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?