Excerpted from pages 294-295 of the book: Medjugorje? What They Think!)

I really envy them very much especially Melinda Dumitrescu who decided to stay in Medjugorje on a permanent basis. I suppose they must have spent the most beautiful and memorable moments of their lives there. How lucky they are! Be it joy or tears, happiness or suffering, everything about Medjugorje is simply beautiful. When I came back from Medjugorje more than two years ago, I was so desperate to go there again to the extent that I even wrote to the University of Sarajevo to inquire about the Ph.D. programs of this university. I only wanted to be as close to Medjugorje as possible. But circumstances just don't allow me to further my studies there.

Tonight I prayed to Our Lady that I may be given the chance to go to Medjugorje again as a volunteer this time and stay there for many, many years. Maybe I can teach English in Mother's Village like what Wende did. I can even teach French. This is my Christmas wish. It is indeed a beautiful dream and I entrust this dream in the hands of Our Lady.

On this beautiful Christmas Day, I would like to wish all my readers, fellow bloggers, friends and relatives a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TESTIMONY OF FATHER LUKA SUSAC

Father Luka Susac was born on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi - October 4, 1922. He attended school in Ljubuski and Siroki Brijeg. He completed his theological studies in Zagreb, where he was ordained in 1947.

He served as associate pastor in Mostar for two years, as pastor in Konjic for four years, as guardian and pastor of the monastery of Humac for six years, as pastor in Vitina for ten years, and as pastor in Medjugorje for six years. Today, Father Luka is a member of a pastoral team in the major Franciscan parish and monastery of Humac.

TESTIMONY OF FR. LUKA SUSAC
Regularly, every day, four Franciscan priests from the monastery of Humac - Frs. Janko Bubalo, Vinko Dragicevic, Stanko Vasilj, and I - go to Medjugorje to help hear confessions. October 22, 1981, was no different from any other day, until late afternoon.

We arrived st Medjugorje about 4:15, and I had just parked the car in front of the parish rectory when Fr. Zrinko Cuvalo, the acting pastor, asked me to stay at the parish office before we began to hear confessions. Many people had been stopping at the office to talk with the local priests, and Fr. Cuvalo asked me to help out because I had been pastor of the parish for more than six years (previous to the apparitions of Our Lady) and knew the parishioners, and, presumably, was familiar with many local problems.

I went into the office, to await the expected parishioners, and in an idle moment glanced through a window toward the hill of Krizevac. I noticed, instead of a cross. what seemed to be a white pillar of bright light, which soon took on the contour or outline of a woman. I immediately called for Fr. Tomislav Vlasic to come to the office and look through the window. "Look toward Krizevac!" I almost shouted. He looked for a moment, then left the room and returned with a pair of binoculars, with which we examined the unusual light. Then Frs. Janko and Stanko came to the window and the four of us took turns looking through the binoculars. I had two turns with the binoculars.

Looking through the window with the binoculars, I saw what seemed to be a statue of a woman with her arms extended, looking toward the parish church. Rather than "statue" perhaps I would say "outline," for I could not make out the eyes, or mouth, or hair. At times, it seemed, the figure bowed to her left, then to her right. The figure was visible for approximately half an hour.

It would be inaccurate to say simply that I was excited; throughout my body coursed a sensation of joy - an awareness of joy - or maybe pure joy itself. I remember a thought that passed through my mind: "This is a reward from Our Lady for our exhausting four months of hearing confessions in Medjugorje."

Many pilgrims, in and outside the church, also saw this unusual appearance. Those who had been inside the church came out on the lawn, and everybody was kneeling, praying, singing, and uttering gasps of joy. All heads were turned toward Krizevac and all faces were bright with exultation.

I am willing to confirm the truthfulness of this testimony by oath any time!

(signed) Fr. Luka Susac

Father Luka Susac died September 21, 1997, as he was dressing himself to celebrate Holy Mass.

(Excerpted from the book entitled "The Apparitions of Our Lady at Medjugorje" by Father Svetozar Kraljevic, pages 193 - 195.)

Is Our Lady of Medjugorje a hoax? Is Medjugorje real? These are the questions that many unbelievers seem to be asking. So, what can we deduce from Father Luka Susac's testimony? Many pilgrims had actually seen this unusual event with their own eyes. They have already seen Our Lady. How can She not be real? How can she be a hoax? Think of it!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

THE APPARITIONS OF OUR LADY AT MEDJUGORJE

The Apparitions of Our Lady at Medjugorje by Father Svetozar Kraljevic is a book that presents a truthful historical account of the extraordinary events that occurred at and near Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, since 1981. Above is a photo of this book which I snapped on my bed. Let us see what Father Svetozar has to say in the introduction of this book.

INTRODUCTION, 2005
Before the evening service on June 24, 1981, Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti said to Fr. Mario Knezovic: Father, she really does appear to us. She really does! Now in 2005, Marija gives the same testimony and puts before us the same call as in 1981.

Since June 24, 1981, the unfolding world events, filled mostly with wars, speak of the nature of human hearts and the message of Our Lady.

Many say that the greatest event in their life is what took place on the hill of Podbrdo on June 24, 1981. Pilgrims believe that in this Christ-centered event Our Lady is present in the same way as in Cana of Galilee or at other places where she was with Jesus. As the servant of the Lord, she speaks the words of the Holy Spirit.

The presence of Our Lady meets the need and the thirst of human beings for God. Each person is filled with an intense desire for God and is in deep need for the supernatural. Humanity is curious about God. We are filled with the desire to be the person that we believe we are capable of being. We know that it is possible only in God. This curiousity is expressed in love and faith, and for many, unfortunately, in hate and rejection.

Human beings appear confident, comfortable and self-sufficient and with no need for help from above. However, almost like in a secret conspiracy, unexpectedly, a person extends hands towards heaven and asks for the grace of faith to be rescued from the uncontrollable and threatening world. For this reason, Medjugorje remains a destination of so many who are seeking the face of God. Those who have been climbing the Medjugorje mountains, who receive the sacraments and come again and again speak of the human thirst for Him.

Medjugorje stands as an oasis in the desert. "Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink" (Jn 7,37).

I offer this book to all those who want to seek answers to their life-questions, who face their need for and curiousity about God and who continue being pilgrims in their faith. Medjugorje is a good place for all this to happen.

Medjugorje, the Feast Day of St. Bonaventura 2005.

Father Svetozar Kraljevic

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

FATHER SLAVKO BARBARIC IS NOT A DISOBEDIENT FRANCISCAN

Was Father Slavko's presence in Medjugorje illegal? Did he carry out pastoral work illegally in Medjugorje? How do we define the word "illegal"? This is what I would like to write about tonight. Father Slavko is dead now. He cannot defend himself anymore. After giving his whole life to God and to men he shouldn't be remembered as a "Disobedient Franciscan". Let there be justice for him.

Why did Bishop Zanic order Father Slavko to be sent away from Medjugorje? Why was Father Slavko deprived of confessional jurisdiction in the territories of all dioceses of Herzegovina? Did he really do anything seriously wrong? In October 1984, Bishop Zanic ordered Father Slavko not to permit the apparitions to take place in church any more but Father Slavko did not carry out these orders. On 30th January 1985, he was ordered to leave Medjugorje. But Father Slavko disobeyed this order and remained in Medjugorje until the 15th of September when he moved to Blagaj (25 km away). He was ordered not to go to Medjugorje anymore but he disobeyed this order regularly. On 15th September 1988, the Franciscan Provincial in Humac suggested that Father Slavko be transferred to the Monastery of Humac. Father Slavko moved there but returned permanently to Medjugorje in 1991 without the bishop's permission. Throughout these years he continued to remain in Medjugorje even though he was constantly being ordered to leave Medjugorje. On 21st February 2000, his faculties for hearing confession had been withdrawn. He died on 24th November 2000.

Why did Father Slavko want to remain in Medjugorje despite the bishop's opposition? Was it because he was disobedient by nature? Visionary Ivan confirmed that he had received this "message" from the Gospa on 3rd February 1985: I wish Slavko to remain here and to attend to all the details and the notes so that at the end of my visit we will have a synoptic image of everything." So who should Father Slavko obey? Our Lady or the Bishop?

Remaining in Medjugorje had brought Father Slavko so much trouble and pain but still he insisted to remain there. His years in Medjugorje were certainly not easy years. His life did not flow like a song. He had to work so hard not for himself but for the Church, for God's people despite the bishop's disapproval. And we all know how difficult it is to go against the tide. Only a real hero like Father Slavko could swim upstream to make Mother's Village and St. Francis's Garden a reality. Only a real hero like Father Slavko could survive the most adverse conditions and make Medjugorje what it is today. What did he gain from his stay in Medjugorje? Nothing for himself as we can see. On the contrary he put himself in a very disadvantaged position and in the end he was even deprived of the faculties of hearing confession. He died a premature death due to over working.

Why did Father Slavko continue to allow the apparitions to take place in the church? Because he knew that the apparitions are genuine. And he was punished for it. Is it fair? Why did he climb Mount Krizevac every day? He climbed Mount Krizevac at dawn every day because Our Lady has said that she prays at the foot of the Cross on Mount Krizevac every morning at 5.00 am. Those who have climbed Mount Krizevac before would know how rocky it is and how difficult it is to climb this mountain. And we all know how cold it can be at 5.00 am in the morning. And Father Slavko wasn't very healthy either. But Father Slavko would never miss the opportunity to join Our Lady in prayer every morning. Not even the most unfavourable weather conditions could stop him from climbing this mountain every day. That was why he refused to leave Medjugorje. How could he join Our Lady in prayer every morning away from Medjugorje? His immense love for Our Lady was the greatest reason why he refused to leave Medjugorje. And it may also be true to say that it was his immense love for Our Lady that got him into trouble with the bishop.

The word "illegal" means against the law. Is it against the law to join Our Lady in prayer? Is it against the law to do good deeds? Whose law is that? Is Mother's Village illegal? Is St. Francis's Garden illegal? Is the Cenacolo Community illegal? Are the good fruits of Father Slavko illegal? Did Father Slavko preach illegally? What did he preach? The word of God and the messages of Our Lady. Can these be illegal?

Father Slavko is not a fool. He is a brilliant scholar with a Ph.D. in psychology. He knew what he was doing. There must be something in Medjugorje that made him believe that the apparitions are authentic. That was why he continued to defend Medjugorje despite all odds. If there is nothing on Podbrdo Hill and Mount Krizevac, why did he climb these mountains everyday? Surely he wouldn't make a fool of himself like that? He knew that Our Lady is there. In order to defend Medjugorje and to prove to the world that the apparitions are authentic, Father Slavko has really made a lot of sacrifices. He really deserves all the praises on earth and not unfounded criticisms.

To those who are not in favor of him, just remember him as a good priest who lived a holy life. In this sinful world, seldom can we come across a holy man like Father Slavko. His refusal to leave Medjugorje is no big deal when one looks at the great projects that he has done for Our Lady.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

DID FATHER SLAVKO BARBARIC REALLY DIE IN DISOBEDIENCE?

As I was browsing through the web just now, I came across this comment about Father Slavko Barbaric: It was forbidden to him by the bishop of Mostar to stay in Medjugorje, where he died in disobedience. As I was reading this comment, my mind suddenly flashed back to some years ago when I first decided to do my MA in English Literature. After filling up my application form, I went to see my headmistress and asked her to sign the form. (As my superior, the headmistress had to give her approval and sign the form.) Guess what she did? She said that she wouldn't sign the form for me and she couldn't give a valid reason for that. In order to defend my rights, I really created a row out of this. No doubt she was my headmistress but did she have the right to stop me from furthering my studies? I agree that we have to obey our superiors but what if they turn out to be irrational and purposely make life difficult for us? Do we still have to obey our superiors under such circumstances? Am I being disobedient for pursuing an MA in English Literature when my headmistress disapproved it? Until today, I have never regretted going against her wishes.

Not long after I started teaching in my present school, a colleague of mine told me that his former headmistress had refused to sign his government loan form when he wanted to purchase a house. Again, what right had this headmistress to prevent my colleague from purchasing a house? I told my colleague that when people purposely make life difficult for him when they are supposed to be in a position to help him, then he should defend his basic rights. Even children would rebel against their parents if they were forbidden to watch television by their parents. Why? Because they think their parents are just being irrational.

Bishop Zanic had personally approved Father Slavko's transfer to the Medjugorje parish. Why was he transferred to Medjugorje? Because he was a priest with a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Freiburg in Switzerland. Because the bishop believed that Father Slavko would be the most perfect man to investigate the Medjugorje apparitions and expose it to the outside world. However, Father Slavko ended up being a staunch supporter of Medjugorje and became the spiritual director to the visionaries.

As we can see it, Father Slavko's entire life merely centred around Medjugorje. Until his death on Mount Krizevac on 24 November 2000, he was the mainstay of the Medjugorje pilgrims. Even after his death, his grave and memorial have become a part of everyone's pilgrimage to Medjugorje. If he were transferred elsewhere away from Medjugorje, the pilgrims would still seek him out because their pilgrimage wouldn't be complete without meeting Father Slavko. Why was he forbidden to stay in Medjugorje? His presence there was so important.

After giving his whole life to God and to men, what did Father Slavko ask for in return? He only wanted to bring God's Kingdom on earth, to serve God and men and to live the life of Christ. The motto of his life is not to have anything and to give away everything. What he wanted was to stay in Medjugorje to be in the service of the pilgrims as his presence is of utmost importance to them. Is it fair to stop him from meeting the pilgrims? What he wanted was to climb Podbrdo Hill or Mount Krizevac every day to pray in every kind of weather. If he were transferred elsewhere, then he wouldn't be able to go to Podbrdo Hill and Mount Krizevac every day. Is it fair to stop him from praying on Podbrdo Hill and Mount Krizevac, something he loved to do so much? Just imagine how Father Slavko would feel away from Medjugorje. Surely, he would be heartbroken!

Was Father Slavko really a disobedient Franciscan? In what aspect was he disobedient? Is it fair to say that he died in disobedience just because he did not want to leave Medjugorje? What about his good fruits? There are so many of them. These should not be ignored. Father Slavko is truly a disciple of Christ who had obeyed his Master and followed Him faithfully. He is the living example of how the messages of Our Lady should be lived. Let us always remember his sacrifices for God and for us.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

THE SAINTLY PRISONER: FATHER JOZO ZOVKO


Blest are those persecuted for holiness' sake; the reign of God is theirs. Blest are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of slander against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven; they persecuted the prophets before you in the very same way. Matthew 5:10-12

When the police and officials of the Communist League demanded Father Jozo Zovko to discontinue the evening mass and close St. James's Church, he refused and drove to Sarajevo to argue his case before the Commission of Religious Affairs. The commission chairman shouted at him, charging that the assemblies in Medjugorje were more political than religious, that their true purpose was the furtherance of Croatian nationalism and that the mastermind behind it all would be prosecuted.

On 11 August 1981, Father Jozo Zovko was summoned to the Communist Party headquarters in Mostar and was given a final warning to abolish the evening mass at St. James's and stop the crowds from assembling on Apparition Hill. Father Jozo responded that he would continue to celebrate mass as long as people came to the church. Father Jozo therefore had to face trial on a charge of treasonous conspiracy that would carry a long prison term. Father Jozo's trial began and ended on 21 October 1981. He was convicted of sedition, a crime that could carry a death sentence. Indeed he was not sentenced until the next morning and was given a reduced term of three and a half years in prison. As what the Virgin Mary said to the visionaries, "His punishment would not be severe."

Who is the real hero of Medjugorje? It is human nature that everyone tends to save his own skin first in times of danger. But the opposite seems to be true of Father Jozo Zovko. He did not betray Medjugorje to save his skin. He was ready to go to prison for Medjugorje - for the truth. Father Jozo is very devout. He is a priest of great charisma.

In his book, "The Truth About Medjugorje", Father Dr. Ljudevit Rupcic clearly explains this situation. The following excerpt is taken from pages 70 - 73 of this book of truth.

THE RECKLESS REVERSAL
At that time, one can rightly say that the bishop was the leader of those who were accepting Medjugorje. His attitude encouraged those who, for whatever reasons, did not, as yet, take a positive attitude towards the apparitions.

Shortly after this, however (summer of 1981), the bishop began to change his mind about the events, although there was no important change in Medjugorje itself to account for it. The explanation for the bishop's change of attitude is to be found outside Medjugorje.

The communist and (officially) atheist state management in Yugoslavia soon began to take note of the fact that the Bishop of Mostar's positive stance toward the apparitions - expressed clearly in his oral and written statements, as well as his public appearances - stood in contrast to the official state attitude toward the events, namely, that the apparitions were counter-revolutionary. This had been publicly announced on July 4, 1981 in Sutjeska by the then-President of the Communist Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Branko Mikulic. Officials of the State Security Police, through the Executive Committee, summoned Zanic to Sarajevo and there threatened to imprison him unless he stopped speaking in favor of the apparitions. Their threat worked effectively on the bishop, who returned to Mostar another man. It is difficult to say, at this juncture, just how much the bishop really had to fear. People react differently to situations like these.

During the same period, Fr. Jozo Zovko was also summoned to see the U.D.B.A. (State Security). They threatened Father Jozo with imprisonment if he didn't change his (favorable) stance towards the Medjugorje apparitions. No doubt, the threats levelled at the bishop and at Father Jozo were similar, since they were both "guilty" of the same "crime". But Father Jozo continued to act according to his convictions while, at the same time, trying not to provoke the U.D.B.A. into carrying out their threats. Fr. Jozo, as pastor of the parish, wished to continue to influence the course of events in Medjugorje - events he was now convinced were coming from God through the Gospa.

Faced with the threat of imprisonment, Father Jozo continued to support Medjugorje, knowing full well the risks to which he exposed himself in doing so. The bishop, however, in the same situation, and confronted with the same threat, reacted differently. Unfortunately, for some men, humiliation is to be preferred to suffering.

Immediately after his face-to-face meeting with the U.D.B.A., the bishop called Fr. Jozo and related to him how he had been interrogated by the Executive Committee in Sarajevo and how, on his arrival back in Mostar, 12 of his priests had met him and upbraided him for his positive stand on Medjugorje. After this he told Fr. Jozo, "I cannot expose myself anymore. I am not ready to go to prison for Medjugorje." At that time, the bishop did not indicate that he no longer believed in the apparitions, even less that he had found some evidence against them.

On August 17, 1981, Fr. Jozo was arrested and, in the end, sentenced to a three and a half years of hard labor because of his stand on Medjugorje. Imprisoned wih him were Fr. Ferdo Vlasic, and later on, Fr. Jozo Krizic.

The situation grew more and more tense. In those days, it was very dangerous to utter even a word in favor of Medjugorje. For example, when a hardly noticeable comment appeared in "Nasa Ognjista," which is published in Duvno, the Secretary of the Religious Commission of the Republic, Filip Simic, angrily attacked the editorial staff of the paper, saying that both state and religious authorities (here having in mind Bishop Zanic and the Franciscan "provincial" Pejic) had agreed that nothing should be written about Medjugorje. With that, "Nasa Ognjista" was suppressed.

Immediately after he was released from prison (February 18, 1983), Fr. Jozo paid a visit to the bishop. In the conversation, among other things, they touched on Medjugorje. The bishop tried on this occasion to justify his actions, stating that, under the circumstances, it was not "possible" for him to have acted differently than he did, threatened as he was by the U.D.B.A. with imprisonment. Besides this, he mentioned once again the pressure brought to bear on him from diocesan priests and from some Franciscans not to intervene on Medjugorje's behalf. He said that priests had written, reproaching him for his support of the apparitions. These (diocesan) priests were against Medjugorje and feared that the Franciscans would gain prestige if the apparitions were approved. He also referred to a small circle of Franciscans around Pejic which had asked the U.D.B.A. for a favor and, therefore, were in no mood to offend it for the sake of Medjugorje.

In such a situation, the bishop had "had" to think of his own interests, he told Fr. Jozo. "How could I have acted differently?" the bishop asked. "I could not have gone to prison for Medjugorje," he said, thinking of the U.D.B.A. threat, "nor did I wish to go from being bishop to assistant pastor of a village," referring to pressure from his diocesan priests. He feared the U.D.B.A. because they could imprison him, and his priests because he was a newcomer in the diocese and the clergy had threatened him with some sort of boycott (if he had continued to support Medjugorje).

Because of his fears, and because he saw the possibility of being attacked on all sides, he realized he faced the choice of either abdicating (his authority) or completely rejecting Medjugorje.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

THE TRUTH ABOUT MEDJUGORJE BY FATHER DR. LJUDEVIT RUPCIC


Father Ljudevit Rupcic was born in Hrdomilje (Humac-Ljubuski) on September 26, 1920. After his studies in the Franciscan High School at Siroki Brijeg, he entered the Franciscan Order in 1939. Father Rupcic completed his theological studies at the Zagreb Theological Faculty and received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture in 1958. He was appointed Professor of New Testament at the Franciscan School of Theology in Sarajevo in 1958.

Father Rupcic also served on the Theological Commission of the Yugoslav Bishops' Conference from 1969-1980. The author served two prison terms for alleged "hostile propaganda" against the Yugoslav communist regime, in 1948, and again between the years 1952-1956. Father Rupcic was charged under the infamous article #133 of the Criminal Code of the SFRJ.

Father Rupcic died on 25 June 2003. He has given the last 22 years of his life to Our Lady and to Medjugorje. He has never asked for anything in return except for the truth. He was never tired in his continuing quest for the truth.

Father Rupcic is the author of many books - four on Medjugorje alone - as well as a variety of works on New Testament exegesis. He has also translated the New Testament into Croatian. "The Truth About Medjugorje" - is a candid, realistic and point-by-point response to the pamphlet "Medjugorje" published by Msgr. Pavao Zanic, Bishop of Mostar.

According to Father Rupcic: The bishop stresses in his pamphlet that "the Church and Our Lady have no need of falsehoods." Similarly inspired by the love of truth, my duty and my conscience compel me to take a different stand and try to articulate the claims of Medjugorje from the other side, as it were, according to the universal principle "audiatur at altera pars" (let the other side be heard).

But there is something more than even the love of Truth which impels me to respond to the bishop. I am also moved by love of the Bishop himself. On the occassion of his 1971 episcopal consecration in Mostar, a layman greeted Zanic in the name of the faithful of the diocese of Mostar-Duvno (of whom I am also one) with these words, "We shall enclose you in our hearts and throw the keys into the sea." The bishop responded, "My service will be loved. And please, if I should ever forget and turn to the other side, remind me!"

In what way, you ask, is my response such a reminder? Because the Gospel itself compels me when it says, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church! (Matthew 18:15-17)

The bishop has been called to account - not only once, but on countless occassions and before many witnesses. Despite this, he continues declaring "Urbi et Orbi" - before the whole world - his fabrications about Medjugorje. Because of this, there is nothing left for me to do but, in the spirit of the Gospels, to inform the whole Church.

INVOKE JESUS IN YOUR HEARTS

Our Lady said, "I am your Mother,
I have come to teach you love."
And at this time
we look at Jesus as a living Child.
He becomes poor, even smaller.
He becomes daily bread
and enters into our life.
He has done everything,
now it is up to us to open our heart.
Jesus comes in the Host: He has come.
How many times
do we receive Holy Communion
without thinking of Who has come,
Who we have accepted!

Invoke Jesus in your hearts.
Invoke Jesus with faith and
when we are all united in love,
in faith, let us pray for the sick.
It is thus that Our Lord
can make signs amongst us.
Many times, as we know from the Gospel:
He cannot do anything
in the way He did at Nazareth
because we do not believe.
Jesus himself said, "I cannot do it,
because you do not believe."
So all these prayers prepare us
and open our hearts.
Now abandon yourselves
in real communication with Jesus.
(Father Slavko Barbaric - Medjugorje, 29th December 1984)

Excerpted from the Grey Book of Medjugorje, OPEN YOUR HEARTS TO MARY QUEEN OF PEACE, page 137.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

MEDITATIONS BY FATHER SLAVKO BARBARIC



OPEN YOUR HEARTS TO MARY QUEEN OF PEACE - This grey book is the first of the four volumes of sermons and discourses given by Father Slavko Barbaric and former Medjugorje priest, Tomislav Vlasic, during 1984 - 1987 in Medjugorje, and contains talks given from Easter until December 1984. To me, it is a very precious book and the word 'priceless' would be most appropriate to describe it. I really enjoy reading all the chapters in it. In one of my articles last month entitled "Meditations by Former Medjugorje Priest, Tomislav Vlasic, I have quoted excerpts from Mr. Vlasic's sermons and discourses. Now, it's time to share Father Slavko's precious words from this wonderful book.

Father Slavko Barbaric is a very good preacher and we can never feel bored listening to him. But he will never come back to life and preach to us again. At least we should be contented that he left behind so many books for us so that we can "listen" to him in our hearts. Tonight I would like to share excerpts from Father Slavko Barbaric's sermons and discourses taken from this beautiful grey book of Medjugorje.

If we want peace we must pray and so prayer is only a means of finding peace once more, of meeting Our Lord. I am convinced Our Lady is not asking for so much prayer just to take up our time, but to lead us to Jesus, to Our Lord. This is an indirect invitation to read the Scriptures because the rosary is a meditative, biblical prayer and it is not possible to meditate the rosary well without knowing the Bible.

I have realised we do have the time but, as we often do not see the value of prayer, we say we have no time. Each person who smokes finds time for twenty, thirty or forty cigarettes a day. If we say, "I cannot find time for prayer," it would be better and more honest to say I do not see the value of prayer. This is an invitation from Our Mother, an invitation which must bring us peace. If we want peace. I believe we must find time for prayer. (Father Slavko Barbaric - Medjugorje, 15th September 1984)

When Our Lady tells us to, "Pray with your heart," this is one of the biggest problems - not a problem of knowledge because we know the message as the world has known it for two thousand years, but we have become like the deaf and blind, we no longer search for Our Lord. Our Lady wants Our Lord's Word to begin to speak to us. I will give you an example: in every Christian family there is a Cross. Many times what do we do in front of that Cross? We do not forgive others, we quarrel, we blaspheme... the Cross is the Word of forgiveness, love, sacrifice, eternal life. If it does not mean anything to us why do we have it? When we look at the cross new impulses should be born in us for our life with Our Lord and with others. (Father Slavko Barbaric - Medjugorje, 6th October 1984)

My coming here to Medjugorje, also yours and that of Father Tomislav, is part of Our Lady's plan. There is a great plan but we cannot see it all. For me, working here, only one thing is important now: to do everything I can today. I have learnt what it means to abandon oneself to God and to let oneself be guided because, many times, we have found ourselves in a situation without a solution but then realised that there was a solution, a new attitude to learn: abandonment to God. (Father Slavko Barbaric - Medjugorje, 17th October 1984)

It is very important for us to know that Our Lady asks us for the entire rosary every day (the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries). Without knowing the Bible we are not able to contemplate and meditate well. Our Lady asks for these mysteries, not just to make us recite one hundred and fifty Hail Mary's each day and then to say that we have finished! This is not the sense of the rosary. In a message, she said, "Pray with your hearts." This means that by contemplating the mysteries of Our Lady's life and those of her son, Jesus, we come closer to our redemption. For example, if we say, "Let us contemplate the second joyful mystery" we meditate on how Our Lady visited her cousin, Elizabeth. This does not mean just knowing that Mary visited Elizabeth, but Our Lady wants us to use her example to find a real stimulus for ourselves during contemplation: who is waiting for us today, who is waiting for our help, our time, our words, our consolation? We have contemplated well if we act according to our prayer, so prayer continues.

Reciting the rosary with our heart means for each mystery, searching and finding real stimulation for our daily lives. If you cannot forgive someone and find it difficult, why not meditate the fifth sorrowful mystery: Jesus forgives everyone. If we contemplate this mystery with our heart, we will find grace and be able to forgive and make peace: our conversion has begun when the Word makes us act. (Father Slavko Barbaric - Medjugorje, 8th December 1984)

The Cross is the most important Word Our Lord could tell us. What does the cross of illness or suffering mean? If we have not understood the cross, we will never understand anything of Christian life or of the life of Jesus. We have to pray a great deal in front of the Cross and meditate on it. We will not be spared our crosses and our suffering, but Our Lord will give us strength. Our Lady has come, as Jesus did, not to take away all the suffering of the world, but to show us how to live with it. As the Apostle says, "To those who love Our Lord, all our suffering will be worthwhile."

Our Lady wants to bring us to the Bible. She has said, "Read the Bible, put it in a prominent place in your families so that it will be a stimulus to you." We see the Cross and the Bible so often and can have a hundred Bibles in our homes, but if we do not look at them with our hearts they will not give us an impulse for reading and prayer; if we want them to do so, we must begin with our conversion. Conversion means letting ourselves be moved by the Cross and the Bible which is the Word given to us. Many times in our family life in front of the Cross we behave badly. If the Cross and the Bible do not mean anything to us anymore it means that our spiritual life is dead. (Father Slavko Barbaric - Medjugorje, 9th December 1984)

Fasting is something else. Fasting means "eating", not "not eating". Many people think that when we fast we do not eat anything. This is not so, we eat bread and Our Lady has asked for bread and water. People have asked me if it is possible to fast on tea rather than water. Of course. Why is Our Lady asking us to fast on bread? I believe there is a deeper reason. Our Lady is not asking us to go hungry, but to live a life of the poor. A poor person as Our Lady, is open to Our Lord and to mankind.

Practical atheism means: I do not need you. If we start to live one or two days like a poor person with just a piece of bread, little by little, a process of purification starts whereby I become detached from the material world and my egoism, and open myself to God and others. A person who is poor in spirit forgives easily. One who is proud, for example, tries to vindicate himself, whereas a person who is poor in spirit tries to make peace; a person who is poor in spirit can never say to Our Lord he does not need Him. A proud person, full of himself, can say to Our Lord that he does not need Him. (Father Slavko Barbaric - 29th December, 1984)

The Rosary, the Bible and the Cross, prayer and fasting, they are indispensable to our lives. Let us remember what Father Slavko said tonight and put his words into practice. Let us abandon ourselves totally to Our Saviour and have no fear for the future because He will take care of everything.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

SUPERNATURAL EVENTS IN MEDJUGORJE


On 23 June 1981, a violent storm struck the village of Medjugorje. Even the most senior citizens of Medjugorje had seen nothing like it in half a century. At dusk, the sky was streaked with bolts of lightning that spread in all directions and the thunder was deafening. More than a dozen fires started by lightning strikes broke out in Medjugorje that night. By morning, the fires were extinguished and the clear blue sky could be seen once again.

The 24th of June was the feast day of John the Baptist and it was on this day that the Mother of God first appeared in Medjugorje. Since then, many supernatural events had taken place in Medjugorje. Apart from the many miraculous healings which I wrote about last month, many unusual phenomena had occurred and are still occurring in this place of grace where the Mother of God is still appearing to the six visionaries.

On 29 June 1981, the sixth day of the apparitions, a pediatrics specialist, Doctor Darinka Glamuzina, was sent to examine the six visionaries during the apparition. She had earlier boasted to the visionaries of her atheism. During the apparition, she wanted to touch Our Lady and following the children's instructions, she touched Our Lady's shoulder with her hand. Dr. Glamuzina felt a shudder and experienced a sort of electric shock passing through her entire body. She was awestruck for a moment then began to stagger back down the hill. She, who was agnostic, admitted that, "Something is going on here." Since that day, she refused to have anything to do with the investigation.

On 30 June 1981, the seventh day of the apparitions, two social workers took the young visionaries for a drive in a large sedan. Their intention was to take them far away from the place of the apparition and detain them until the usual apparition time had passed. Although the children were far away from Podbrdo Hill (Apparition Hill) at the time that the apparition usually took place, as if urged by an inner persuasion, they demanded that the social workers stop the car and let them out. The social workers knew that the children had no chance of reaching the hill on time for the apparition and did as they were asked. As soon as they climbed out of the long sedan, the children knelt in a group and began to pray. Our Lady came to meet them from the Apparition Hill that was some 7 kilometers away. She was gliding toward them through the air, her long veil streaming behind her. The two social workers were terrified. They jumped back into the sedan and sped away. Later on, they admitted that they also saw something - a light.

At the apparition on August 2, the Feast of Our Lady of Angels, a group of more than 150 people reported seeing the "Miracle of the Sun". They saw the sun spinning in the orbit, descended toward the crowd and then retreated. They could stare at the sun without discomfort to their eyes. Moments later, six small hearts appeared in the sky and centred around a large heart. Then a white cloud formed and covered Podbrdo Hill. The cloud gradually dissipated and what could be seen was the clear blue sky with the sun in its normal place again.

On the afternoon of August 24, a crowd of people who were staring toward Mount Krizevac saw the Mother of God in place of the white concrete cross at the top of the mountain. More than a dozen people in the crowd said that they saw not the Virgin Herself but a "statue" of the Madonna where the cross should have been. When the statue disappeared, they could see the cross again. More than a hundred witnesses also claimed to see the word "mir" which means peace in Croatian, written in bright golden letters across the sky above the mountain.

On 28 October 1981, a strange fire erupted on the site of the first apparition on Podbrdo Hill and burned for about fifteen minutes without apparent fuel. More than five hundred people saw this fire. The guards from the militia who had been posted at the base of the hill hiked up the hill to investigate but could find no remains of the fire whatever. There were no embers, no ashes, nothing.

Father Nicholas Bulat, a professor of dogma at the seminary in Split was sent to Medjugorje to investigate the apparitions. During an apparition, he was given a seat in the rectory directly behind the visionaries. When their ecstasy began, Father Bulat lunged forward and plunged a long leatherworking needle into Vicka's left shoulder blade. Vicka was pushed forward and to one side but she showed no reaction at all to the pain even though her blouse was soaked with blood. She continued to pray. Father Bulat stabbed her again for a second time but still there was no reaction. Father Bulat left the rectory trembling. He refused to speak to anyone.

Dr. Marco Margnelli, an avowed atheist and a neurophysiologist, came to Yugoslavia during the summer of 1988 to look for evidence to contradict the visionaries. He conducted an array of medical tests on the visionaries. A few months after he returned to Milan, Dr. Margnelli, became a practicing Catholic. What actually caused this sudden change in him? According to him, "We were certainly in the presence of an extraordinary phenomenon. Whether we are dealing with an authentic apparition or something else we cannot explain and I cannot say. It is a question I prefer not to put to myself. Since returning from Yugoslavia, I have been thinking about it continually and I confess, I also ask myself nonscientific questions, such as what the meaning of the whole thing can be." What affected him most were the birds in the trees outside the rectory where the visionaries shared their apparitions. These birds were chirping and cooing and calling by the hundreds, at times deafeningly loud especially during the late afternoon but according to Dr. Margnelli, "They suddenly and simultaneously all go silent as soon as the apparition begins." He admitted that, "This absolute silence of the birds haunted me."

During the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mirjana announced that the Mother of God had promised that Medjugorje would be protected. And true enough this village had emerged from a series of Serbian air raids and artillery bombardments virtually unscathed. More than four thousand Serbian artillery shells had been fired at Medjugorje, but the only casualties were one cow, two chickens, and a dog. When the Serbian jets tried to score a direct hit on St. James's Church, their bombs weren't dropped. According to the Serb pilots as quoted in a Belgrade newspaper, "We had lost our bearings in a strange silver fog that had covered the Medjugorje parish."

No doubt there is no explanation for these phenomena. The message here is very clear. Our Lady is really appearing in Medjugorje. The Mother of God is real. Jesus is real. The Catholic Church is real. Blest are they who have not seen and have believed. (Luke: 20:29) But what about those who have seen but still do not want to believe?

Monday, November 30, 2009

TO THE MOTHER AND QUEEN OF PEACE


We come to you Dear Mother
From all parts of the world;
We bring you our problems
And with them our desires

Look on us, console us,
Lay your hands upon us;
Intercede for us with your Son.
Mother of peace, pray for us.

The whole church looks to you,
The last star of salvation;
Purify us, embrace us,
With all our hearts we pray to you.

Your little Bijakovo
And all Medjugorje
Together spread your glory
And exalt your name

For all the love dear Mother
You have poured out to us here,
We promise you in the future
To be better than we were.

Father Stanko Vasilj

Taken from the book entitled "Medjugorje" by Informativni Centar Medjugorje (The most colourful book of Medjugorje)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

MEDJUGORJE IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM

This is one of my favourite books. Bringing home this book with me is like bringing home Medjugorje with me. It is the most colourful book in Medjugorje with lots and lots of beautiful pictures. This book provides a fantastic overview and is a great resource for everything about Medjugorje. The chapters in this book include A short history about the first days in Medjugorje, Discussion of the messages of Medjugorje, The visionaries, Scientific testing done on the visionaries, Pilgrim activities in Medjugorje and much, much more. Tonight I would like to share excerpts from this wonderful book.

With this book, through pictures and words we wish to present this parish, in order to save from oblivion the events that have taken place before our eyes in the last twenty years - enabling people to pass their own judgement. At the same time, regardless of whether the judgement is positive or negative, the last twenty years invite us to remember times past with gratitude, to live the present time fervently and to be completely open to the future, which is what we have also been invited to do by the Pope in his previously-mentioned Apostolic Letter. (Medjugorje in the New Millennium, Father Ivan Sesar.)

It is our desire that the book you are holding in your hands may present to you, in pictures and in words, the twenty years of the walk of the faithful with Our Lady. May it also be an encouragement for more cognizant and Christian way of life. (Twenty Years of Medjugorje, Father Branko Rados.)

Our Lady knows very well the weaknesses of the parishioners and pilgrims She wants to work with in the salvation of the world. She is aware that supernatural strength is needed to achieve this goal. That is why with Her messages She directs and leads them toward the sources of that power. Prayer is in the first place. She recommends prayer fervently in almost all her messages. (Brief History of Our Lady's Apparitions in Medjugorje, Father Ljudevit Rupcic.)

We must truly give thanks to God for these years of abounding grace with a deep respect for Our Lady's striving here in Medjugorje to prepare us for the new milennium. Pope John Paul II, inspired with the same spirit, has called for the preparation of the whole Church for the third millennium of Christianity. (Go Out and Protect the Children, Father Jozo Zovko.)

The Bible is full of reports about visions and apparitions, and so is history of mysticism in the Church. Messages conveyed by the visionaries must be in accordance with the Biblical message. If we recall the main Medjugorje messages: peace, conversion, prayer, fasting and faith and on the pastoral level: prayer of the Rosary, reading of the Holy Bible, attending Holy Mass, confession and doing good works, we find that they do. (Phenomenology of the Medjugorje Apparitions, Father Slavko Barbaric.)

The effects of Our Lady's apparitions in today's world are difficult to evaluate. However, one thing is certain: what the shepherds of the Church often do not dare to mention, the Holy Spirit does through Mary's apparitions and Her messages to the world. The world of the little ones understands and accepts Mary's words. The faith and the experience of the Sacred Scripture again become present and alive. It is through Mary that God executes the renewal of the Church and the world. (The Pilgrim Movement in Medjugorje, Father Leonard Orec.)

To speak about Medjugorje today means to speak about God's act of renewing the world and the Church through the renewal of individuals who have become aware of their Christianity and their mission in the world. Through Mary's apparitions, prayers and many conversions, nations are healed. Our Croatian nation and also other local Churches are managing to arise from their lethargy, the apathy that ruled during communism, to once again consciously become a factor in history. Mary has appeared in Medjugorje as a sign that restores the whole fatigued Croatian people. Before the eyes of the world, She has restored to the Croatian people their authentic human and Catholic dignity. Mary, as protector of the inheritance, is an original sign of the authentic inculturation of the Gospel. (Medjugorje - An Encouragement for the Renewal of the Church and Society, Father Tomislav Pervan.)

Despite everything, a river of pilgrims to Medjugorje from all over the world does not cease. From day to day and from year to year it is growing. They feel as if Our Lady speaks directly to each of them in this place. They remain focused in prayer. Eucharistic celebrations, prayers and invocations, songs and information can be heard in several languages. In the Medjugorje Church the Rosary is prayed and Holy Mass is celebrated everyday. God's people approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Numerous Christians leave Medjugorje born anew, more peaceful, more satisfied and happier. Is this not a sign of God's presence and Mary's service in the history of salvation? (Jesus' Mother in the Service of the Work of Salvation, Father Petar Lubina.)

Places of prayer in Medjugorje in a mystical way become an 'altar' of the world upon which God wants to transform man into the body of His Church, into His living presence in the world. On a pilgrimage, through the Sacraments, the Word of God becomes the body of the Church. (From a Small Parish to a World Renowned Sanctuary, Father Svetozar Kraljevic.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

IN MEMORY OF FATHER DR. SLAVKO BARBARIC


It is now approximately 10.30 pm Malaysian time and 3.30 pm Bosnian time. I have just lighted some candles for Father Slavko. Nine years ago, on this day and around this time, Medjugorje was in shock because of the death of Father Slavko Barbaric. At 2.00 pm on that day, Father Slavko led about 70 parishioners on the "Way of the Cross" up Mount Krizevac. Upon reaching the summit of the mountain, the rain stopped and the sun shone. A beautiful rainbow could be seen at a distance near the church. After the "Way of the Cross", they started to descend and when they reached "The Resurrection" station, Father Slavko slipped and fell. He had a heart attack and died instantly.

Mount Krizevac symbolically means the gate into Heaven. On it, there is an eight meter tall white concrete cross which contains a relic from Christ's original Calvary Cross. This cross was built in 1933 in memory of the 1900th anniversary of Jesus' death. Today Krizevac has become the Calvary of Medjugorje. Father Slavko loved Mount Krizevac and he used to climb this mountain every morning at sunrise to pray. God had thus given Father Slavko the honour of dying at the gate of Heaven and entering into Paradise from there.

No doubt Father Slavko's death was premature. Why did he die at such a young age? He is the kind of man who knew no fatigue. For him, there was no rest. He never went to bed before midnight and he never saw the rising sun in his room. He always prayed. He got up at dawn and went out to pray. He used to say that the only time he had for himself as a priest was that time in the morning when, on awaking, he would go the mountains to pray. He had no time to think about himself, about his own health and sickness. He never complained about anything. He did not know how to take some time out for himself. The motto of his life was "not to have anything, to give everything away. He finally carried his cross to Mount Krizevac and left it beneath the Lord's cross that it may be glorified.

If the Lord were to tell Father Slavko this, "Listen, Father Slavko, you will die tomorrow", these words would not have any effects on his daily life. Why? Because his aim in life is to glorify God and to serve Him. He would not take any time out to think of his own life. He would still go on climbing Krizevac Mountain and Podbrdo Hill. He will still go on praying. He will still carry out his duties as a priest. He would just continue doing what he was doing. That was why the thought of death couldn't scare him. "As the Father has loved me, so I also love you. No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends." Father Slavko laid down his life for everyone. In doing so, he forgot himself. That was why he died a premature death.

Father Slavko had truly lived the life of Christ and travelled the path He had travelled. What a great blessing it is to have a priest like Father Slavko who has devoted himself completely and wholeheartedly to Christ, to the Church and to the Kingdom of God. Truly he is a wonderful gift from God. But on the contrary, we also have priests who only think of themselves and keep pestering the pope to allow them to get married. Sometimes I do wonder what would have been the fate of Christianity if Jesus were to say these words to His Father, "Father, I don't want to die on the cross. I want to get married. I want to enjoy a wonderful sex life. I want to see my children grow up. Dying on the cross is no fun." If these were His words, then Christianity wouldn't have existed at all. Our Lord Jesus Christ, we really need more priests like Father Slavko for the salvation of the Catholic Church. Can you please send many, many priests like Father Slavko to us?

Born on 11 March 1946, Father Slavko spent his childhood in extreme poverty. However, he was a very intelligent man - perhaps the most brilliant scholar of his time. It was a great disappointment to his government when the young Slavko joined the Franciscan order after completing his two years of service in the Yugoslav army. During his twenties, he was the kind of priest who spent more time in libraries than in sacristies. A polyglot intellectual, he had by the age of thirty earned an assortment of degrees from several European universities. He was a priest with a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Freiburg in Switzerland. One finds it hard to believe that one man could have it all - knowledge of languages, education, simplicity, inexhaustible energy, diligence, piety, humility and charity. Yes, Father Slavko really has it all. His life is a life of great sacrifice and this is what makes him perfect in the eyes of the Lord. And he will be fondly remembered for generations to come.

Father Slavko was officially sent to Medjugorje in 1983. He did not forget his childhood conditions though and was the founder of the orphanage "Mother's Village". Mother's Village was built during and after the war although it had lived for a long time in the heart of Father Slavko. It has always been his desire to provide care for those who had been abandoned and rejected by their own family members and forgotten by the social welfare system. Mother's Village is a specialized institution that provides accommodation, care and education for abandoned and unprotected children and orphans from birth until the age of eighteen, for handicapped children, for young mothers and for the elderly. Many girls who due to their pregnancy were rejected and isolated by their own families and society have found shelter and hope in Mother's Village. Thanks to this village many children's lives were saved and they were born into an environment of love and acceptance.

Father Slavko used to say, "Everything is to be for the education and the benefit of the children" and this was what created St. Francis's Garden. The aim of the garden is to bring people back to nature so that they may be able to find peace and relaxation. In this forested area there is a zoo, two ponds and an area for prayer and recreation with developmental aids: toboggans, merry-go-rounds, swings and a children's train. There are also three little ponies for hypo-therapy and therapeutical riding for handicapped children. Hypo-therapy is especially beneficial for acquiring balance and equilibrium in the body, particularly for children with motor disabilities. (For a more detailed biography of Father Slavko, please refer to my article entitled "Father Slavko Barbaric - The Saint of Medjugorje" which I wrote last month.)

Father Slavko was here, in the world, but at the same time so much out of the world. In his presence, the words of Jesus became a reality: "They are not of the world, any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them by means of truth - Your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world; I consecrate myself for their sakes now, that they may be consecrated in truth." (John 17: 16-19)

Everyone who has given up home, brothers or sisters, father or mother, wife or children or property for my sake will receive many times as much and inherit everlasting life. Mathew: 19:29.

Father Slavko has given up all his time and everything he had including his life to serve God and to serve us. Let us all remember what he has done for us, for the Church and for this world. May he receive many times as much and inherit everlasting life. May he rest in peace. Amen.

Tonight, I would say the Croatian rosary with Father Slavko. Dear Father Slavko, do you know how much I adore, respect and honour you? You will always have a special place in my heart.

Monday, November 23, 2009

FATHER JOZO ZOVKO - A GOOD PRIEST

Jozo in Croatian means Joseph and Father Jozo Zovko was born on that great saint's feast day on 19 March 1941 in the village of Uzari in the parish of Siroki Brijeg. He was the eighth of ten children. Times were tough during World War II but he survived. He finished his primary grade school first in Uzari, and then in Siroki Brijeg before he realized he had a vocation for the priesthood. He entered the seminary in Bol on the island of Brac directly south of Split in the Adriatic Sea. He was later transferred to the major seminary in Sarajevo and enrolled at Ljubljana University where he studied Theology. He was ordained in Sarajevo on 6 August 1967 and was assigned to the Gratz University in Austria to continue his studies. After graduation, he returned to his homeland and was frowned upon by the communists because of his deep faith. Because of his devotion to God, the bishop had to transfer him often. It should be noted that during those days the bishops were selected by the approval of the communist authorities in Belgrade.

Father Jozo Zovko is a true apostle of Jesus - a good priest. Ever since he was a child, he had always wanted to be a Franciscan friar. He is certainly not the kind of priest who would say these shameful words, "Geez, I had better switch to Anglicanism and be an Anglican priest and then snag me a hot wife before I jump back to the Catholic Church so that I can enjoy the best of all worlds as a married priest." Marriage has never crossed his mind as he continues to live a celibate life all these years. He has laid down his whole life serving the Kingdom of God with undivided attention. He has given himself completely to God and to men. He has devoted himself wholeheartedly to the sacred ministry. He lives according to his vows of poverty, obedience and chastity, just exactly the kind of life that a good priest will live. Those who can take the vows of poverty, obedience and chastity freely are hard to find nowadays and as such Father Jozo Zovko is really a rare gift from God. He is always busy with the Lord's affairs and concerned only with pleasing the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32). As one of the best known priests in the world, he doesn't have much time for himself because the pilgrims come to see him in hundreds every day and he has to tend to his flock.

Father Jozo was the parish priest of Medjugorje when the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary began on the 24th of June 1981. He is an authentic witness to the apparitions of Our Lady of Medjugorje. Initially he did not believe in the apparitions. He even chastised the visionaries for fabricating the apparitions. Talking about the apparitions was dangerous in an area of communist oppression. However, it wasn't long before he was convinced that the six visionaries were telling the truth. One morning after mass, he was still in the church, on his knees at the altar when he suddenly heard a voice telling him, "Come out and protect the children." He obeyed and the moment he opened the door, he saw the girls running toward him, out of breath with the police chasing them from behind. He took the children to the rectory and locked them in an unoccupied room.

Father Jozo had certainly paid the price when he refused to deny the apparitions as ordered by the communists. Because he refused to deny the apparitions and to close St.James, he was arrested on 17 August 1981 and convicted on charges of subversion against the communist state. He was given a three-year prison sentence with hard, dangerous labour by a kangaroo court. In the prison he was tortured horrendously but in spite of his sufferings his faith only grew stronger. The prison guards were also infuriated by the fact that they found Father Jozo's cell door unlocked every morning and the inmates testified seeing some kind of strange supernatural light appearing repeatedly in his cell. After 18 months, Father Jozo was released on the condition that he would never return to St. James as pastor. In the spring of 1983, Father Jozo was transferred to St. Elijah in Tihaljina.

Father Jozo was the central figure during the early days of the apparitions and has remained so today. Many pilgrims flocked to Medjugorje and later on to Tihaljina and then to Siroki Brijeg to see him and listen to his inspiring words. He was chosen as the president of the "International Godparenthood for the Herceg-Bosnian Children Association" which was established on the 20th of December 1992 in Siroki Brijeg. It was actually Father Jozo's idea that children, who had one or both parents killed in the war, could be helped spiritually and financially by people all over the world. During the devastating war, more than 280000 people were slaughtered and countless homes and churches throughout Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were destroyed. Today over 4000 children are cared for spiritually and financially in Siroki Brijeg through this organization. Father Jozo has also traveled all over the world to spread the message of Our Lady of Medjugorje and the vital importance of the Eucharist. He is also connected with many miraculous healings.

Father Jozo has been persecuted, imprisoned, denigrated and accused of unspeakable sins from graft to child abuse. Just how true are these accusations? We all know that Father Jozo is a good priest and we see with our own eyes what he has done for the world. Surely his good deeds are more overwhelming than any of those unfounded accusations against him!

To those who are unsure of Father Jozo Zovko's status, please read the letter written by Father Slavko Soldo, OFM, Provincial of the Herzegovinian Franciscan Province of the Assumption of the BVM. According to Father Slavko Soldo: Father Jozo Zovko is a member of our community in good standing. He was the pastor at Medjugorje when the apparition of the Blessed Mother started in 1981. It was the time of the communist regime in our country. As pastor of Medjugorje, Father Jozo was put in prison by the communist court. After he was released from the prison, he continued to spread the message of the blessed Mother Queen of peace.

In our community Father Jozo Zovko is known as a charismatic priest who suffered for his faith and continues suffering. He spends long hours in prayer, counselling and preaching. Most of the time he is in the church; often for 10 hours a day.

Those who oppose the apparitions of the Blessed Mother at Medjugorje are constantly after Father Jozo trying to stop his mission, but those who accept Medjugorje, consider him a dedicated priest and are inviting him to lead retreats for them and pray for them in their needs. Among those who are inviting him are many priests and bishops. Father Jozo is tireless in that service. (Mostar, 14 November 2002, Father Slavko Soldo, Provincial)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

JUSTICE FOR FATHER JOZO ZOVKO

It has been raining the whole day today and I thought of going to bed early tonight. I suddenly thought of Father Jozo Zovko. Instead of sleeping early I went to the web to get the latest updates on him. When I googled Father Jozo Zovko, the first three articles that came out were 1. The 'Saint' Jozo Zovko And His Many Sex-Affairs, 2. The Newsletter of Discernment, and 3. Father Jozo Zovko: A Brief Biography. I read through all these three articles. After reading these articles, I felt that I must write something for Father Jozo Zovko.

According to the first article: Father Jozo Zovko has been suspended twice, the first time by Bishop Zanic on 23 August 1989 and a second time by Bishop Peric on June 14 1994. Why has Jozo been suspended in 1989 by bishop Zanic? Officially it was not mentioned, but insiders do know. In 1986 already a dutch business-man who lived in Yugoslavia said to Mark Waterinckx "that Jozo had a special interest for beautiful ladies."

At that time Mark was shocked and scandalized by "such a slander". But later more and more such rumours came to his ears. In the summer of 1989 an American girl came to see him and told him with all details how Jozo sexually asaulted her. Next day Mark went to Tihaljina to confront Jozo with this story. Jozo denied everything but was pale and in a terrible state. He trembled and accused his good friend Mark (since 1984 he was Mark's confessor) of bringing him in such a situation while the church was full of pilgrims waiting for his service.

Meanwhile the American girl had told her nightmare to her confessor, the American Fr. Filip Pavic. This Franciscan contacted Mark and told him that he had already heard different similar accusations against Jozo earlier. Also Pavic was really puzzled and told about Jozo's sex-problem to Fr. Svetozar Kraljevic, who immediately shouted 2 times: "He did it AGAIN!"

According to the second article: The list of priests at Medugorje who have sexual problems is growing everyday. Back before the claimed apparitions ever started they had problems with both Father Jozo Zovko and Tomislav Vlasic conducting sensitivity training with little boys. To this day they continue having affairs with both men and women.

According to the Franciscan Provincial in Mostar, Fr. Slavko Soldo, Fr. Jozo's superior, "It's not true that Fr. Jozo was suspended by his Franciscan general. He is not suspended! He is a priest in good standing with his community! And regarding the charges against him, it's interesting that not one of those women has ever sent any of those letters to me. And I'm the first person who should know. Fr. Jozo is responsible to me as far as discipline goes. I find it interesting that neither has the bishop ever sent me a copy of any of those supposed letters. Let me repeat: never have such charges - anything like them - ever been brought to my attention - and there are none in my office preceeding my time as Provincial! Of course now they can be invented and sent to me afterwards."

Who is the real Father Jozo Zovko anyway? He is the kind of man who can be found innumerable hours a day praying in front of the tabernacle. Because of his deep faith and his devotion to God he has gained tremendous influence in the parishes where he was assigned. Many pilgrims flocked to Medjugorje and since 1992 to the monastery in Siroki Brijeg just to be touched by him and to listen to his inspiring words. If he were really a sex maniac as what the first two articles described him, do you think the pilgrims would still take the trouble to go and see him?

The first article described him as the 'saint' with many sex affairs. Has Father Jozo Zovko ever called himself a saint? And how many sex affairs were there? Any evidence? Who were these ladies who were supposed to have been molested by him? We don't even know if these allegations were true.

Have we ever asked ourselves the question, "What has Father Jozo been doing all these years?" Did he get married or elope with a blonde and is now enjoying a wonderful sex life with his wife? Did he ever pester the Pope to allow him to get married? No, he didn't. All these years, he has been carrying out his duties as a priest faithfully and with undivided attention. Isn't that enough? This is what we all see with our eyes. But have we ever seen any of his sexual affairs with our eyes? Father Jozo never left the priesthood to get married and as we can see, he continues to live a celibate life. After all those accusations against him, he probably dare not go near a woman again! To me, he is more respectable than those men who can only become priests on the condition that they are allowed to get married.

Even if those allegations against him were true (though many would doubt the authenticity of these allegations) , they have already faded into the past. How long ago was that? Is it fair to dig into someone's past? What is more important is the present. In the present, Father Jozo is a good priest and he is well respected and loved by many of the faithful throughout the world.

Let those who are sinless cast the first stone. And who is sinless? Who has the right to punish someone for the one sin that he has committed many years ago again and again when God has already forgiven him? Or has he really committed any of those alleged sins? What if he did not?These two articles aforementioned would always be there to haunt Father Jozo. Is it fair?

Lastly, regarding the allegation that "the list of priests at Medjugorje who have sexual problems is growing everyday" this is certainly an exaggeration. It is like punishing the whole class when one or two students of that class created mischief!

Friday, November 13, 2009

THE MIRACLES OF MEDJUGORJE

Very soon after the apparitions in Medjugorje, many people witnessed miraculous healings. An old man, Jozo Vasilj, was blind for many years. After washing his eyes with the water in which he put some herbs from the place of the apparitions, he said, "I can see ..."

Then, there was the case of Daniel Setka who became seriously ill - "stiff and blue" when he was only four days old. He was diagnosed as suffering from a combination of spastic hemiparesis and epilepsy. At the age of two and a half, the child was unable to speak or walk and he couldn't even hold his head up. Even after making several pilgrimages to the various shrines in Yugoslavia, his condition remained serious. On the evening of June 28, 1981 (the fifth day of the apparitions) his father carried him up Podbrdo Hill toward the site of the apparition. It was Vicka who presented the boy to the Madonna during the apparition. Following the apparition, the first sign of a healing took place. When the family stopped at the cafe near the church in Medjugorje for dinner after the apparition, the boy suddenly slapped the table and said, "Give me a drink." These were the first words that he had ever spoken. His parents brought him to Podbrdo Hill the next day. Halfway up the hill, they put him down. Little Daniel began to climb over the rocks and standing atop one, he called out in a loud and clear voice, "Mama, look, I'm walking!" His healing was declared complete that day.

The most well-documented healing was probably that of an Italian woman named Diana Basile. She began to show the first symptoms of a profound multiple sclerosis in 1972 at the age of thirty-two. In spite of the expert help of the professors and doctors at the clinic in Milan, she was getting worse. Her right hand began to shake uncontrollably and there was complete blindness in her right eye. Her right knee became so rigid that she found it almost impossible to walk. By the summer of 1983, she became completely incontinent, was unable to lift her right arm and had great difficulty in walking. On 23rd May 1984, she made it to St. James's Church, Medjugorje, to observe that evening's apparition. At the end of the apparition, Basile found that she could walk normally. That night, she discovered that she was no longer incontinent. The next morning, she was able to see with her right eye again. That afternoon, she walked barefoot from Ljubuski to Medjugorje, a distance of six miles, to climb Podbrdo Hill. By the time she returned home, she was completely healed. Ever since then until today, she has remained well.

The most famous person to claim that she had been healed by Our Lady of Medjugorje was entertainer Lola Falana who was also suffering from multiple sclerosis. By 1989, she was confined to either the wheelchair or her bed. One day, she was watching a documentary about Medjugorje. According to her, "When the television showed the crowd of pilgrims which ascend the Hill of Apparitions, I experienced a desire to go there, to walk with them, but my legs were inert, dead. Then, with tears in my eyes, I prayed to the Blessed Mother to heal me, promising Her that if one day I would be able to walk again, I would go there." Within a month, all the symptoms of her illness had disappeared. As promised, she went to Medjugorje.

At least two of those who claimed miraculous healings were themselves medical doctors. One was a general practitioner from the Philippines whose breast cancer had already metastasized. She reported having a spiritual healing at the twelfth and thirteenth stations of the cross on Mount Krizevac. By the time she returned home, all traces of her cancer had disappeared. The other was an Italian pediatrician with an ulcerated colon that had abscessed into a life-threatening fistula. His family came to Medjugorje to pray for a cure. The doctor also prayed at home promising the Virgin Mary that he would go to Medjugorje in person if he were healed. Overnight, the man's fistula closed and he was cured.

Another case which is difficult to dismiss is Charlene Vance's case. In 1986 on Halloween, a tractor ran over her leg. The tibia and fibula were broken in two places and her ankle had been crushed to a pulp. Doctors told her that even if her leg bones could heal properly, she would walk with a severe limp for the rest of her life. Though not a Catholic, Vance joined a pilgrmage to Medjugorje. At the fourth station on Mount Krizevac, a monk in a white habit touched her forehead and leg with his rosary beads which he said had been placed on the stigma of Therese Newman's right hand. Vance spent the night on Krizevac praying. When she descended the mountain the next morning she found that the pain in her ankle was gone. X-rays showed that the bones in her ankle had been completely restored.

The most widely publicized healing is probably that of Rita Klaus of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA, a teacher and mother of three children. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 20, not long after her graduation. For 26 years, she suffered from multiple sclerosis. Neither doctors nor medicine were able to help her. By 1986, she had blurred vision and periodic incontinence and had to spend nearly all her waking hours in a wheelchair. As her leg muscles degenerated, her legs began to warp - inward at the knee, outward at the ankle. She could not even sit in her wheelchair without buckling her lower limbs into steel braces. She heard about Medjugorje in early 1986 an started praying to the Mother of God. On the evening of June 18 that year, while she was praying the rosary, she felt an electric jolt running through her entire body. The next morning, she could feel sensation in her legs again. That evening, she could walk without assistance. On the following day, she walked more than a mile to the house of her friend who told her about Medjugorje. And from then till today she is completely well. Her healing is complete and permanent.

Amongst Medjugorje's most famous healings is that of an Austrian nurse named Agnes Heupel. In 1974, at the age of 23, she had been stricken with a paralysis of the right side. The spinal lesions and pulmonary tumour that accompanied it were verified in examinations by four separate doctors. She was confined to a wheelchair most of the time and her memory was gradually eroded to the extent that she couldn't even recognize her old friends. In May 1986, she made the difficult journey to Medjugorje. After the apparition on May 12, she stood like everyone else and began to walk out of the room. Father Slavko came after her, holding her crutch and shouting, "You forgot something!" But she knew that she would never need it again. The following day, she climbed Podbrdo Hill without assistance.

What do these miracles tell us? We cannot deny the fact that something is really going on in Medjugorje. Supernatural events are occurring there. What is the real purpose of these miracles? To help us to believe and live by faith. Miracles do not belong to science but to theology and faith. For those who believe no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe no proof is enough!

Monday, November 9, 2009

FAST WITH THE HEART BY FATHER SLAVKO BARBARIC

Father Slavko Barbaric has written many good books. His book "Fast with the Heart" is one of them. This is the last book written by Father Slavko. It is a key and an answer to the questions of what, why and how concerning fasting in our lives. Those who are ready to respond to Our Lady of Medjugorje's call to pray with the heart and to fast with the heart will find this book very useful.

In Medjugorje, the Madonna has asked for a return to fasting. In response to the question, "What is the best kind of fast?", the Virgin responded, "Bread and water, of course." We recognize that bread and water is not the only way to fast but it is the "best" way according to the Madonna. One has to grow into "bread and water" fasting.

Tonight, I would like to share an excerpt from Father Slavko's "Fast with the Heart" with the whole world. Very beautifully written, isn't it?

BREAD AND WATER - PILGRIM'S FOOD
In the first place, the call to a life with bread and water is a call of preparation for the meeting with Christ in the Eucharist. At the same time, this call wants to increase our awareness of our life's pilgrim journey on earth. Man's entire life and all his activity can be seen from the standpoint of a pilgrimage.

Through the history of man's thought, and especially in the past decades, frequent theories have proclaimed man to be a wanderer on this earth - as not knowing where he comes from or where he is going. The Christian standpoint pertaining to man is completely different. In his essence and according to his nature, man seeks God. In himself, he bears questions about eternal life, happiness and peace and the answer to these questions is God. Man does not wander about aimlessly. He journeys towards his fullness and the final truth about himself, which he can only realize in God. This is why man, in himself, is a pilgrim. A pilgrim in turn, is someone who leaves his daily life, work, security and joy and goes on a journey towards individuals and places where he can meet God more easily - where God has revealed Himself in a special way.

In the past there were no modern means facilitating quick and easy transport from one place to another. Pilgrimages lasted for weeks, months and even years. A pilgrim was only able to bring with him the basic necessities of life: bread and water; and this is what he did. Leaving behind his daily life and going on a journey with a bag on his shoulders containing bread and water, he freed himself of all burdens and every excess. Free in this way, he was able to go on to individuals and places where he sought to meet God. These places, however, were only points of passage from which he proceeded further or returned to his daily life. Even his return to everyday life did not stop portraying the characteristics of a pilgrimage because a person does not have a permanent residence in this world. He is on a pilgrimage towards the eternal homeland of complete peace, joy, eternal life and unity.

Today, by living on bread and water, man retains his freedom. He does not become a slave to material things or a victim of false promises. In his freedom, he is prepared to love, to forgive, to overcome conflicts and to live in peace. Whenever man forgets his pilgrim journey, he stops on the way and destroys himself in anxious concerns of this world.

God also gave man the Heavenly Bread. He gave His Son Who by His presence has become man's continuous companion on his pilgrimage. This is why, the Messiah's name is Emmanuel, meaning 'God with us'. God journeys with man as Bread, that is the life to the world. When a believer forgets that his God journeys with him in the form of Bread, he turns to the world where he can never feel well, without being turned towards God.

In this context, the final meaning of fasting is found. Fasting is not only a means of healing, calming and freeing. Together with prayer and charity, it is a fundamental means to a religious experience; namely, to an awareness of the truth about oneself and for opening oneself to God, Who has decided completely for man.

FASTING AND GOOD WORKS
Already in the Old Testament, it is emphasized that it is not sufficient to fast and pray. Instead, through fasting and prayer man, as a believer , must be made capable of good works. This is why fasting, prayer and good works always go together and are a condition of each other. The one who fasts and prays will become free to realize what he has, what he needs, and what he can give to others to do with as they will. The aim is not so much to place what one has and does not use for the use of the poor, as it is for man's demands to be reduced to their proper measure. If a person does not fast and pray, his needs will continuously increase and he will not be able to control them. The more we need, the less we have to give to others. We become agitated, violent, avaricious, miserly and unjust about many things that we are convinced we need but do not have. It can be said that others convinced us that we must have them. In order to be able to follow the rhythm of the world, man is forced to work more, to 'spend' his life, to neglect his spiritual values and family and even to destroy his own life.

Through fasting a person becomes capable of seeing more clearly so that his relationship with material things can change. In particular, the value of fasting and prayer is measured by a change in such a relationship and in an end to the race for material goods. Sensitivity to the situation of others and a readiness to help are the main criteria for fasting and prayer. If someone fasts and prays without his sense of responsibility growing and without being prepared to do something about it, the value of his fasting and prayer is brought into question. Someone who fasts and prays must become generous, merciful and sensitive to others. He must be able to recognize Christ in the poor, the misfortunate and the needy. He must do everything he can for others out of love for Christ, Who has identified Himself with each one of us, especially with the poor and the needy.