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

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)

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