IVAN MERZ

D I A R Y 

1914 – 1928

Preparation and editing of Ivan Merz’s texts:

Prof. Božidar Nagy, PhD, SJ

Translation into English:  

Milivoj Vodopija, MA 

Editors:

Postulation for the Canonization of the Bl. Ivan Merz 

Philosophical Faculty of the Society of Jesus

Glas Koncila

Zagreb, Croatia, 2014

Translation of Ivan Merz’s Diary was financed

by a private grant from Dr. Louis Carnendran, Miami, USA

FOREWORD
OF THE BISHOP OF BANJA LUKA
Msgr. FRANJO KOMARICA

Finally, we have in our hands the long-awaited Diary of the blessed Ivan Merz. It reveals to us in a particular, impressive way the sincerity and credibility of a young man, a Christian from our region who surpassed, in an unusual way, the time in which he lived.

Jesus’ words addressed at Nicodemus “The Spirit blows where it pleases” (cf. John 3,8) came true many times in the long history of the Church. A man, God’s favorite, must only open his inner self, his heart, to the Spirit, in order to receive its promptings and follow its light. Then he will feel something new, strong, which truly renews him from within, transforms him and he/she will be able to accomplish good, beautiful and useful things – within himself /herself and in his/her environment.

The Evangelist Mark writes how Jesus on one occasion went up into a mountain, “and summoned those he wanted” (Mark 3,13). Jesus’ call of grace aimed at the young Ivan during his school days in the Banja Luka High School was only the beginning of the exceptional gifts of God’s grace which would follow on many occasions of his later life, many of whom were recorded by their blessed recipient and left as a gift for the generations that followed.

Many other true Christian leading figures have had similar experiences, where they were enveloped in God’s grace, receiving it consciously and responsibly, truly believing Christ’s word and beginning to cooperate and live with Him in a most intimate manner. In such a way they began to witness in their lives the heavenly realm, i.e. realities which are not accessible to us by ordinary human measures.

True happiness is not achieved by human means, but primarily and chiefly by the presence of the Spirit of God moving inside a man’s soul. This is being witnessed also by the contents of this fourth volume of the Collected Works of bl. Ivan Merz, his Diary. In the pages of this Diary we can recognize a “red thread” of graceful acts of the Holy Spirit in the life, ripening, spiritual contemplation and exceptional apostolic activity of this young Catholic intellectual of lay rank. By opening himself to these promptings, the young Ivan discovered more and more the truth about life and the world; he experienced more and more deeply the existence of good and evil in the world, and the existence of a spiritual-mystical design and reality inside the Church. In the Diary, he speaks about his own existential religious experience, especially in the dramatic days amidst the horrors of war. It is well known that major political upheavals give a free rein both to the good and the evil. For him the Holy Writ and many of those who have made it their spiritual food became indispensable pointers even in war-time for his spiritual ripening, on the path of making his own soul a “masterpiece”.

The pages of the Diary which Ivan began to write as a high school graduate in Banja Luka, and wrote a major part of it here in his native town, give us a penetrating insight into his inner world and his striving to develop himself on the foundations of Christian faith and morale in a confident stride toward Christian perfection. The publication of Ivan’s Diary as his first written work, though it came into being progressively, has a chronological primacy before all the other of his numerous written works, shorter and longer. It will be of use to all who are inspired by this true spiritual giant from our region, to get to know him even better, to admire him and take him as their model in life. Because he is veritably a precious “shining example of the Christian way of life and apostolic striving” (John Paul II) and therefore he has lots to offer to all seekers of God and recipients of God in this and future generations.

In a conversation in Rome, in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in the wake of Ivan’s beatification, I was told that Ivan Merz “is a greater saint than many officially proclaimed saints” and that “his Diary is an exceptionally rich source in which the moves of God’s grace and man’s cooperation with this grace are mirrored”.

If we are justified to say that a “beautiful thought is the best companion”, then we are also justified to say that many beautiful and original thoughts of this Croatian “thinker and spiritual teacher” will enrich with their content many of those who will read and contemplate them.

The Diary of the Bl. Ivan Merz is being published in the year 2014, a hundred years after he began keeping it. The preparations for its publication were completed at the end of the Year of the Faith (11 October 2012 – 24 November 2013) proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI. This Pope, in his own admission, greatly appreciates Ivan’s “unique personality”. Already in the second year of his pontificate, in 2007, he enlisted the Bl. Ivan Merz among 18 great saints who “gave the testimony of authentic life thanks to their veneration of the Holy Eucharist” (Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, No. 94). With this act, Peter’s successor once again confirmed Ivan’s sanctity to which he was rising progressively, with firm steps, as we can trace through his Diary. It is our wish that the reader, observing the path of faith along which God’s grace has led the bl. Ivan Merz, renews and fortifies his/her faith and builds his/her life upon these values.

Banja Luka, Feast of Christ the King, 24 November 2013.

Franjo Komarica, the Bishop of Banja Luka

INTRODUCTION
to the Diary of bl. Ivan Merz

“Yesterday, on Thursday, we wrote a school paper on the values of a diary. Maraković clarified for us the great value of this (…) During the lesson, and the whole day I was thinking about it and came to the conclusion that Ljuba1 is right – as always.”

When the young, 17-year old Ivan Merz wrote these first sentences at the beginning of his Diary on 27 February 1914 in Banja Luka, surely he didn’t have the slightest inkling as to what kind of valuable document he was about to give us. In the pages of the Diary he left us a great spiritual wealth, describing his soul as the soul of a young man, fair, honest, striving for something supreme, facing evil inside himself and around him, confronting this evil, trying to achieve something in life, something in which he ultimately succeeded. Analyzing his Diary from the religious point of view we perceive a clear working of God’s grace in his soul, promptings to which he responded and cooperated with, until he made his soul into a masterpiece, as he felt he ought to do.2

Chronologically, this is Merz’s first literary work, compared to all other later texts, articles, studies which he wrote. The writing of this work actually didn’t stop for his entire lifetime. However, as we can follow by the dates, he wrote more than half of the Diary before all other writings, of which only a smaller part he managed to publish during his lifetime. Many remained as manuscripts which are seeing the light of the day only now, finally, as part of his Collected Works.

Right at the beginning we must advise the reader that this Diary, which is now published as the 4th volume of Ivan Merz’s Collected Works, is not his autobiography (nor biography), because it was never written with such an intent. This is only one, and we are sure to say, the most important, segment of his rich personality whose picture he left us in written form. The Diary contains relevant documentation of his intellectual profile and spirituality, which, however, is still in the process of ripening towards full maturity. By intellectual profile I imply the psychological-cultural-scientific facets of his personality which gradually developed and were formed by education, in the course of the studies and under the impact of the many literary works which he read. Spirituality, on the other hand denotes his Catholic religious and moral convictions which also developed and matured all the way to sanctity, towards which he was steered and guided by the invisible hand of God.

While in the Diary we can follow his developmental path, a full and complete Merz can be found only in the last six years of his life in Zagreb when he shone forth in full swing of his creativity and apostolic work, about which he has also left us numerous documents, albeit of a different nature. In that period, he didn’t manage to keep his Diary, obviously because he was too busy. However, these other fruits of his spiritual work as a mature Catholic intellectual speak clearly about the richness of his inner life. These are in the first place numerous articles, studies and other texts whose publication within his Collected Works is in progress. In addition to that, we have numerous testimonies given by his contemporaries who observed at a close distance this “miracle of God’s grace” as Merz was called by the late Cardinal Franjo Kuharić.3

Such complete Merz and a full account of his personality we find in four biographies in which the authors, each from his own point of view, described the life and work of the bl. Ivan.4 We therefore recommend to the reader, if he/she wants to get a rounded picture of Merz’s individuality, to read, after this Diary, at least one of these biographies in order to complete the picture of this marvel of Catholic laity in the Croatian Church.

Sincerity

Reading the pages of Merz’s Diary we notice a particular virtue of his: it is his sincerity with which he describes and commits to paper without embellishment or denial every corner and movement of his soul, everything he experiences and goes through, along with his perceptions of everything he encounters in his environment and daily life. It is precisely this sincerity which attracts and inspires the reader because on the pages of his Diary, everyone, especially a young man can easily recognize himself. Ivan is often critical towards himself, and he keeps account of his weaknesses, struggles, doubts, and does not shy away from describing his strivings and thinking touching the most intimate part of his being, such as those relating to love and sexuality. Of course, he describes all of that within the limits of decency and within the vision of the Christian morale. Further on, we marvel at his struggle to overcome his bad inclinations, a sincere devotion to God, gradual victories over the negative aspirations of the human nature.

In his Diary Merz describes his numerous encounters with friends and various people, his impressions and thoughts about them. He was meeting also with some politicians of his day, especially during and after the war. Special attention is given to his encounters with the world of literature and with the books he read. He discusses the contents of the books, their message as well as the personalities in those books, analyzes them, debates with them, commends if he finds something valuable in them, but also criticizes their unacceptable attitudes and world views when he comes upon them.

Comparison with St. Augustine

To an extent, we might compare the Confessions of St. Augustine with the Diary of Ivan Merz. There exists, of course, a great difference. While St. Augustine wrote his Confessions from memory at the end of his life and from a completely different viewpoint, i.e. as a convert fully dedicated to God, Merz wrote his own “confessions” found in the Diary en route, day by day, on the path of conversion, portraying events as they unfolded, and as the states of his soul evolved. Apart from his own inner world, he relates a number of important and interesting details from his daily life – meetings with people, comments on social and political affairs, etc. Therein lies the value and greatness of this Diary, and we dare to say that, viewed from a certain aspect and with his closeness to our time and realities, he even surpasses Augustine’s Confessions.

Two major parts of the Diary

Ivan Merz’s Diary is a unique literary work which encompasses different contents, but above all it reflects his personal inner life which he lived at a certain historic point in time. After initial noting-down of daily events and commenting on them during the first few months, Ivan’s Diary gradually becomes a notebook for recording his reading routine in which he writes down the contents, illustrations and analyses of literary works which he read, because literature was firstly his great hobby, and it later became his profession.

Therefore, we can divide his Diary into two major parts which are partly mixed, although they can basically be differentiated from each other. The first and main part of his Diary relates to his intellectual profile and spirituality; here he notes down his inner experiences and thoughts, problems, encounters with people, daily events in a broader social environment, adding to them his own comments. A special place in this personal part of the Diary, the part which is by all means the most interesting one, is occupied by his religious thoughts and comments on religion, spiritual life, moral principles and problems.

The other part of the Diary relates to numerous literary works which he read. He makes notes in the Diary on every book he read, giving a longer or shorter account of its content, analysis of characters and technical execution, commenting on the work, giving his judgements and assessments, on the work itself as well as on its author and main characters. Apart from such reviews of literary works, Ivan is often present at different cultural events, concerts, opera, theatre, museums, art galleries, especially during his studies in Vienna, and he gives us a retrospection of all of that in his Diary, elaborating his impressions, comments and judgements. We now give a broader description of these two parts of Merz’s Diary.

Personal part of the Diary

In the personal part of the Diary Merz notes down everything he was passing through, within himself and around him. However, he does not limit himself to mere descriptions of the intimate parts of his soul and the thoughts occupying his mind, but commits his reflections of the events surrounding him to the pages of his Diary: the daily ones from his immediate environment, as well as those from the broader social and political plane, which he witnessed and in which, to an extent, he participated, especially during World War I.

In the first months covered by the Diary, the topics related to school and his preparation for the graduation exam are predominant. He graduated from high school on 11 July 1914. Gradually, he began confiding to his Diary, writing down the states of his soul, listing the various problems, questions and doubts he was facing. Already on the first pages, actually at the very beginning of the Diary (motto) we find memories of his first boyish love which ended tragically through no fault of his own. This is a major chapter of young Ivan’s life. He left us deep reflections and analyses of this topic. He was switching back to it for almost four years, until other values and contents started to take precedence in his soul.

Ivan was particularly interested in art and literature. The first words with which he begins his Diary are: Evviva l’arte! (long live art!). This was predominant in his spirit in the first years of his youth and student days. After the experience of war, it gradually recedes to the background, and Christian values take precedence. In Ivan’s deliberations, we often encounter an affinity towards philosophy, i.e. a striving to find a final truth, a word which is often written in his Diary with capital “T”. Initially, Goethe’s Faust was a model which filled him with enthusiasm and which he often mentions and quotes in the Diary. With the passing of years, especially after the war, Ivan notices the drawbacks of Faust’s world view. He comes to the realization that real truth is to be found only in Christian faith.

Religious thoughts and ideas are present in the pages of Ivan’s Diary from its very beginning. The values of the Christian faith will take an increasing portion of his inner horizon until they become the focal point of his life. Related to this, a recurrent topic in the Diary is his striving for moral perfection, for the realization of a certain ideal. A careful examination of his life shows that God’s grace was clearly at work in his soul, a force which gradually led him to Christian perfection. His prayers, invocations and sighs which he often records at the end of the day when completing the writing of a certain segment of the Diary are most touching. Ivan does not shy away from mentioning and analyzing his weaknesses, hesitations and wanderings. He was fighting for knowledge of real faith and for living a life according to Christian moral principles. These parts of the Diary are very interesting and they can especially help the young, by showing them how, in spite of one’s weaknesses, doubts and hesitations one can rise to the moral high ground and make a permanent value of one’s life.

A special chapter in Ivan’s life was his participation in World War I. Daily encounters with suffering, pain and death on the front lines clarified his view of the world. His thoughts on the battlefield, where he was in constant mortal danger, turn towards God, towards eternity. His descriptions of sincere trust in God’s providence are touching. In mortal danger and other unpleasant situations, he strives to strengthen his faith in God who, he knows, loves him and is taking care of him.

A frequent topic of Ivan’s deliberations is sin and encounter with sin, first of all within himself, and then in his environment. His reactions, particularly in his younger days, are imbued with a natural moral feeling which was later perfected by the principles of Christian morals in the light of which Ivan observes all human activity.

Reading his Diary, we see how Ivan got to know real life in all its facets, both positive and negative, including the most dramatic one – war. Firstly, this was realized within his family which was initially more liberal than Christian, followed by his experiences in the army and war, and finally during his studies in European cities. With this rich experience of life Merz, having developed himself in a religious and moral sense, could exert a deep and positive influence on human souls, especially those of younger people who, like him, were seeking the truth and permanent life values.

The literary part of the Diary – notebook for the books he read

Every time Ivan would read a book, he notes in his Diary firstly an account of its contents, longer or shorter, followed by an analysis according to certain criteria of his. The list or criteria according to which he analyzes literary works and which vary according to the nature of every particular work (novel, epic, drama, tragedy, lyrics, etc.) is very interesting. He himself lists these criteria in the Diary as follows: motive, content, types, details, milieu, idea, style, composition, characters, general character, psychology, technique of the work, external form, psychological detail, real detail. Works with a tragic content, especially dramas – tragedies he analyzes according to the following criteria: exposition, plot, culmination, problem, catastrophe.

Reading various works Merz encounters firstly their authors, followed by the main protagonists and other literary characters with whom he discusses and argues in the pages of his Diary. Especially interesting are his analyses, followed by critique and judgement of Goethe’s Faust. Further on, in the works he read, Merz encounters different realities of life and situations which the authors describe; very often these are the contents and topics of love and sexuality, followed by different negative sides of human life. Merz gives his judgement on all of this, firstly from a literary-artistic viewpoint, followed by a moral-religious one.

As this is not a critical edition of Merz’s Diary, the editor decided not to include the literary notebook in this edition of the Diary. This literary part relates to his profession – literature, the subject of his studies. It is not of a primary interest to a broad range of readers for whom this edition of the Diary is intended, as part of his Collected Works. The retelling of the contents of various works and texts, their literary analysis and a rendering of the main characters can be of interest only to the professionals in the field of literature or literary critics.5

However, we did leave in this edition some of his numerous accounts of the literary works which he read. At the end of each work Merz gives his assessment and comment, from the point of view of existential values and Christian world view. In these assessments and critical comments, we see him as he is, his philosophical and theological views and convictions, Christian truths and principles which are part of his being and according to which he judges every writer and his work. Though still young, Merz has a clearly developed religious and moral attitude in the light of which he observes and judges everything inside him and around him.

Political and social events find their reflection in the Diary

Merz’s notes on political events and personalities, as well as on historic events in which he was a witness and participant are especially interesting. These comments are mainly incidental, but they are valuable because they inform us how certain historic political events found reflection in the population, how ordinary people reacted to them. The assassination in Sarajevo of the Crown Prince Ferdinand, an event which triggered World War I, made a particularly strong impression on Ivan and he dedicates a lot of space to it. His war Diary portrays in a vivid manner the dramatic situation on the battlefield, as well as in the country for whose interests he was obliged to fight; he follows the disintegration of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy, the creation of the artificial Yugoslav state under Serbian domination, etc. He was not happy with the creation of the new state after the end of the war, and he gives us his critical judgements on that. Later on in his Diary, Merz will frequently note his views on political and social developments. He makes acquaintances with some of the political personalities of his time (Korošec, Don Sturzo and other). As a student he attends political lectures and rallies and confides to his Diary his comments and judgements. (Here we find very interesting comments about communism, written after he attended the communist assembly in Zagreb on 25 January 1920. He also attended their meetings in Vienna on 18 April 1920 and 20 April 1920).

Commitment for his “favorite nation”

From the very beginning Ivan Merz wrote his Diary in the Croatian language. However, he often quotes from literature in German and French, and sometimes, especially from the booklet The Imitation of Christ also in Latin. We mainly translated these quotations into Croatian. Merz’s mother tongue was German; at his home in Banja Luka he usually spoke German with his parents. However, after reaching the age of 17, he starts to write his Diary in Croatian and continues to write it in this language until the very end. His conscious commitment to belonging to the Croatian people and its culture found expression in the fact that the Diary was written in Croatian language. He often mentions his fondness and love of the Croatian people, “the dearest nation,” 6 as he calls it in the initial pages of the Diary. It is precisely in the Diary that we can follow this process of his gradual and conscious assimilation in the Croatian national being. Particularly significant for this aspect was his visit to the tombs of the Counts of Zrinski and Frankopan during his stay at the Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt. He left us an impressive and emotional account from which it is transparent to what extent he identified with their ideas and how much he appreciated their sacrifice. Here is just one sentence from his comment: “Glory be to you, honest Croats! Even the heart of stone will weep when it sees such innocent men slain!”7

Saints are not born, you become one!

Ivan’s Diary is one document more among a series of similar ones which illustrate the truth of a well-known saying: “Saints are not born, you become one” (it is with these words that a daily broadcast about the lives of saints celebrated on that day in liturgy and the calendar of the Catholic Church on the Croatian Catholic Radio begins). In Ivan’s example, as he left us written so sincerely in his Diary, it is apparent how a saint is created, how God’s grace leads and encourages him, while he readily receives this inspiration using all the means to do what God wants of him. A lot of struggle was necessary to resist the temptations, to restrain his body and unhealthy leanings and finally, to claim victory, as the Diary testifies for us. This is what makes it so attractive to every believing Christian who can find in its pages an example of how success on the road of Christian sanctity is possible.

The Diary notebooks

Ivan Merz’s Diary is not written in a single book, but encompasses 20 notebooks of various sizes and thickness. Such a way of writing was dictated by the circumstances in which Merz found himself during the studies and on the battlefield during the war. Below, we list the time period, as noted by Merz, in which each of the notebooks was written:

  1. – 27 February 1914 until 15 October 1914 and from 24 October 1914 until 26 October 1914.

2. – 7 December 1914 until 16 March 1915.

3. – 17 March 1915 until 24 June 1915.

4. – 26 June 1915 until 28 October 1915.

5. – 12 November 1915 until 9 December 1915.

6. – 9 December 1915 until 28 February 1916.

7. – 7 March 1916 until 15 July 1916.

8. – 17 July 1916 until 28 December 1916.

9. – 31 March 1917 until 5 May 1917.

10. – 7 May 1917 until 22 July 1917.

11. – 9 September 1915 until l5 October 1917.

12. – 27 October 1917 until 25 December 1917.

13. – 27 January 1918 until 24 September 1918.

14. – 25 September 1918 until 21 November 1918.

15. – 23 November 1918 until 15 July 1919.

16. – 17 July 1919 until 6 February 1920.

17. – 22 February 1920 until 4 November 1921 and from 21 January until 27 March 1928.

18. – Pilgrimage to Lourdes from 21 until 28 August 1924.

19. – Stay in Argent (France) on 5 September 1924.

20. – Spiritual exercises 7 – 9 September 1923 and 27 – 29 March 1926.

Date, age and subtitles

As can be seen from the dates, Merz was not writing his Diary on a daily basis, but periodically. Whenever he was noting down something he wrote at the beginning of his note in the right corner the location and date. This notation varied from one notebook to another; sometimes he called months by their non-Croatian names: January, February, March etc. as was the custom at that time in Bosnia. For easier reference, we unified all the dates, and substituted the names of the months with Roman numerals. Occasionally Merz places an abbreviation of the day in the week when he wrote a particular entry, which adds additional coloring to the date routine. We left this notation of his, without adding the name of the day in other entries where Merz didn’t place them.

After the date, we added in brackets the year and the month which refer to his age, i.e. from this notation it is visible how old he was at the time of writing a given text. We deemed this addition to be useful and important. It is interesting, namely, to compare the content and maturity of his thoughts and text with his age. It seems almost incredible that some texts were written by a young man aged eighteen, twenty, twenty-two. (See for instance the text on liturgy in the Diary written on 18 December 1918. Merz was then twenty-two. The thoughts he put on paper almost prophetically were accepted and realized in the 2nd Vatican Council,1962-1965!)

In one day Merz would regularly write about several distinct topics, without distinguishing them with special marks. In order to facilitate the reading and navigation in this richness of topics about which Ivan wrote and commented, we divided individual daily texts into smaller units and added editorial subtitles in Italic which are not present in Merz’s original text.

The necessary linguistic interventions in this edition of the Diary

Croatian language in which Merz wrote his Diary is a language hundred years old, which was used at that time in speech and writing in Bosnia. In addition, he wrote it with the knowledge of the language as he learnt it in school and how he spoke with his colleagues in Banja Luka where he grew up and attended school. It is clear that such a form of Croatian, though understandable to us now, nevertheless differs significantly from the modern, standardized Croatian literary language and its orthography. Ivan had no intentions to publish his Diary during his lifetime, and consequently, didn’t polish or embellish it in any way, but was writing spontaneously according to the level of knowledge of Croatian which he used at the time. In the first years, we see very frequently in the Diary notes the structure of sentences characteristic of the German language, with a verb at the end. This is a translation of the German means of expression, which he used in communication with his parents. Some of the words which Ivan uses in the Diary today have a different form. Very often he uses eastern linguistic varieties and means of expression, as was common for his period in Bosnia.

As this is not a critical edition of his Diary, but an edition whose primary aim is to enable the public to get to know his original thought in a most accessible way, we adapted his language to the modern literary language and harmonized it with current orthography. The eastern expressions were substituted with Croatian standards, and the syntax of the sentence is harmonized with Croatian syntax. Still, some of his readily understandable expressions we left as he wrote them in order to preserve some of the spirit of the time in which he lived.

In adapting and translation of old expressions and linguistic forms into modern expressions, we took meticulous care to preserve the original meaning of Merz’s thought and to express with modern language exactly what he meant, wanted and wrote in the language of his day. I hope we succeeded in that.

Capital letters of some words

Although we applied modern Croatian orthography to this edition of the Diary, apart from the necessary linguistic corrections, some words or expressions were left, nevertheless, as Merz wrote them in his Diary. Specifically, this refers to capital letters with which he starts some words, although according to new orthography they should be written in lowercase. I quote only the most important ones: Truth, Life, Grace, Sacred Mass, Communion, Confession, Christianity, etc. With this manner of expression Ivan wanted to express his veneration towards the realities which these words denote, and at the same time, give an emphasis to what these realities meant for him as a person; for instance, in the first years of the Diary he expresses a pronounced striving to know the full truth about the world and life, and he often writes this word with a capital letter. By leaving the words as he has written them in his Diary, we wanted to draw attention to his inner understanding of these realities about which he is writing in the Diary.

Additions to the Diary – editor’s introductions and other sources

In front of individual Diary units, depending on the location on which Merz was at the time of writing, we placed editorial introductory comments which are useful for a better understanding of his Diary notes from different periods. These introductions explain the environment, circumstances and other accidental facts relating to Merz’s life in its different periods, which enhances the reading experience of the Diary itself. However, along with the texts from the Diary, we deemed it necessary to add some other of Ivan’s texts from the period of writing of the Diary. These are either some of his more important letters (e.g. from the battlefield), or texts written at a certain time (e.g. the text New Age), which were placed besides the Diary notes where they chronologically belong by the date of their writing. These texts fill the void at times when Ivan didn’t write the Diary (e.g. the first months of 1917) or are important if we wish to gain a better insight into his intellectual profile and spiritual physiognomy which was developing at a given time. Here we wish to stress particularly his letters to Dr. Ljubo Maraković, letters to his friend N. Bilogrivić and especially interesting letters to his parents, especially to his mother from Paris. Although these letters will be published in a separate volume of Ivan’s correspondence, we inserted them here in a chronological order, relative to the time of their writing, because with their sincerity and openness they complement and shed light on those parts of Ivan’s soul and his thinking that we couldn’t gather only from the Diary of that time.

In the Diary Ivan often quotes the thoughts of other people, writers, thinkers, saints, etc. which made a special impression upon him and found response in his soul. These are in the first place, quotations from the Bible and the booklet “The Imitation of Christ”, sayings or verses of certain literary figures whose works he was reading; sometimes he quotes entire paragraphs or poems from these writers. Some of these quotations are in the language in which Ivan read them: German, French or Italian, sometimes even Latin. There are quite a lot of foreign words which Merz uses in the Diary, which are a consequence of his broad literary culture – the result of extensive companionship with world literature. We have left these as they originally appear or we have given a translation among the editorial notes.

Other texts of a diary character in the period from 1922 until 1928.

After the 4th of November 1921, Ivan couldn’t keep the Diary any more. The end of the studies in Paris and gathering of materials for the dissertation, return to the homeland in the summer of 1922, employment as a teacher of foreign languages in the Archiepiscopal High School – all of that limited his free time and directed his attention towards more pressing, existential problems. Only in the last year of life, several months before his death, he wrote several precious pages which we placed at the end, where they also chronologically belong.

Although during that period Ivan did not officially keep a Diary, valuable documents are preserved written in a diary manner, from which we can reconstruct his spiritual profile in that period, and glance into his spirituality and ascent towards sanctity. We give the list of these documents in the introduction to the last period of his life which he spent in Zagreb, from 1922 until 1928, and then we publish them in full, chronologically as they were written.

Indices

At the end of the book the reader will find several indices. One is an index of the names of persons mentioned in the Diary, and another is an index of locations where Merz lived during his lifetime, especially during the war when he was frequently moved about. To this we added the index of literary works which he read, in two forms: in the chronological order in which he read a certain literary work, and then alphabetically, by the names of their writers. To this we added the index of writers which Merz compiled himself at the end of his dissertation on the influence of liturgy on French writers. Merz was reading these works mainly in Paris, but he didn’t manage to keep a chronological record of them. Finally, we have a subject index encompassing key notions found in the Diary. When we observe all the works which Merz read, we are amazed at their sheer number. In the first place this is an indicator not only of his desire for knowledge and artistic pleasure, but also for the finding of truth which he was looking for in books. Apart from being gifted in the arts, Merz had a leaning toward philosophy. By reading these works of art Merz gained a broad education, but he didn’t find in them what he was looking for. When a question was put to him in a survey of how he would describe the impact on him of the novels which he read, Merz answered: “They vastly broadened my horizon (I only read works of literary value), but in them there is an emptiness regarding philosophical and theological truths.” 8

Acknowledgements

Finally, we wish to thank all who cooperated in the preparation of the publishing of the Bl. Ivan Merz’s Diary.

Our heartfelt thanks are due to S. Marija Asumpta Strukar from the order of the Sisters of Our Lady with a seat in Zagreb. The Postulation of Ivan Merz asked her, through her mother superior, S. Beata Milašin who was member of the Commission for the preservation of the heritage of Ivan Merz, to type the entire Diary with a typewriter. Along with her other regular duties, she completed this huge task during 1971 and 1972. This typewritten manuscript had over 800 pages, and it was done in six copies, each of which was bound as books by Mrs. Katerina Borenić from Zagreb. We also thank Mrs. Jelena Berkeš and Dr. Biserka Grabar who supplemented the typed Diary with transcripts of German and French texts, which Merz cites in his Diary.

In the 1990s, when computers entered into broad use, the Diary had to be typed on a computer, in order to be amenable for further processing. This was done by the family of Dr. Vladimir and Beba Buljan from Banja Luka who, during the Homeland War stayed in Rome, in the Home of Croatian Pilgrims where, together with their children, students Katarina and Ivan, in the course of 1994 they entered the entire Diary into a computer, a task for which the Postulation is most sincerely thankful. Our further thanks goes to Mr. Darijo Blažević from Osijek, a co-worker of the Postulation, who made the necessary technical elaborations of the computer transcript and made it available for further use. When the preparation of the Diary for publication was under way, Mr. Ivan Zubac from Osijek and David Šimunković from Zagreb, another co-worker of the Postulation helped to check and correct the texts and compare them once again with the original. The publisher extends to them his sincere thanks. We also thank Prof. Dr. Ivan Macan, SJ, who translated into Croatian various German shorter or longer texts which Merz mentions in the Diary. Rebeka Šimunković also helped us with some of the translations. Finally, we thank Mrs. Anđa Jakovljević who did the language editing and Mr. Robert Borenić who graphically prepared the manuscript for publication.

It is our wish that this, to date the most complete edition of Ivan Merz’s Diary, helps the reader to recognize, observing and following Merz’s life path, the acts of God’s grace in his/her life, the grace which stimulates in many ways each one of us, and calls us to a more perfect Christian life, so that, helped by the example of the Bl. Ivan Merz we might follow the path of Christian perfection which, by his own life, Ivan has illuminated for us.

Zagreb, 27 February 2014, 100th Anniversary of the beginning of the Diary

Božidar Nagy, SJ, Postulator

BLESSED IVAN MERZ

1896 – 1928

A short biography

1896 – 1914 – Childhood and boyhood in Banja Luka. – Ivan Merz was born in Banja Luka on 16 December 1896. Here he began his education. He attended two years of elementary school in Prijedor, where his father, an Austrian officer and State Railways employee was assigned. In Banja Luka Ivan attended high school and graduated with the mark “excellent”. He grew up in a liberal environment and was always very interested in the arts and literature. In a religious and educational sense the greatest influence on him during his school years and university studies was his teacher Dr. Ljubomir Maraković.

1914In the Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt. – Following the desire of his parents, after completing high school he attended the Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt near Vienna. However, after only three months spent there, he left, having realized that he lacked propensity and will for a military career. In spite of everything, he profited from the brief stint in the Military Academy in terms of acquiring life experience.

1915 – Beginning of the studies in Vienna. – Upon leaving the Academy, he enrolled at the Vienna University to study law. This period was marked by inner crises and searching, as is visible from his diary and correspondence. In the summer of the same year he was drafted into the army.

1916 – 1918 – In the blood and flames of World War I. – After completing an officer course, he was sent to the Italian battlefield and remained there until the end of the war. The experiences of the battlefield, where day-to-day he looked death in the eyes and was exposed to every type of hardship and suffering, deepened his faith and strengthened his Christian perception of the world. Religious values since that time took precedence in his life. This was a period of his spiritual ripening, a sincere turning towards God.

1919 – 1920 – Continuation of the studies in Vienna. – Upon the end of the war and with the consent of his parents, he finally began the study of literature, something he wanted to do since his high school days. He continued writing his diary whose pages became a precious document of his spiritual rising towards Christian sanctity.

1920 – 1922 – Study in Paris. – Supported by a Jesuit, Miroslav Vanino, he got a scholarship from a Catholic institution in France. The two-year stay in France and numerous contacts with Catholic intellectuals and converts broadened his cultural and religious horizons. He was especially interested in liturgy; he gathered material on this topic for his doctoral dissertation. This was for Merz a period of deep religious life full of asceticism and progress in the Christian faith. In a letter to his mother from Paris he says: “The Catholic faith is my vocation in life”.

1923 – Doctorate at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University in Zagreb. – He wrote his doctoral dissertation in French. Its title is: The influence of liturgy on French writers from Chateaubriand until today. This dissertation was published in Zagreb in 1996 on the 100th anniversary of his birth. In that same year, he took a life-long vow of chastity dedicating himself fully to Jesus Christ and the work for the advancement of his Kingdom. Having achieved the doctorate, he continued studies in Christian philosophy and theology privately among the Jesuits in Zagreb. He then went on to study all Church and pontifical documents of the last hundred years. The last several months of his life he dedicated to the studies of contemporary moral problems.

1922 – 1928 – An apostle of Croatian youth in Zagreb and Croatia. – Upon the completion of studies, he came to Zagreb in order to become a teacher of French and German in the Archiepiscopal Classical High School. He remained at this post until his death. During the six years he spent in Zagreb, he dedicated all of his free time to apostolic activity in Catholic youth organizations. He introduced into Croatia the Catholic Action of Pope Pius XI. He was one of the co-organizers of the Catholic organization called the Croatian Eagle Association in which he held the post of secretary. He gave the motto to this organization: SACRIFICE – EUCHARIST – APOSTOLATE. He was one of the most prominent promoters of the renewal of liturgy and Eucharist life in the Church in Croatia. He shone forth with his unrivalled example and zeal in the spreading of Christ’s kingdom in the souls of the people. He lived a saintly life filled with love towards his neighbors and heroically rose to the pinnacles of Christian perfection. Every year he performed spiritual exercises and wrote down the decisions which he dutifully carried out in his life. He wrote numerous articles, studies and brochures in which he left behind a rich intellectual and religious heritage. His main feature as a Catholic intellectual was loyalty to the Church and pope. He spread the love for the papacy in speech and writing and inserted it deeply in the souls of Croatian Catholics. It was written of him after his death that “although he never put on the cassock, he was the pillar of God’s Church”. He intended to establish an institution of Catholic lay persons, a secular institute, which would be fully dedicated to God and the apostolate. This idea of his was partly realized by his close co-worker Marica Stanković, who succeeded in establishing, ten years after his death, the first female secular institute in the Church in Croatia under the name of “Association of Female Co-workers of Christ the King”.

10 May 1928 – Sacrifice for the youth – entry into eternity. Following an unsuccessful sinus surgery, he contracted meningitis and died on Thursday 10 May 1928 in a hospital in Zagreb. Before going to the hospital, aware that he would die, he left his testament in which, among other, he writes: “Died in the peace of Catholic faith. My life was Christ and death a prize to be won. I expect the mercy of the Lord and eternal possession of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. My soul has achieved the aim for which it was created”. On the death-bed he presented his life to God as a sacrifice for the Croatian youth. How much God appreciated this sacrifice is confirmed by the fact that his name became a program for the life and work of an entire generation of young Catholics. His saintly example and sacrifice bore abundant fruit, because many among his followers continued to put into practice his spiritual heritage, as is witnessed by the inscription from the wreath which the young placed on his tomb: “THANK YOU, EAGLE OF CHRIST, FOR SHOWING US THE WAY TO THE SUN”. His tomb is in the Basilica of the Heart of Jesus in Zagreb.

22 June 2003Beatification in Banja Luka. Pope John Paul II came to Banja Luka and raised Ivan Merz to the altar as a Blessed of the Catholic Church. In his speech, the Pope said, among other things:

“Today I give you Ivan Merz as a witness of Christ and protector, but at the same time the companion on the way in your history… From this day, he will be a model for the youth, an example for secular believers… The name of Ivan Merz meant for an entire generation of young Catholics a program of life and work. It must be the same today!”

2007Included among the 18 greatest saints of the Church! – Pope Benedict XVI in his apostolic exhortation about the Eucharist “Sacramentum caritatis”, published in 2007, included the Bl. Ivan Merz, as the only one of the Croatian leading spiritual figures, among the eighteen greatest saints of the Church, examples of the veneration of the Eucharist. This is another great acknowledgement of the sanctity of the Bl. Ivan, a tribute to the Church in Croatia and an additional motivation for us to get to know him and honor him as best as we can.

Scientific research of the life and work of Ivan Merz. – Apart from numerous high school graduations, seminars and diploma papers dedicated to Ivan Merz, a total of five doctoral dissertations were written about him. These are: 1. Marin Škarica: Ivan Merz, the promoter of liturgical renewal in Croatia, Rome, 1975 (in Italian); 2. Božidar Nagy: Ivan Merz, a man of faith and educator for faith, Rome, 1978 (in Italian); 3. Zdravko Matić: Ivan Merz and the Catholic Action in Croatia, Zagreb, 2005 (in Croatian); 4. Stjepan Ribić: Faith and reason in the life and thought of Ivan Merz, Rome, 2007 (in Italian); 5. Saša Ceraj: Contribution of Dr. Ivan Merz and the Croatian Eagle Association to Croatian culture, particularly physical education, Zagreb, 2013 (in Croatian).

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Detailed information about the bl. Ivan Merz can be found on his official web site:
www.ivanmerz.hr


NOTES

 

1 Dr. Ljubomir Maraković. Merz mentions him in the Diary under three nicknames: Ljuba, Ljuban, Luban.

2 Before going into the army, Ivan wrote in his Banja Luka notebook of his Diary on 28 February 1916 these thoughts: “Before leaving for the army, I will write a word or two more. With this, namely, I finish this diary with which I wanted to cultivate my inner nature and create a masterpiece of my soul. I feel I am still far from this goal. (…)”

3 Cardinal Franjo Kuharić, Sermon in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 10 May 1982 on the anniversary of Ivan Merz’s death

4 1. D. Kniewald, Life and work of Dr. Ivan Merz (in Croatian), Zagreb, 1932; – 2. J. Vrbanek, The Knight of Christ – Ivan Merz (in Croatian), Zagreb, 1943; – 3. B. Nagy, Warrior from the White Mountains (in Croatian), Zagreb, 1971; – 4. F. Veraja, Ivan Merz – Pioneer of the Catholic Action in Croatia (in Italian), Rome, 1998

5 Although five doctoral dissertations have been written on Merz so far, and numerous other reflections of a smaller volume, the literary aspect of Merz’s heritage has not been elaborated so far, and this part of his personality and profession still waits for its researcher.

6 Diary, 18 April 1914

7 Diary, 15 October 1914

8 See p. 470 in the printed edition of the Diary