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.