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LITURGICAL SPIRITUAL RENEWAL

Ivan Merz

LITURGICAL SPIRITUAL RENEWAL
Lecture held at a Catholic school youth meeting in Požega, August 1924

(Catholic periodical Luč, Zagreb, November 4, 1924, vol. XX, no. 1, pp. 11-17)

If we look at the history of Christ’s Church, we will be amazed by the great multitude of orders, saints, institutions, and masterpieces of every kind. We cannot but observe the history of Catholics with pride and joy: the heroism of the first martyrs and crusaders, the apostolic zeal of Sts. Francis and Dominic and their brothers, the wise statecraft of Sts. Louis and Henry, the scholarship of Sts. Thomas and St. Teresa. We can rightly apply the words of the Holy Scripture to the Church and its history: Circumdata varietatibus (Ps 44:10)[1].

However, if we look more closely at all this diversity of the Church throughout different centuries and among different peoples, we will come to the conclusion that the basis for this diversity is the spiritual life of individuals – the relationship of their souls with God and the activity of the Grace of God in their souls. This is what is essential, substantial, whereas all the other manifestations of religious life, all these visible expressions of the activity of the Holy Spirit in human history are inessential, accidental.

We, who are gathered in the organizations of so-called Catholic Action, which is a contemporary manifestation of the activity of the Holy Spirit in the Church, are connected with past generations of Catholics by this important movement that holds a very special place in the life of the Church. This whole system of lay organizations with the aim of consolidating, applying, protecting, and defending Catholic principles in the lives of individuals, families, and human society – this whole system, I say, fully meets the needs of today’s dechristianized society. The methods of Catholic Action that we use today would certainly not be appropriate in past centuries, while the methods of previous centuries would in many ways be outdated today. Yet at the bottom of all these diverse methods of action lies the spiritual life of Catholics, which has been the same throughout all ages and which is the original principle of all these diverse activities.

If, therefore, we want to worthily fulfill our role as members of Catholic Action, it is absolutely necessary that we become acquainted with the foundations of our work in order to accept that universal spiritual life which remains the same among all peoples and throughout all centuries.

I think you understand where I am going with this: what all Catholics have in common is their religious life. The more perfect this religious life is, the more successful the work of individuals in the “re-establishment of all things in Christ” (Eph 1:10) will be. Since man is a social being that must rely on his neighbor, if he wants to improve in whatever respect – even religiously – each individual has to rely on the achievements of others: in a word, he must learn from others how to live spiritually.

And who is a better teacher of spiritual life than the Holy Church, which, apart from its two-thousand-year experience acts under the influence of the Holy Spirit Himself? Can there be better methods than the ones that the Church teaches? Let us, therefore, humbly knock on its door and ask it to be our guide in our spiritual life; let us ask that our limited, worthless lives may become partakers in the Church’s infinite inner life, that our meager souls may expand to the immensity of divine life.

The Church achieves this through its Holy Liturgy. Liturgy is the official prayer of the Church, the official prayer of the Bride of Christ, a conversation between the Bride and the divine Bridegroom. Oh, how gladly we listen to a conversation between two very wise men; it seems to us that our chests are expanding and that we ourselves are becoming wiser. How much more, then, should we harken to the conversation between Christ our God and the Church, which is like Him! Shall we ignore this whole world of ideas, shall we not allow it to lift our lives to the immeasurable heights of divine life? God forbid! And when you remember that every human soul is the bride of Christ and that your souls become mirrors of the infinite Word of God, then you wonder in astonishment: Lord, is it possible that You made such a limited being a bearer of eternity, that You work so many miracles with the human soul?

We arrive at all these insights through Holy Liturgy. It is therefore necessary to get to know it as thoroughly as possible and to benefit from it as much as possible. Here is the most important thing. The greatest thing in this world is the Holy Church; the greatest thing in the Church is the Mass; the greatest thing in the Mass is transubstantiation. Just as Christ had directed all His thoughts toward Golgotha during His earthly life, so the Bride of Christ, the Church, directs all her gazes toward the altar. Thus, what happens at the altar is the greatest thing that ever happens in the world. There, a special social act takes place – the prayer and sacrifice offered by Jesus on Calvary for the salvation of the whole world. This is the same prayer and the same sacrifice that the Catholic hierarchy, which bears Christ’s priestly order, publicly offers to God for and on behalf of all people.

But in order that we may understand the full grandeur of this act and benefit from it, the Holy Mass is clothed in a special garment. The prayers that are sung and prayed during Mass are true masterpieces of literature and music; the vestments and gestures that embellish this divine service enrich our knowledge. Various liturgical cycles throughout the year acquaint us with the central mysteries of our holy faith. Thus, throughout the year, we become acquainted with the entire life of Jesus. In the Advent, we contemplate how the Word of God resided in the infinite bosom of the heavenly Father, and at Christmas we watch Him break through the darkness of the world like an eagle and descend into the stable of Bethlehem. We then follow Him in His ministry, weep with Mary under the cross, cry out with joy after the Resurrection, receive His gifts at Pentecost and wait for the post-Pentecost season to return and for Him to appear in the clouds, clothed in heavenly splendor, surrounded by angels and saints. We experience all these phases of Jesus’ life through liturgy. We try to dive into the Savior’s soul at certain moments and we wonder what He meant on this or that occasion:

“What were Your thoughts, our Savior, when You lay on rough straw in the stable of Bethlehem? Surely we must imitate You, be content with a little and love poverty. Maybe You felt sadness in Your soul because You foresaw the destruction of Bethlehem since it gave You no shelter? Your thoughts sailed on as You mourned over those nations which refused to receive You and Your holy Church, whom also awaits the sad destiny of Bethlehem.” As we contemplate the Gospel read from the Missal at Christmas, the Holy Spirit awakens in us feelings of great love for the Christ Child and we answer Him: “It is true: how many times I have sinned, how many times I have scorned Your teaching, I too deserve no happier destiny than the inhabitants of Bethlehem. And what about our people? When we look at how they, oh Jesus, have strayed from Your teaching, how swearing and unfaith reign among them, then I begin to fear for their future. I am inclined to believe that they deserve the destiny of Bethlehem. But still, Jesus, my dear Jesus, remember that You did not come into the world to destroy it, but to save it, and that is why I personally promise You that I will satisfy for my sins and the sins of my nation by imitating You and by loving holy poverty. Specifically, I will make the following sacrifices today and I will be kind to everyone, or I will not eat a single cake after lunch, or I will humble myself in front of this and that and tell him my mistakes…”

By doing so, we will be reflecting on the immeasurable life of Christ all year long; our souls will thus become a reflection of immeasurableness itself. Liturgy further unveils for us the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the life of angels, and, finally, the whole history of the Holy Church, as reflected in its representatives – saints. When we think about all these mysteries, we become partakers of the divine nature already on earth, we become gods in a way.

Especially beautiful are the Masses dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us, for example, look at the reading from the Feast of the Holy Rosary: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived…” These words from the Proverbs (8:22–24; 32–35) are applied in the Holy Mass to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Here are some thoughts to consider. Before the Lord God created His greatest masterpiece – which by its beauty and by its charm surpasses the whole universe with all its wonders, even the angelic choirs – before the Eternal Wisdom created the Blessed Virgin Mary, He conceived her in His mind. Oh, the endless joy of the Great Artist who has enjoyed His art since the beginning of the world! And as if the Primal Artist was impatiently waiting for the right hour to create this masterpiece of all masterpieces, He sketched the main features of His future piece of art during the pre-Mary centuries: Are we not reminded of Mary when we look at Eve, who adorned the earthly paradise, or Sarah? Or take the pure and beautiful Rebekah, the bereaved Rachel, the victorious Moses’ sister Miriam, the servant Ruth, the powerful Judith, the humble Esther, the heroic Mother of Maccabees… In all these Old Testament women you will recognize a sketch of the one who would become the Mother of God. And when we plunge into the inner life of God by means of liturgy, we draw from it our method of action: If we want to produce a great masterpiece, e.g., establish an organization, nurture one single soul, convert one single opponent, we must thoroughly plan our course of action in order to accomplish our intention. And this fundamental idea will occupy our attention from within in such a way that our final intention will be unconsciously reflected in the rest of our deeds as well. Just as Ruth, Esther, and Deborah bear some features of Mary, so our final work will cast its light on all our other works. Furthermore, just as the Lord Himself performed great contemplation before the creation of the world, so every individual Catholic must perform at least one brief act of contemplation before beginning his daily work.

It is clear from the above that contemplation is best done on the basis of Holy Liturgy. Seeing as there is no complete Croatian edition of the Missal, nor is the solemn sung Mass as required by the Holy See yet known in our nation, the following instructions will only apply to what is feasible in the current circumstances. All these instructions can be reduced to three pieces of advice:

1) Read spiritual literature daily
2) Contemplate using the Missal daily
3) Do not attend Mass without receiving Communion.

1

If we want to have a correct and deep understanding of the meaning of the Missal, of its prayers, sequences, psalms, and readings, we need solid religious knowledge. Let not a single day pass without us enriching our religious knowledge. We should not consider it a matter of our good will but be convinced that it is our duty. Today’s educational system has no place for this teaching, so let us make up for these shortcomings ourselves. You can get information about books suitable for this purpose from your spiritual directors. Make sure you become well acquainted with the Savior’s life and the lives of the most prominent saints.

2

Once you have become acquainted with the Savior’s life, the Missal itself will be clearer to you. The Croatian translation of the Missal contains Masses for all Sundays of the year as well as the most important feast days. Every evening you should read either the next day’s Mass or the full chapter from the Gospel or from an epistle to be read next Sunday. From this, single out one or more sentences that you feel suit your spiritual or emotional needs and fall asleep with these thoughts.

Strive, if possible, to attend Holy Mass every day. Now, whether you will contemplate outside of Mass or during it depends on how much time you have at your disposal. And I would certainly advise you to refrain from praying anything else during Holy Mass except the Mass itself. Since time is limited, you might contemplate those sentences you chose before bedtime until the elevation. In this way you will contemplate the idea put forward in the Holy Mass and combine liturgical prayer with ordinary meditation. Let me briefly remind you of the principal elements of all contemplation. First, prepare the subject matter for contemplation. This you have done in the evening. Then comes repentance for sins – you have to be very specific here – and prayer for forgiveness. Be aware of God’s presence: You should feel that He is with you and that you are kneeling in His presence and that He is keeping a watchful eye on how you will perform your contemplation. You may also imagine Jesus looking at you from the tabernacle. Once you have become aware of God’s presence, build in your imagination an environment in which, for example, a gospel scene takes place. So, at Christmas, picture a stable, and in it Mary, Joseph, an ox, a donkey, with all the details that come to mind. This is a much-needed means of preventing your thoughts from escaping and dispersing. Now ask God that He may bless this contemplation of yours and grant you all the graces you wish to receive according to this contemplation.

All this was just preparation. Real contemplation is just beginning and it proceeds as we have already shown in the Bethlehem scene or in the reflection on Mary’s creation. This contemplation is not so much about igniting great and ardent feelings in yourselves as about making very concrete decisions about how you will offer up some sacrifices that very day by suppressing a certain sin or by doing a good deed. One should beware of making general decisions, e.g., I will be humble, good, etc. Finally, give thanks for the graces obtained and briefly repeat the whole contemplation.

Try to be finished before the elevation. During the elevation, offer up your decisions, your little sacrifices in communion with Christ’s sacrifice to God the Father and ask that it may please Him to accept it and one day make you a partaker of the second divine Person, so that Jesus might bring you into the very heart of the Holy Trinity.

Let the picture from your contemplation remain in your imagination. You should be aware that the very same Jesus you have been thinking about a little while ago is lying there in the manger and that He longs in His heart to be united with your heart and with the hearts of all other believers in the church.

3

It is certain that the Holy Mass is somewhat fragmentary without Holy Communion. The Savior could well have become incarnate under the kinds of gold or stone, yet He did not do so, but chose the kinds of bread and wine and thus clearly invited us to partake of Him at every Holy Mass. As the Mystical Body of Christ, the fullness of the Body of Christ, we sacrifice ourselves mentally in the Holy Mass. The sacrifice is complete only when we unite with Jesus in the Mass with the closest bonds of love, so that one essence is melted into another. This is done by Holy Communion. That is why the early Christians received Communion at every Mass. Moreover, the Council of Trent encouraged Christians to receive Communion whenever they attended Holy Mass as early as 350 years ago. Let us do the same, let us be contemporary Catholics, let us become partakers of the infinite life of the Word of God by Holy Communion. This act, in which your body and soul unite with the very Godhead, has to be the culmination of your life; this act is also the culmination of the whole liturgy. All the magnificent prayers and songs, all your acts of contemplation, all your daily acts have to be Christocentric; they have to be directed toward that supreme hour of your daily life. In this way, your ultimate purpose is fulfilled even in this world and you become partakers of the very essence of God.

Indeed, we Catholics neglect this wonderful treasure, and yet we are still surprised to see that our work often yields no blessing.

By means of liturgical contemplation, every Catholic becomes great and universal. He puts aside his personal interests and begins to feel what the Church, that magnificent reflection of the immeasurable Christ, itself feels. On the basis of liturgy, each individual soul is nurtured. Liturgy is pedagogy in the true sense of the word, because through it a believer experiences in his soul all phases of Christ’s eternal life. United by Catholic liturgy, people across the globe contemplate the same things on the same day, which strengthens the consciousness of the Catholic unity of all peoples. Finally, through liturgy, man gives God due glory in the most perfect way. A believer who prays liturgically blends his voice with the angelic choirs, who praise the Creator without cease, and thus in fact begins to practice even on this earth the service which he will, full of joy and delight, perform in eternity. “If anyone denies that the world was created for the glory of God: let him be anathema,” says the First Vatican Council[2]. Let us, rational beings, also sing God’s praise, let us unite our prayers and songs with the nostalgic prayers and songs of the Bride longing for her divine Bridegroom in this valley of tears and exile. May our prayer henceforth be social, united with the Holy Church – let it be liturgical!

Translated from Croatian by Robert Matečić

[1] „Surrounded with variety“. Merz quotes from the Vulgate. The verse is Ps 45:10 in modern translations of the Bible.

[2] Dogmatic constitution “Dei Filius”, Canon 1

NOVENA

TO  BLESSED  IVAN  MERZ

INTRODUCTION

 

After the beatification of Ivan Merz in 2003 by Pope John Paul II, the veneration of the new Croatian Blessed became more and more widespread,  not only in his native land of Croatia, but also in different parts of the world. Many are praying to him asking for his help and many have had their petitions granted. One can read numerous documented expressions of gratitude on his grave and on the website in the internet in his honor.

Following his Beatification, the necessary proceedings are continuing for his Canonization. It includes two conditions to be fulfilled:

1. His life and his example as Blessed have to be known and venerated amongst Christians. 

2.  The Church requires one miracle that should take place through his intercession after the faithful have prayed to him.

For these reasons the postulation office for the canonization of Blessed Ivan Merz prepared this prayer book-novena in order to help the faithful in their prayers to Blessed Ivan to receive graces by his intercession.

Prayers for Novena are made so that each day has its own theme that is based on those virtues, which were so characteristic and outstanding in the life of Blessed Ivan. This will also give the opportunity to those who pray to discover better the basic lines of his spirituality.

These prayers may be adapted also to devotions of three days – triduum, similar to other devotions in honor of Blessed Ivan Merz. 

 

 

 

SUGGESTIONS HOW TO PROCEED WITH NOVENA

 

In addition to the prayers for the every day Novena here presented, and for the best way to proceed with this Novena, it is advised to add the following:

1. Confession and Communion. The best way to start the Novena is with Confession and Holy Communion: Confession before one starts the Novena and Holy Communion in partaking of Holy Mass, at least once during the Novena. Blessed Ivan Merz  honored and adored the Eucharist. He attended Holy Mass and received Holy Communion daily, therefore his intercession may have a better effect if one includes the Eucharist to the prayers.

2. One part-mystery of the rosary. Is very much advised to pray at least the one part-mystery of the rosary (ten Ave Maria), because Blessed Ivan was a big venerator of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

3. Learn about the life of Blessed Ivan Merz. It is advisable that during the Novena, participants learn about the life of Blessed Ivan Merz. Those who have access to the internet may read  the English texts about him on the site: www.ivanmerz.hr

 4. To visit the tomb of Ivan Merz. This is possible for the people living or visiting Zagreb in Croatia. His tomb is in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the street Palmoticeva 31.  One can visit also the place where the relics of Blessed Ivan are venerated, for example – in the Philippines.

All those people whose prayers were fulfilled by the intercession of Blessed Ivan Merz should inform the:

POSTULATION OF BL. IVAN MERZ

Address: Jordanovac 110, pp 169  HR-10000 – ZAGREB, Croatia

E-mail: postulatura@ivanmerz.hr

 

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OPENING PRAYER

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Lord God, our Heavenly Father, we are beginning this Novena to honor your faithful servant, Blessed Ivan Merz, who lived to proclaim Your glory here on earth by following the words of the Gospel. Through his life You shown Your own glory. By his holy merits and intercession give us Your grace which we need to live according to the Christian values. We pray to grant us this grace for which we pray in this novena. Help us that we too, as Blessed Ivan, strive to live a life of holiness. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

 

 

FIRST DAY

 

LIFE – DEATH – PASSING – ETERNITY

 

Blessed Ivan, meditating about the mystery of life and death, as a young man, you realized very early the transience of all creation on this earth. Thinking about eternity was constantly preoccupying your inner life. When you were on the battle-field during the war, face to face with suffering and dying, you were enlightened by the Grace of God, so that you changed entirely your view and understanding of the world. The only true response to the fundamental question about life, you found in Christian faith. Lead by the Grace of God, you reasonably envisaged life, and you left to us inspirational thoughts about the passage from this life to eternity. We can still hear you, even today, through your thoughts:

 

This life is only the short preparation for eternity.

We should try to sweeten this short life with an ascetical way of life.

I feel that this life is only an ephemeral phase that leads into eternal life.

Pain, suffering, a view of thousands of deformed, dead and haggard people, washes a person of all ephemeral things, and suggests the meaning of life forcefully.

The most important question for man is the problem of death.

Life is not enjoyment but sacrifice.

Man is here only a traveler, his real habitation is not on the Earth, he’s been chosen for something higher.

The philosophy of happiness lies in this: the object of all our desires should be placed into the world to come.

All the powers of this life should be aimed at the life to come after this stay on the Earth.

Let’s use all of our energies to save our souls and as many souls of our neighbors as possible.

 

(In silence, let us reflect on the inspiring words of Blessed Ivan Merz.)

Let us pray. (Pause for silence)

Lord God, you enlightened your servant, Blessed Ivan, so that he may find the meaning of life and the answers to all questions in the light of Christian faith. After a long meditation, Blessed Ivan understood that this life on earth is only a preparation for the other-eternal life-where he now resides. By his intercession, we pray that you grant us the grace of enlightened vision of the transient value of life here on earth. This life should be the best preparation for eternity. Give us the grace to resist all, which could divert us from eternal life, where your servant, Blessed Ivan has already entered. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Heavenly Father, in Blessed Ivan you gave us a wonderful example of Christian virtues. By his saintly example and with your help, he shows us how it is possible, even in lay life, to achieve sainthood. Help us, encouraged with his love for Christ and Church, we follow his apostolic engagement to expand your Kingdom. By his intercession, please grant me the special grace for which I am now praying (say your personal intention that you wish to be granted through the intercession of Blessed Ivan Merz) if this will for the be good of my body and soul and for Your greater glory. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory to the Father.

 

Add the Litany of Blessed Ivan.

SECOND DAY

GOD  AND  RELIGION

 

Blessed Ivan, you were raised in liberal surroundings and it was only towards the end of your high school that you started to think seriously about religious subjects.

You observed the universe and all the creations of the world around you and you came to conclusions that a Creator who directs all that exists must Himself truly exist. Your faith in God, however, was passing through crises and doubts. But, little by little, especially through the experience of suffering in the war, your faith was purged, became firm and you grew in love and longing for union with God.

By your own thoughts, by observation of nature and art, you came to understand the significance of  religion in your life. The real, true religion you discovered solely to be the catholic religion, to which you devoted  the rest of your life.

You left us admirable thoughts about your ascent towards God who drew you more and more to Himself, bestowing on you His graces to which you readily responded. From your thoughts we are able to recognize the Light of God’s grace which was enlightening your intellect:  

 

All the wonders of the world, the whole of nature, leads us to the conclusion that everything was created by the infinite Spirit, by the Ideal of mankind, by Truth, Goodness and Beauty.

 

God exists and I firmly believe, even in the strongest moments of trial and doubt that He is the only, Eternal and Great God.

 

I believe in the Lord God Almighty, I believe that He’s the perfect Spirit in free will and greatness.

 

The fact is that God exists, that I feel Him around me, in myself, here, there, everywhere.

 

Where you are absent, God, there is no joy .

 

Religion without prayer is dead.

 

The best way to spend time is to contemplate God and the revealed truths.

 

Absolute contentment is in God only.

 

There is one God who ceaselessly influences the human souls.

 

God, how much I love You, how much I thank You for You are filling my soul now with a strange, abundant sweetness. How my soul rises, how it flies to You; it would like to break this chest by superhuman strength, and go up there to be united with You eternally.

(In silence, let us reflect on the inspiring words of Blessed Ivan Merz.)

 

 

Let us pray. (Pause for silence)

 

God, Our Father, your servant, Blessed Ivan, enlightened and lead by Your grace, found the way to You. You revealed Yourself to him in the beauty of your creations, in the grandeur of the universe and in the depth of the heart that is longing for a source. You were a drawing force and he readily responded to the call of Your Spirit. Give to us too, by his intercession, the grace of our willingness to accept Your call, to recognize You and discover You in your creations and that by this discovery we too become drawn to You, so that together with Blessed Ivan, we too find eternal unity with You. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

Heavenly Father, in Blessed Ivan you gave us a wonderful example of Christian virtues. By his saintly example and with your help, he shows us how it is possible, even in lay life, to achieve sainthood. Help us, encouraged with his love for Christ and Church, we follow his apostolic engagement to expand your Kingdom. By his intercession, please grant me the special grace for which I am now praying (say your personal intention that you wish to be granted through the intercession of Blessed Ivan Merz) if this will for the be good of my body and soul and for Your greater glory. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory to the Father.

 

Add the Litany of Blessed Ivan.

THIRD DAY

JESUS CHRIST AND THE LOVE OF HIS HEART IN THE EUCHARIST

 

Blessed Ivan, the central force in your Christian life was our Saviour Jesus Christ. You met him at first as the cosmic ruler of the universe, then as a presence in Church Liturgy and in Church Hierarchy, and above all you were seeing Him in the Bishop of Rome – the Pope.

You recognized Christ in human beings. In a special way you recognized Christ’s love under the sign of His Most Sacred Heart to which you were devoted, had confidence, and trusted in.  The most important place where you met the Saviour was in the Holy Eucharist, which became the centre of your spiritual life.

Since your student days you went to daily Mass and you received daily Holy Communion. The presence of Jesus in the Eucharist gave you inspiration and strength for numerous apostolic activities. Daily you were visiting Him in Church during the Adoration of the Holy Sacrament; and you propagated your love for the Eucharistic Jesus ardently amongst the youth. Personally, you consecrated your life to the Heart of Jesus.

Everything you did, you did “for the glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus”, as you documented in your diary. God’s Providence rewarded your confidence in the Heart of Jesus in a visible way:  your body is awaiting resurrection under the volts of  the Basilica of  The Heart of Jesus in Zagreb, which was the place of your sanctification and where your spiritual ascend toward God took place. We are listening to your inspirational thoughts about our Saviour, which you left for us in your diary and other texts:

 

Christ has come into the world to consecrate all of nature, every man and every nation.

 

Christ is the purpose and aim of our eternal desires.

 

I must deserve here, at least, a little bit of Christ’s immeasurable love, and also, with the help of God I’ll try to continue the act of consecration as strongly as possible.

 

Holy Communion is the source of life.

 

Everybody knows how the closeness of the Eucharist strengthens.

 

In Holy Communion, where your body and your soul unite with the very Divinity, has to be the culmination of your life.

 

Uniting yourself with Christ in Holy Communion, even here on earth, your last purpose is fulfilled, and you become partakers in the very Being of God.

 

The Holy Mass is only then complete if we unite with Jesus in the Holy Communion, by the tightest links of love, melting one being into another.

 

The Eucharist is the strongest means, the fire which burns the rust of sins in ourselves, and gives life to our soul.

 

The Eucharist is our first joy on earth; through it we are already becoming partakers of a future heavenly glory.

 

In Holy Communion a soul celebrates its triumphs; it becomes similar to its divine Fiancé, becomes divine, and becomes a partaker of immensity and eternity.

 

Heart of Jesus, I dedicate my life to You: if I should suffer and come to You in this way, if it is in honour of You, Your will be done.

 

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is the strongest factor for re-evangelization of society.

Let everything be to the glory of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus!

 

I am expecting the mercy of the Lord and undivided, complete, eternal possession of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

(In silence, let us reflect on the inspiring words of Blessed Ivan Merz.)

 

Let us pray. (Pause for silence)

Lord Jesus, you revealed Yourself to Blessed Ivan, and the abundance  of Divine life in your Sacred Heart, which he revered and loved from the bottom of his own heart, so that he found in You the centre of his life.

You endowed him with a special supernatural gift of understanding and a deep faith in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. With his entire being he admired this mystery of Your divine love receiving it daily and making Adoration in front of the tabernacle. By his intercession, give us understanding of the love of Your Sacred Heart, in order that we also will be able in our humility to witnesses to others of the love of your Sacred Heart, to promote Your Glory, and by this way lead our brothers to eternal salvation. Grant us, we pray, that the Eucharist becomes the centre of our spiritual life from which we will be able to draw strength for our own sanctification and the love for our neighbours.  We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

Heavenly Father, in Blessed Ivan you gave us a wonderful example of Christian virtues. By his saintly example and with your help, he shows us how it is possible, even in lay life, to achieve sainthood. Help us, encouraged with his love for Christ and Church, we follow his apostolic engagement to expand your Kingdom. By his intercession, please grant me the special grace for which I am now praying (say your personal intention that you wish to be granted through the intercession of Blessed Ivan Merz) if this will for the be good of my body and soul and for Your greater glory. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory to the Father.

 

Add the Litany of Blessed Ivan.

FOURTH DAY

THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

 

Blessed Ivan, you were adorned by very special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. As a youth you had a deep devotion for Mary asking for Her help in your struggles against sin and help to keep purity of your soul. Under Her protection you  took a vow of chastity and she helped  you so that you faithfully observed it radiantly with the angelic light of your soul.

Your Devotion to Mary deepened in Lourdes where you discovered the  rosary, and from then on you prayed it daily. The rosary became, along with Eucharist, your most faithful friend until your death. You were also a big promoter of  the veneration to Our Lady of Lourdes. You consecrated to her many lectures and other literary texts. You emphasised always the role of Blessed Virgin Mary for spiritual life of every believer and so you left to us many incentive thoughts about Blessed Virgin as well your own sincere supplications for her help:

 

My good Mother, the Greatest One, I beg you, fill my soul with beautiful feelings and noble thoughts. Always show me the right way, even if it is difficult to follow.

My prayer goes now to the Immaculate: let Her follow me at my every step in the town of Vienna. Let my every walk and step be headed to the beautiful.

 
Eternal Mother, you who are the embodiment of poetry, of everything beautiful and eternal, let me be able to continue receiving the gifts of beauty.

 
A priest who gives us the Eucharist, substitutes in fact for the Blessed Virgin Mary who, in her endless love, gives us a fullness of her own inner life, her eternal endless life, gives us God Himself, Eucharistic Jesus Christ.

 
Yes, I’ve learned in Lourdes what the rosary is, and it is from now on my second best friend. Lourdes has added an emotional element to my rational faith.

 
Although the Blessed Virgin Mary has not quite healed my eyes – since I have difficulties in reading – in Lourdes I’ve grown fond of the rosary that will be, together with the Holy Eucharist, my most faithful friend until death.

 
When you are grieved and when you are in trouble, take the rosary of Our Lady and it will comfort you and give you strength to stand all calmly with trust in God’s Will.

Let’s pray to Mary ceaselessly so that we, full of holy joy, will die in her tender embrace and on the Heart of Jesus.

(In silence, let us reflect on the inspiring words of Blessed Ivan Merz.)

Let us pray. (Pause for silence)

Lord Jesus, Blessed Ivan was devoted in a special way to Your most Holy Mother Mary. He asked for her protection in his difficulties, he prayed daily the rosary, he promoted her glory, he defended her honour by word and writing. He made many pilgrimages to her sanctuaries. Let us pray that by his intercession we too venerate your Saint Mother so that she may be protectress  of the chastity of our souls, that she may lead us towards  sanctity, and lead us into Blessed eternity. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Heavenly Father, in Blessed Ivan you gave us a wonderful example of Christian virtues. By his saintly example and with your help, he shows us how it is possible, even in lay life, to achieve sainthood. Help us, encouraged with his love for Christ and Church, we follow his apostolic engagement to expand your Kingdom. By his intercession, please grant me the special grace for which I am now praying (say your personal intention that you wish to be granted through the intercession of Blessed Ivan Merz) if this will for the be good of my body and soul and for Your greater glory. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory to the Father.

 

Add the Litany of Blessed Ivan.

FIFTH  DAY

CHURCH – MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST

 

Blessed Ivan, enlightened by the grace of God you did, as did Saint Paul, understand the depth of the mystery of the Church as a mystical Body of Christ. In the Church you saw, and found the presence of Christ. On one occasion when you were asked why you love the Catholic Church and the Pope, you answered: “Because in it I see a clear picture of  the beloved Savior and Christ Jesus with all His perfections, and in the Holy Father, the Pope, in his humanness’  I see my God, my  Lord.” This love of yours for the Church was your most principal characteristics as you matured into a catholic intellectual, and in addition being the most trait of your personality.

This love cemented your great dedication and reverence toward the Bishop of Rome – The Holy Father, the Pope, the successor of Peter on the earth, and also towards other members of the Church’s hierarchy.  His encyclicals, sermons and messages, you studied duly and propagated in a special way amongst the youth. Everything that you wrote pertaining to the Church had its source in the depth of your experience and conviction. Although you were not a priest, you were a holding “pillar of  God’s Church “, as you were referred to. 

Out of this enormous love for the Church, followed your unselfish apostolic activity to attract others to the communion of The Church. Your reflections about the Apostolic Catholic Church and The Holy Father, the Pope, are testimony to your deep faith and enthusiasm:

 

The greatest thing existing in the world is the Holy Church; the greatest thing in the Church is the Mass, and in the Mass the consecration.

The Church is the culmination and centre of culture and of the whole of mankind.

The Church is a magnificence reflection of the infinite Christ Himself.

Let the centre of all be our Lord Jesus, who in the Church, His living Body, consecrated all of nature and the actions and deeds of all humanity.

Without great principles given by the Church, social order cannot be laid on firm foundations at all, and the renewal of human society is not possible.

The Pope is a visible and living Christ on earth amongst people.  He is the  fiancé of the universal Church.

The Papacy is the basis and immovable rock on which the whole Church is built and it extends mystically to all the dioceses in the world.

One of the most essential features of each Roman Catholic is to love the Holy Father the Pope and to harmonize all his thoughts and deeds with the orders and wishes of the Holy Father.

A building of our spiritual life, of our religious knowledge and our activities, must be erected on a steady basis on the truths that the papacy infallibly teaches. The papacy is a haven and the basis of spiritual life for every believer.

In Rome you have an intuition, a feeling that everything is fragile and ephemeral, but that the Pope’s boat swings without fear amidst the waves because its anchor is on Peter’s firm rock.

All the nations hasten to the Eternal City, into their adopted country to pay homage to their King, their Father, and to confess their faith in the Catholic Church, the only universal Church, which has been founded by Christ, and which will last to the end of the world.

In Rome one can feel that all nations are simply brothers and sisters in a common family – the Holy Church, where the father, the  head is the eternal Vicar of Christ, the Bishop of Rome.

 

(In silence, let us reflect on the inspiring words of Blessed Ivan Merz.)

Let us pray. (Pause for silence)

Lord, in Blessed Ivan, you gave a deep cognition about the mystery of the Church, which he loved sincerely and, through which, he will be sanctified.  In the Church he saw the presence of Christ the Saviour, and he endeavoured to attract as many souls as possible into its communion. He cultivated in a special way love toward the Holy Father, the Pope, and propagated reverence and veneration for him amongst the Croatian people and in a special way amongst the youth.

We pray that following his example, we also will love, defend and   serve our Holy Church, and that we follow her priests and bishops as Blessed Ivan did.  Grant us, that we too read and study attentively all teachings of the Popes and that we apply it in our lives, contributing in this way to expand your Kingdom on the earth. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 Heavenly Father, in Blessed Ivan you gave us a wonderful example of Christian virtues. By his saintly example and with your help, he shows us how it is possible, even in lay life, to achieve sainthood. Help us, encouraged with his love for Christ and Church, we follow his apostolic engagement to expand your Kingdom. By his intercession, please grant me the special grace for which I am now praying (say your personal intention that you wish to be granted through the intercession of Blessed Ivan Merz) if this will for the be good of my body and soul and for Your greater glory. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory to the Father.

 

Add the Litany of Blessed Ivan.

SIXTH  DAY

THE LIFE IN THE LITURGY

 

Blessed Ivan, cooperating with the Grace of God, you became a man of prayer immersed totally in God. So often, even four hours daily, you dedicated to prayer in different ways: Holy Mass, the Breviary, Rosary, Adoration, and The Way of Cross.  But the centre of your prayer and spiritual life was the liturgy – the official prayer worship of the Catholic Church.  From its very centre, the Eucharist, you drew the strength of Gods grace to ascent toward holiness and acquired inspiration for your apostolic endeavours.  Because of your deep conviction of the great worth of the liturgy for true Christian life, you were a fervently promoter with words and writings to young and adults alike, and in this way you became one of the leaders of liturgical renewal.

Your wonderful reflections about liturgy reveal the sanctuary of your soul, immersed in the supernatural world, which was longing to sing constant glory, Glory to God. This Glory you are singing now in eternity with angelic choirs:

 

Our spirit longs for the perfect, Great Spirit. A man talks to Him in prayer and He answers him so surprisingly and delightfully that a person thinks and breathes the air of the High.

In liturgy a man, in the most perfect way, pays deserving homage to God.

Liturgy is the official prayer of the Church, the official prayer of the Bride of Christ, a conversation between the Bride and the Divine Groom.

Prayers and gestures of the liturgy, its melodies and fragrances are the projections of Heaven on earth, the images of the inner life of God.

As the Lamb is the centre of Heaven according to St. John, in the same way the holy liturgy moves around the Most Holy Host – around Jesus Christ Himself.

Through liturgical meditation each Catholic becomes great and universal and he begins to feel what the Church itself feels.

The Church year, as if in some movable mirror, reflects the life of Jesus from His participation in the Most Holy Trinity, through His earthly life until His second arrival.

In addition to a missal, the most beautiful prayer-book is a breviary. But, it isn’t only a prayer-book, it is together with a missal the most beautiful literary work that mankind possesses.

I think that the culmination of created beauty is in a missal and breviary, in a Pontifical Mass and Gregorian melodies.

Gregorian, liturgical music is the music of sanctity.

Liturgy doesn’t join only the members of one nation into one and unique whole, but it also establishes links among all nations and makes them brothers and children of the one Father in heaven.

On the basis of liturgy, each individual soul is being brought up.

Liturgy is pedagogy in the real sense of the word, because with the help of it a believer experiences in his soul all the phases of Christ’s eternal life.

Holy liturgy is one of the most powerful means of universal peace.

(In silence, let us reflect on the inspiring words of Blessed Ivan Merz.)

 

 

Let us pray. (Pause for silence)

Lord God, your servant, Blessed Ivan was deeply united with you by daily prayers. He continuously elevated his intellect and his heart toward You. You gave him the grace necessary to comprehend the value and need of Sacred Liturgy for real Christian life and personal sanctification. By his intercession give us the fidelity in performing our spiritual obligations; that we may overcome our weaknesses and spiritual stagnation by dedicating the necessary time for prayer that units us with You.

Give us the grace, by following the example of Blessed Ivan, that we too may find in the sacred liturgy our source of spiritual strength and of personal sanctification. Therefore, in this manner, here now on this earth in spiritual unity with angelic choirs, we may sing your praises. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Heavenly Father, in Blessed Ivan you gave us a wonderful example of Christian virtues. By his saintly example and with your help, he shows us how it is possible, even in lay life, to achieve sainthood. Help us, encouraged with his love for Christ and Church, we follow his apostolic engagement to expand your Kingdom. By his intercession, please grant me the special grace for which I am now praying (say your personal intention that you wish to be granted through the intercession of Blessed Ivan Merz) if this will for the be good of my body and soul and for Your greater glory. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory to the Father.

 

Add the Litany of Blessed Ivan.

SEVENTH DAY

 

THE STRUGGLE OF BODY AND SPIRIT AGAINST  SIN;

EFFORTS FOR MORAL IMPROVEMENTS

 

Blessed Ivan, since your early years you too felt what St. Paul wrote: “The law of the spirit and the law of the flesh struggle against each other” (cf. Rom, 7, 21-23).  You felt the longing to attain moral perfection and to achieve Christian holiness, but you also felt your imperfections and limitations for the realization of these ideals. Enlightened by God’s grace you became aware that Christian holiness is possible to realize only by an intensive spiritual life, which includes prayers, receiving the sacrament of confession, Holy Communion, the reading of Scripture and spiritual books, personal ascetic endeavours and overcoming the negative penchants of our nature.

So you earnestly accepted every means that the Church and the teachers of Christian spirituality gave to you to realize the goal of creating from your soul a masterpiece.

You left us beautiful thoughts about your spiritual life and you did not hesitate to document also your weaknesses, your struggles and oscillation. By doing this you encouraged us and showed that it is possible to conquer the body and its sinful inclinations, to achieve Christian virtues and follow Jesus, and in this way advance on the way of holiness. Your thoughts encourage us in our efforts to follow you:

 

Since sin is the greatest evil, in fact the only evil, it deprives us of the only good – God. It means that we should hate sin most and fight against it with all our might.

The one, who fights inside the Church, has only one enemy – sin; all other things are indifferent and we should use them to fight against sin and promote the salvation of souls.

Whatever we do, all our deeds must be dedicated to create in the world as little sins as possible and as much meritorious deeds. 

It is not enough only to believe. Our faith must be a system, it must show us a way of life, so that we do not act against the principles of justice and eternity.

There is quite a different law in our body from the one in our soul.

A bloody fight is necessary if one doesn’t want to succumb in an ordinary world.

Aut catholicus aut nihil – a Catholic or nothing”. With regard to this I have never had the slightest doubt.

To be a practical Catholic must be my purpose.

I should read the Gospel at least half-an-hour daily, think about it, and then at noon, after The Angelus,  I should think about some transcendental things and so stay in this mystical light the whole day, my whole life, creating a master-piece of my soul and seeking only the Truth.

Humility, self-denial, silence and good deeds – only they are real now and after our death.

I’ll aspire after sanctity, after union with the Lord God and I’ll pray to Him to give me a resisting strength in life’s struggles and energy in creativity.

We are in this world only provisionally, we are gone in a moment, and this life is worthy only if it is a preparation for another one.

Humility, prayer, spiritual reading and exercise to strengthen one’s will for the good, are four suppositions without which all inner life is excluded.

There is a flame in me for the endless heights, an ardour for the untroubled embrace of the Son and the Father and the Spirit.

To have Grace on earth and Glory in Heaven is the aim of all human endeavours.

The two sacraments – Holy Communion and Holy Confession – are the sources of a permanent and successful reform of the inner life of each Catholic.

God wants to lead people by means of people. A confessor gets the special graces of God to show us the Will of God.

 

(In silence, let us reflect on the inspiring words of Blessed Ivan Merz.)

Let us pray. (Pause for silence) 

Heavenly Father, you inspired Blessed Ivan to lead a spiritual life. He responded readily and duly with Your inspirations. He accepted all means which the Church offered to help his spiritual growth. In his soul he reserved a dignified dwelling place for You, so that he lived a full life of grace. You gave him inner light so that he was able to recognize his weaknesses, and you also gave him the strength to overpower them, so with your grace his soul was slowly created into that of a master-piece.

We pray, that through Blessed Ivan’s intercession, we too may receive the strength to overcome all weakness of the spirit and the flesh, so that led by his example and helped by his intersession we too find the way to holiness. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Heavenly Father, in Blessed Ivan you gave us a wonderful example of Christian virtues. By his saintly example and with your help, he shows us how it is possible, even in lay life, to achieve sainthood. Help us, encouraged with his love for Christ and Church, we follow his apostolic engagement to expand your Kingdom. By his intercession, please grant me the special grace for which I am now praying (say your personal intention that you wish to be granted through the intercession of Blessed Ivan Merz) if this will for the be good of my body and soul and for Your greater glory. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory to the Father.

 

Add the Litany of Blessed Ivan.

EIGHTH DAY

WITH THE LOVE FOR OUR NEIGHBORS,

WITH CHRISTIAN APOSTOLATE WE EXTEND GOD’S KINGDOM

Blessed Ivan, your love for God was closely linked to your love for every person, and by this it received the most significant confirmation and acknowledgement of the Church. This was most evident in your apostolic works when you proclaimed the truth of Jesus Christ and Christian faith so that the people could feel the happiness of possession of this truth which leads them to his Kingdom. The truth which you achieved that God is the realization of all ours desires and longings you extended all around you and above all among the youth. There was almost not one domain of human life where you were not apostolically present by your living words, your inspiring writings, and personal intervention. The most important part of your apostolic endeavor were the young people to which you consecrated your professional work and your free time. Your first aim was to educate them all as true Christians, and then made them Christ’s apostles. We inherit wonderful reflections about your apostolic work and about the need of work for saving souls and for expansion of God’s Kingdom:

A day that one dedicates to the other person is not at all a loss but a gain. The days in which we don’t do anything for others, but only for ourselves, are the days that are lost.

To do an act of charity to the suffering person is the basis of every spiritual life.

The young generation nurtures the enthusiastic love for our Saviour who is always with them in the Holy Eucharist; here they obtain all their strength for their activities, for their apostolate.

The young have their eyes always directed toward Rome where there is the lighthouse that illuminates the whole earth with its beams.

All the human activities must be done because of love, because of apostolate; in order to spread the Kingdom of God among people.

To educate and lead people to Jesus is more important than art, and in this work, art, as well as everything created, has to help people to draw closer to Jesus.

In our work the first criterion has to be the salvation of souls, the good of the Holy Church and it should be according to the good wishes of the Pope.

Catholicism won’t spread here if there are no Workers, those who pray, and Sufferers. It is the law in spreading the Kingdom of God on earth. Our movement has created so far only the first type (a worker) and we have created in our souls the ideal of a Worker for the Catholic movement. We prayed less, and we suffered only when we had to. The last type (a sufferer) is obviously the culmination – the imitation of a complete Saviour’s Sacrifice on the Cross.

The basis of our apostolic work and its success lies in ourselves, in our relationship to Jesus, who must live in us.

(In silence, let us reflect on the inspiring words of Blessed Ivan Merz.)

 

Let us pray. (Pause for silence)

Lord God, you fulfilled your servant, Blessed Ivan, with a plenitude of love for others, which he practiced unselfishly in many ways. Above all he showed this love by leading the young people to you, working for their eternal benefits, for salvation of their souls, and seeking to form them to the fully educated and conscious Christians. We pray to you that through the intercession of Blessed Ivan, we too unselfishly propagate your love, that we work to expand your Kingdom and working to attract to you more and more souls. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Heavenly Father, in Blessed Ivan you gave us a wonderful example of Christian virtues. By his saintly example and with your help, he shows us how it is possible, even in lay life, to achieve sainthood. Help us, encouraged with his love for Christ and Church, we follow his apostolic engagement to expand your Kingdom. By his intercession, please grant me the special grace for which I am now praying (say your personal intention that you wish to be granted through the intercession of Blessed Ivan Merz) if this will for the be good of my body and soul and for Your greater glory. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory to the Father.

 

Add the Litany of Blessed Ivan.

 

NINETH DAY

THE CROSS AND SACRIFICE TO SANCTITY

 

Blessed Ivan, by living duly a spiritual life, you mounted toward Christian perfection. You readily cooperated with the God’s grace and seriously took care of advancement and self education developing Christian virtues. From your young age you had to suffer: problems with your eyes, your presence in war, inner suffering because of not having understanding for your activities, final illness and the death at the age of your best young years when you could continue to serve God’s on this world. With commitment to God’s will, you accepted every suffering and offered it to God as a sacrifice. Through this pain you were able to immerse with understanding into the mystery of Christ’s Cross and the redemptional value of his sufferings. When you received from God a clear understanding that you will have to leave this world at your young age and meet Him, you accepted this decision of our Heavenly Father, and you offered your young life to God as a sacrifice for Croatian youth and the youth of the world. With your oblation, that was accepted by God, it was visible from the fact that thousands and thousands of young people followed your path to God what they expressed by the words: “Thank you Christ’s Eagle, for showing us the Way to the Sun.” In your testament, which is your last and solemn profession of your faith, you expressed a deep hope and certainty that you are going toward the union with God’s love present in Blessed Heart of Christ.

 

To perform my duties conscientiously and consider it as the cross of my life, as my daily crucifixion, brings blessings in the work for redeeming souls.

We have to pay attention to the improvement of ourselves and study Catholicism which we, unfortunately, know not a bit better than some elementary-school pupils.

A struggle for perfection and asceticism must be our everyday bread. It opens the inner sights for us, makes us unselfish, maintains in us a fight with the evil one and gives us strength not to give up.

Jesus, don’t let me ever betray You and give me strength to become more and more similar to You in a voluntary suffering.

Never to forget God! Long all the time to be united with Him.

There is a flame in me for the endless heights, an ardour for the untroubled embrace of the Son and the Father and the Spirit.

All of Christianity is built on sacrifice. He who doesn’t know what sacrifice is, can’t understand Christianity.

If the Lord wants you to suffer and not to recover, then you should surrender yourself into His hands – for the smallest bacillus can’t move without God’s presence and activity.

By means of suffering one can do more for the spread of the Kingdom of Jesus than by great works, learned essays, magnificent speeches and articles.

If Jesus has chosen you to be an apostle in suffering, I am convinced that He will also give you strength to do this apostolate well, with the assistance of your will.

Using our earthly eyes, we might not see the fruits of this suffering, but up there, in the Heart of God, we’ll notice how many souls were saved by it, how many Catholic efforts were Blessed by it.

Suffering is the strongest means that saves and sanctifies souls.

Blessed are those souls that cheerfully receive from God’s hands all the pains, and united with Jesus, sacrifice them for the spread of Jesus’ Church in souls and in society.

God, take me and don’t let me cast my eye on the side and regret my choice. Let me accept the chalice of suffering and call upon your name on this earth, so that I can look at you face to face in the hereafter.

My life was Christ and death was my gain.

I am expecting the mercy of the Lord and undivided, complete, eternal possession of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

My soul has reached the goal for which it was created.

(In silence, let us reflect on the inspiring words of Blessed Ivan Merz.)

Let us pray. (Pause for silence)

 God, you lead Blessed Ivan to holiness through suffering and pain. You gave him clear insight about the value of voluntary acceptance of Cross, which we encounter in our every days. All what you gave him he used for sanctifying not only himself but the whole world. On the end of his life when he was dying, the death he did not accept passively, but he transformed it into value by offering it to you as a sacrifice for the youth. We pray you, that through his example and intercession we too may offer ourselves, and that every day sufferings we may accept devotedly as your saints’ will. Give us the grace that we too, as Blessed Ivan, expect your mercy in faith and hope and one day become worthy to enter in eternal life to possess the love of your Sacred Heart. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Heavenly Father, in Blessed Ivan you gave us a wonderful example of Christian virtues. By his saintly example and with your help, he shows us how it is possible, even in lay life, to achieve sainthood. Help us, encouraged with his love for Christ and Church, we follow his apostolic engagement to expand your Kingdom. By his intercession, please grant me the special grace for which I am now praying (say your personal intention that you wish to be granted through the intercession of Blessed Ivan Merz) if this will for the be good of my body and soul and for Your greater glory. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory to the Father.

 

Add the Litany of Blessed Ivan.

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THE LITANY OF BLESSED IVAN

Lord, have mercy on us!
Christ, have mercy on us!
Lord, have mercy on us!
Christ, hear us!
Christ, graciously hear us!
God, the Father, have mercy on us!
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us!
God, the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us!
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us!

Blessed Ivan, the light from heaven, pray for us!
Prophet of God, pray for us!
Worshipper of the Heart of Jesus, pray for us!
Knight of Christ the King, pray for us!
Ardent admirer of the Eucharist, pray for us!
Pure son of the Blessed Virgin, pray for us!
Obedient and faithful son of the Catholic Church, pray for us!
Sincere lover of the Holy Father, pray for us!
Devoted respecter of the church hierarchy, pray for us!
Diligent promoter of church teaching, pray for us!

Blessed Ivan, hero of love, pray for us!
Giant of spirit, pray for us!
God’s work of art, pray for us!
Master-piece of the Holy Spirit, pray for us!
Great liturgical soul, pray for us!
Apostle of the youth, pray for us!
Knight of the female honor, pray for us!

Blessed Ivan, the ideal of struggle against sin, pray for us!
Ideal of self-control and asceticism, pray for us!
Ideal of growing in sanctity, pray for us!
Patient bearer of the cross, pray for us!
Plenitude of Christian maturity, pray for us!
Signpost of contemporary generation, pray for us!
Path of our time, pray for us!
Witness, patron and our fellow-traveller, pray for us!
Brother Ivan, pray for us!

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
spare us!
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
graciously hear us!
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us!

Let us pray.

God, our Father, Blessed Ivan, faithful to his baptismal call for sanctity, worked hard in bringing up youth in faith and in Christian life. Grant us the grace that we may, strengthened by his advocacy and inspired by his example, faithfully announce the Gospel and bravely be witnesses to it with the help of Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Published by:

THE POSTULATION OF BLESSED IVAN MERZ

Jordanovac 110, pp 169, 10000-Zagreb, Croatia

Tel.: 00385-98-546.806

e mail:postulaturaim@gmail.com

www.ivanmerz.hr

Ivan Merz

IVAN MERZ (1896-1928)

Photo

Ivan Merz was born in Banja Luka, Bosnia, on 16 December 1896, and was baptized on 2 February 1897. He attended elementary and middle school in Banja Luka and, after a brief period of education at the military academy of Wiener Noustadt, he enrolled in 1915 at the University of Vienna, with the dream of teaching young people in Bosnia; thus, he would be following the example of his professor, Ljubomir Marakovic, who helped Ivan to discover the richness of the Catholic faith.

In March 1916, Ivan was enlisted in the army and shipped to the Italian battle front, where he spent the greater part of two years beginning in 1917. The war experience and its horrors marked a turning point in Ivan’s young life and contributed greatly to his spiritual growth, prompting him to abandon his future into God’s hands and to strive with all his might towards the goal of Christian perfection.

On 5 February 1918, he wrote in his diary: “Never forget God! Always desire to be united with Him. Begin each day in the first place with meditation and prayer, possibly close to the Blessed Sacrament or during Mass. During this time, plans for the day are made, one’s defects are put under examination and grace is implored for the strength to overcome all weakness. It would be something terrible if this war had no meaning for me!… I must begin a life regenerated in the spirit of this new understanding of Catholicism. The Lord alone can help me, as man can do nothing on his own”. At this time, Ivan also made a private vow of perpetual chastity.

After the war, he continued his studies at Vienna (1919-20), and then in Paris (1920-22). In 1923 he obtained a degree in philosophy. His thesis was entitled “The influence of the Liturgy on the French authors”. He then became a professor of language and French literature and was exemplary in his dedication to the students and to his responsibilities as a teacher.

In his spare time he studied philosophy and theology and deepened his knowledge of the documents of the Magisterium of the Church.

Ivan was especially noted for his interest in young people and concern for their growth in faith and holiness. He started the “League of Young Croatian Catholics” and the “Croatian League of Eagles” within the Croatian Catholic Action Movement. Their motto was: “Sacrifice Eucharist Apostolate”.

For Ivan, the purpose of this organization was to form a group of front-line apostles whose goal was holiness. This scope of this goal also flowed over into liturgical renewal, of which Ivan was one of the first promoters in Croatia.

As a Catholic intellectual, Ivan was able to guide young people and adults to Christ and His Church through his writings and organized gatherings. He also sought to teach them love and obedience to the Vicar of Christ and the Church of Rome.

In the face of any misunderstandings and difficulties, Ivan always had an admirable patience and calm, the fruit of his continual union with God in prayer. Those who knew him well described him as a person who had his “mind and heart immersed in the supernatural”. Convinced that the most effective way to save souls was through efficacious suffering, he offered to God all his physical and moral sufferings, particularly for the intention of the success of his apostolic endeavours.

Shortly before his death, he offered his life for the youth of Croatia. In short, the young man believed that his vocation was very simply “the Catholic faith”.

Ivan Merz died on 10 May 1928 in Zagreb. He was 32 years old.

ELEVATION TOWARD HOLINESS – LOVE – MARRIAGE – FAMILY – TOWARDS DIVINE LOVE – APOSTOLATE – LOVE OF ONE’S NEIGHBOR AND A HOMELAND – SUFFERING – ANGUISH – CROSS – THE TESTAMENT

ELEVATION TOWARD HOLINESS A real spiritual life that Ivan was leading had its goal – ascending toward Christian perfection, toward the ideal of life that Christ the Lord had shown us. A growth in holiness includes an effort, a struggle against sin, against evil tendencies, against a deep-rooted egoism in ourselves, and the endeavors to acquire Christian virtues. Christian tradition has expressed this elevation toward holiness in three degrees: the road of purification (from sin and imperfection), the road of enlightenment (gaining virtues in a school of evangelical counsels) and the road of union (the union with God in contemplation and mysticism). We can follow Ivan closely through his diary and other pieces of writing in his elevation toward Christian perfection through all of these three mentioned roads.

How far I am from perfection! Mud, ugly mud hangs yet on me. I’ll have to work long to wash it off.

We have to pay attention to the improvement of ourselves and study Catholicism which we, unfortunately, know not a bit better than some elementary-school pupils.

A struggle for perfection and asceticism, must be our everyday bread. It opens the inner sights for us, makes us unselfish, maintains in us a fight with the evil one and gives us strengh not to give up.

Everything must promote the aspiration of a human soul for perfection.

Humility, a humble submission to the Will of God is the basis of all other virtues; the building of our inner life must be based on it.

The lives of the saints are rocky heights like the Alps, where the air is fresh and from where humankind is viewed in quite a different perspective.

Only in heavenly glory – in the Heart of Jesus – the tree of our inner life, which started to sprout on earth, will grow to its full size and its full blossom.

Only in Heaven will our soul become a perfect reflection of the most holy, eternal, divine Sun of the Trinity.

In his efforts to reach Christian perfection, Ivan was making decisions for his moral improving and he was acting according to them in his everyday life. Sometimes he called them instructions for life, sometimes a life rule, or simply decisions. Several versions of his decisions have been left to us which he made in various life periods: at the end of the war, during his studies and then in Zagreb during his mature age. These decisions are the precious evidence that Ivan worked seriously on his self-upbringing, on gaining Christian virtues by listening readily to the stimuli of God’s grace. From these several groups of decisions we quote here only a short list.

I’ll try to do God’s will and not to crave for knowledge too much.

I must not forget to master my body. To lie on a hard bed, to get up early and sometimes fast strictly.

A care for health and physical beauty is also important. A new generatin has to be healthy, cheerful and beautiful.

Never to forget God! To long all the time to be united with Him.

Every day, it is best at daybreak, to use only for meditation and prayer, if possible close to the Eucharist or at the Holy Mass. This hour has to be the source of the day.

After the war, I have to start a new, revived life in the spirit of a newly understood Catholicism.

To do gymnastics every day in whatever occasions.

To present a poor man with a surplus of my goods.

To pray to God fully at least once every day.

To go into unpleasant situations.

To go to fearful places during the darkest night, to win fear and to strengthen faith.

To gladly accept gladly humiliation in front of other people.

To be in closest contact with life.

Before each prayer to remember a morning meditation.

A small secret: Jesus, I want to love you through Mary more and more every day!

Like a penance to do my class duties as perfectly as possible.

To receive Holy Communion every day and if possible visit the Most Holy Sacrament.

Once a month, for 24 hours nothing to eat or drink.

To do some penance for the salvation of souls at each meal.

When there is enough of other food, to eat as few cakes as possible.

Never to criticize food.

To think about the Most Holy Eucharist in the morning when getting up, washing, walking to church.

Who lives according to the rules, he lives for God, therefore not to change decisions without good reasons.

LOVE – MARRIAGE – FAMILY

In his numerous pieces of writing, especially in his diary, Ivan Merz used to write about love, girls, chastity, sexuality, marriage and family. All of this reality, including also a human sexuality, Ivan tried to look upon in the light of faith and Christian principles. In a large number of the notes in his diary he wrote about a struggle and his endeavors to place energies of a sexual instinct under the control of reason and Christian moral principles. In his writings he also gave concrete directions to the young on how to preserve chastity and prepare themselves for marriage. He was attracted to the ideal of moral purity and therefore he prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary who was for him the model of woman and chastity.

When I hear people speak despicably, when ugly pictures are willing to creep in my soul too, I can always see a picture of the Madonna with the Child, that beautiful and majestic expression, that concentration of everything exalted.

I pray to the Almighty who determined the way of the Sun and stars, a direction of every stalk and a task for every ant, to show me the way to Chastity, a great art, to everything Highest and Eternal.

Several days ago I vowed chastity to the Blessed Virgin until marriage. It may last until death. (B. Luka, December 12,1915).

I feel myself that however intelligent a person may be, I wouldn’t be so impressed by him/her as by a chaste one. This proves the trueness of Christian moral principles. Chastity and eternal chastity should be a motto.

Christian politics must make an effort to get more and more Christian families in which a married couple will live in an inseparable faithfulness until death.

Pieces of advice to young men

The divine goodness is something eternally female that shines through a female being and inspires you to love God more.

A girl is a reflection of God’s perfection, and she is designed to uplift you in a complementary way. But, if she is to be really a complete help to you, you should both bring everything into your marriage and not to waste anything before, because you will miss it during your bitter days.

Seek spirituality and character first in your fiancée, which hide in themselves the eternal treasures for your children. Both of you should be intact before marriage, because only such people will be faithful in marital chastity.

Avoid the dangers of tenderness, falling too early in love and improper touches. Develop yourself so that you can give her a lot in a family, and not only ask for and receive from her.

But what to do if in this period of the development of your character a beautiful face turns your head? Then say good-bye to character upbringing, professional education and the apostolate. You will be absent-minded; you will be thinking of her all the time… Before you started living, life will already have overpowered you. And that is bad…

I do not say that falling in love is evil; on the contrary, it is a great happiness if you fall in love well, but it is a real evil if you fall in love too early, because it will block your spiritual life just at the time when Providence planned your spiritual and physical development.

A sober young man understands the negative consequences of a too early love, therefore, even at the beginning he makes a decision to reject everything that would mislead him to begin a premature association with a girl.

A Christian young man knows very well that a chaste life is not harmful to his health, but on the contrary, it gives him indescribable freshness and strength.

A Christian young man is convinced that only two women may have an outstanding position in the heart of a man of firm character: it is his mother and his future children’s mother. Therefore, he has to take good care of holy chastity in his heart as the most beautiful pearl of his youth.

And in order to preserve this pearl, he will avoid all those occasions that might make him misbehave, and these are bad conversations, nasty theatrical performances, cinema, and especially indecent dance and alcohol.

As we restrain the water of a swollen river by dams so that it flows through its bed which leads it into an electric power station from where it lights up the remote places and drives the machines of large factories by its strength, in the same way an honest young man has to bring under control the giant and raging strength of his sexual instinct by means of the dams of Christian morals and decency until he freely decides, if it is God’s will, that the sexual instinct will be in a lawful marriage a creator of life, happiness and blessing.

TOWARDS DIVINE LOVE

Ivan always looked upon an earthly love between a young man and girl and between a husband and wife in the light of the Christian faith and a model which is being realized in the relation between Christ and the Church.

In the teachings of the Church love in marriage is a picture of a connection between Christ and the soul of the Church. Christ projects through His grace His nature into man’s soul, raises it to His level, permeates it by His picture, reflects in it and loves it infinitely. Everything that passes is only one comparison.

An earthly love has a much more exalted meaning. It is a picture of love which connects Christ with His Church.

The marriage of a husband and wife is a mysterious picture of a connection of Christ with the Church.

Marital love is a picture, a premonition, and a preparation for the infinite love of God.

Like some premonition, an earthly love directs a person to a much more perfect love between Christ and the Church, which won’t make a man happy only for a certain time, imperfectly and ephemerally, but this love will be eternal and complete.

Aspirations of a human soul are too deep to be permanently satisfied with an earthly love.

The most sincere marital love is always bothered by ilnesses, worries, sufferings, and finally when death comes, it also becomes a sorrow. Then the spirit should boldly come to reason and try to satisfy the endless aspiration for love in God’s embrace.

When this life passes away and when a marital link breaks, one should unite with the Son of God for whom one was created. Then each individual soul will be engaged to the resurrected Christ.

A married man comes to the conviction that a complete, inseparable love cannot be achieved on this earth and that only the inseparable love in eternal union with God is able to satisfy a human heart.

An earthly love is only a picture of God’s love, a picture of Christ’s love toward the Holy Church and the road to God’s embrace.

There are elected souls who even here on earth are especially engaged to Christ and renounce an earthly love. Souls who make an eternal vow of chastity, begin even on earth to live a heavenly life and they are thinking only and ceaselessly about their heavenly Fiancé.

APOSTOLATE

In using the word “apostolate” we name all the work and endeavors to spread the news about Jesus Christ and the Christian faith, to make people happy by His truth and love and help them enter His Kingdom. There was almost no field of human life where Ivan Merz was not present as an apostle, trying to introduce everywhere the principles of Christ’s Gospel. The main field of Ivan’s apostolate was the young people to whom he dedicated himself first as a grammar-school teacher, and then, working tirelessly in the leadership of the Association of Catholic Eagles – the Catholic organization for the young.

To create great people is the aim of the Catholic movement all over the country.

One should draw a soul toward its heavenly Fiancé, one should forget and sacrifice oneself in order that the soul of one’s friend might become a conscious participant in God’s activity on earth.

This latter-day generation is gripped by the waves of those rivers that began to flow from eternal Rome almost in 1905, when the Pope Pius X. of blessed memory, published the document about frequent and daily Holy Communion.

The young generation nurtures the enthusiastic love for our Savior who is always with them in the Holy Eucharist; here they obtain all their strength for their activities, for their apostolate.

This has something to do with the enthusiastic love of younger people for the Holy Church, Jesus’s immaculate Fianceé, and its bishops and priests.

The young have their eyes always directed toward Rome where there is the lighthouse that illuminates the whole earth with its beams.

While the older generation emphasized the love for God and nation, with the young this love for God has a more concrete form in the love for eucharistic Christ, and the love for nation they want to subject to the love for the Holy Church.

In the heathen times these three classes didn’t have civil rights: female, children’s and the working people’s class. The Mother of God, a little Jesus and St. Joseph, the divine family – isn’t it an allegory of a social revival in Christianity and liberation of woman (Mary), child (Jesus) and workman (Joseph)?!

Sects appear in a sick society and show that Christians haven’t done their duty.

People want to get to know Christianity individually and therefore we need societies where they can talk of these things quite freely and without restriction.

If we want to become the holders of a great Catholic view, then all of our Catholic organizations have to emphasize ceaselessly that a deep and intensive religious life is the only prerequisite to bringing up great individuals, who will realize their great ideas in their lives.

Literature and art are only the details in this great deed: the Kingdom of God. A plow, and a shoemaker, and a butcher, and a lawyer and a guard, all of them are the workers on this large building. It is not a question of what is being done, but how.

All walks of life are of the same value in front of God, only we have to work according to His will.

The beauty of a human endeavor is only the reflexion of the unquenchable Beauty of God, and a work of art is only the continuation, the perfecting of God’s work.

All of us are called to cooperate with God, this is the meaning of life of an individual and the whole history of mankind.

All the human activities must be done because of love, because of apostolate; in order to spread the Kingdom of God among people.

Christianity subjects each human activity to the spiritual and transcendental aim of man.

To educate and lead people to Jesus is more important than art, and in this work, art, as well as everything created, has to help people to draw closer to Jesus.

In our work the first criterion has to be the salvation of souls, the good of the Holy Church and it should be according to the good wishes of the Pope.

I know that it is difficult to suffer, but some people have a vocation for suffering. We are the body of Christ, and the roles are divided in it. Some people have to suffer to remove God’s punishment, which should fall down on the surroundings.

Catholicism won’t spread here if there are no Workers, those who pray, and Sufferers. It is the law in spreading the Kingdom of God on earth.

Our movement has created so far only the first type (a worker) and we have created in our souls the ideal of a Worker for the Catholic movement. We prayed less, and we suffered only when we had to. The last type (a sufferer) is obviously the culmination – the imitation of a complete Savior’s Sacrifice on the Cross.

As nothing happens accidentally, I think that the plan of Providence is to become aware of this mystery from His life: to suffer for others. It is true that it is easy to speak about the cross, but it is hard to bear it.

Who wants to be a true worker for God, must not work for his own benefit; a personality cult is the greatest obstacle to the numerous good results of our work.

The basis of our apostolic work and its success lies in ourselves, in our relationship to Jesus, who must live in us.

What means should we use to develop our own personalities It is a daily morning meditation, a frequent attendance at the Holy Mass and receiving the sacraments, a daily examination of one’s conscience and a daily reading of spiritual matter.

If we do this, Jesus will live in us more strongly, we’ll understand better what is the meaning of life and the economy of salvation, and we’ll comprehend with what love our Love – Jesus, loves each individual soul.

Our opponents must be aware at each moment that we love something in them, the value of what they don’t comprehend themselves, and that we are willing to help them in the least significant as well as in the most significant matters.

Charity must everywhere conduct our steps. It is completely wrong what we frequently do – we attack our opponents without distinguishing between the wrong ideas that they represent, and their immortal soul, which should be saved.

A true friendship lies only in the common belief of the same eternal truths. All the rest might be a harmony of various earthy interests, egoism – but not friendship.

Our member can have a friend only among the convinced Catholics, and if he starts associating with the opponents, he must be aware every moment that he is an apostle among them, the representative of Jesus Christ, of whom he gives his testimony.

LOVE OF ONE’S NEIGHBOR AND A HOMELAND

I love all of mankind, I love humble, unknown people who carry on their backs all the burdens of history.

The basis of every spiritual life is to do good deeds to the suffering.

A day that one dedicates to the other person is not at all a loss but a gain. The days in which we don’t do anything for others, but only for ourselves, are the days that are lost.

The cathecism reads: if one prays for oneself only, then it is because of need, but if we pray for others, then it is because of charity and this prayer is more valuable. Pray then for each other.

Catholics are obliged in front of God to love their country and work better than anybody else for the prosperity of their homeland.

If you don’t love the immortal soul of your brother, you can’t be a true patriot. For, of what use is it if you have all the treasures of the world and your soul is in mortal sin?

The most essential point for each patriot is to try to save his own soul and those of his brothers’ from mortal sin.

Only a Christian can truly love his country. Loving his country, he mostly loves what is the most valuable in it, and, without doubt, these are the human souls, and in those souls – their immortal lives.

True patriotism mustn’t stop short on this earth, but it must be looking toward eternity.

SUFFERING – ANGUISH – CROSS

Ivan was encountering suffering and pain even from his young days: this was physical suffering because of the eye sickness, then his stay on the battle-field, and also his inner suffering due to the lack of understanding for his work in his environment. He left us many notes in his diary about his anguish. However, his encounter with suffering had its positive spiritual effect and it contributed to the fact that he could deeply immerse into the mystery of Christ’s cross and comprehend the redeeming value of suffering.

Pain deeply plows a soul and documents the existence of ethics. Where there is no pain and where everything is satiated, just there the fallacies of Nietzsche and others are most clearly seen.

All history is soaked in blood, all the cultural values are the products of pain.

He who wants to understand culture, had to suffer not only spiritually, but also physically.

I am convinced that everything has its purpose, this work and my little woes. Through pain one can see everything differently and understand more deeply the bitter word: life.

Pain is a juice of life, it rules life and it is the originator of religions. Where there is no pain, we can be convinced that there is no true life.

God already knows what will happen to me. He loves me immensely and knows whether it is better for me to be killed or to go on living. Why be afraid then when he determines my paths! I should live and praise Him eternally and not worry about a mortal danger.

What is life? The other day a soldier was lying by the cemetery, exposed and lying like a stump, as if he hadn’t ever lived. Is then the purpose of life just pleasure, letting oneself surrender to passion? What a strange purpose when death makes everything stop.

I am grateful to God for my taking part in the war, because the war taught me a lot of things which I would never otherwise have learned. I ardently want to become free again and harmonize my life with what I learned to be right.

I can now study the problem of the cross theoretically and may God grant that I may become strong in order not to be defeated by the cross in practice.

All of Christianity is built on sacrifice. He who doesn’t know what sacrifice is, can’t understand Christianity.

Man consists of a soul and a body, therefore the human soul and body should, through sacrifice, pay homage to God, who created everything.

If the Lord wants you to suffer and not to recover, then you should surrender yourself into His hands – for the smallest bacillus can’t move without God’s presence and activity.

By means of suffering one can do more for the spread of the Kingdom of Jesus than by great works, learned essays, magnificant speeches and articles.

If Jesus has chosen you to be an apostle in suffering, I am convinced that He will also give you strength to do this apostolate well, with the assistance of your will.

Using our earthly eyes, we might not see the fruits of this suffering, but up there, in the Heart of God, we’ll notice how many souls were saved by it, how many Catholic efforts were blessed by it.

Suffering is the strongest means that saves and sanctifies souls.

Blessed are those souls that cheerfully receive from God’s hands all the pains, and united with Jesus, sacrifice them for the spread of Jesus’s Church in souls and in society.

It is easy to receive Holy Communion every day and to feast with the Lord. Oh, how bitter it is when you have to bite and eat the hard wood of the holy cross.

During the operation I was constantly thinking how nice it would be in heaven.

Well, what is it to die; after that there is the world to come. It will be so nice and cheerful there!

THE TESTAMENT

Having a presentiment of his death, Ivan made his testament before going to the operation. Actually, this was a draft of the inscription for his tombstone. He made it in Latin. It was at the same time the last thing Ivan wrote in his life. In a few sentences Ivan condensed all his life and his belief in the future which was promised to him by the One to whom he had believed and devoted his life. In these words there is no fear or uncertainty in front of the mystery he was facing. All his words are the source of a serene hope and trust in the eternal life and bliss promised to a believer by his Christian faith. Ivan’s testament is a wonderful conclusion of his life and a crown of his devotion. The words of his testament are now engraved on his white marble tombstone in the Basilica of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Zagreb. Here we quote only the most significant thoughts in the English translation:

Died in the peace of the Catholic faith.

My life was Christ and death was my gain.

I am expecting the mercy of the Lord

and undivided, complete, eternal

possession of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

My soul has reached the goal for which it was created.

A STRUGGLE OF BODY AND SOUL – A SPIRITUAL LIFE – IN SCHOOL OF SPIRITUAL EXERCISES

A STRUGGLE OF BODY AND SOUL From the first pages of Ivan’s diary we can follow in his soul a double reality which is under constant strain: on one side, there is his aspiration after moral perfection, after ideals as Christianity presents them. On the other side, he feels weak in relizing these ideals. He feels divided in himself as did St. Paul when he speaks about two laws inside his being, a law of the spirit and a law of the body which fight one against the other (compare Romans, 7: 21-23). This period of struggle lasted throughout Ivan’s maturing, during the war and student years. The majority of the texts quoted here are from those maturing years.

The Christian faith is a moral law for us which opens an immeasurable road, which is fair, so that we won’t deviate from the good.

It isn’t enough to believe only. Our faith must be a system, it must show us a way of life, so that we don’t act against the principle of justice and eternity.

“Aut catholicus aut nihil – a Catholic or nothing”. With regard to this I have never had the slightest doubt.

It’s easy to theorize about Christianity and be enthusiastic about the Lord God when he doesn’t ask anything of us, but to be a practical Catholic must be my purpose.

Man is tremendously weak and he can’t achieve anything without help.

There is quite a different law in our body from the one in our soul.

These past days I fairly sank. I was rather lazy, I ate disorderly, I prayed little, I didn’t suffer at all, I was angry, a little bit stingy, and therefore I lost the connection with the One.

Temptations are terribly strong but a prayer raises me. In the holy of holies – in my heart, there is an unshakeable faith.

A motto of man should be a calm work and self-upbringing.

Each moment man should be aware of his dependence on the harmony of the universe.

A bloody fight is necessary if one doesn’t want to sink in an ordinary world.

I’d like to be humble! Immensely humble! I’d like to destroy all of my inborn haughtiness and humbly long for the truth, only because of this truth itself.

I should pray to God longer in order not to lose that mystical relation with Him, to feel him in each thought, in each look and in each job.

I should read the Gospel at least half-an-hour daily, think about it, and then at noon after the Hail Mary I should think about some transcendental things and so stay in this mystical light the whole day, the whole life, creating a master-piece of my soul and seek after the Truth-Purpose.

My inner life too is an eternal struggle…There’s no peace, some relentless power drags me up.

Why is there in me such a great aspiration after perfecting myself, after coming closer to that One – the greatest, why is it that some supernatural power always speaks: fast, don’t eat too much, be a superman?

I looked at about twenty dead people who were killed during the last battles… You see, this is life… Asceticism, observing life and working only in this direction, without any concession to “this” world, this is the only real life procedure.

Humbleness, self-denial, silence and good deeds – only they are real now and after our death.

I’ll aspire after sanctity, after union with the Lord God and I’ll pray to him to give me a resisting strength in life’s struggles and creativity.

We are in this world only provisionally, we are gone in a moment, and this life is sensible only if it is a preparation for another one.

Whoever says that fasting is nonsense, doesn’t know anything. Without fasting there is no real spiritual life, then you don’t have authority over yourself.

Grant me, God, a strong will, even if I may be naked and barefoot! The most important is the great ”I”, freedom of the spirit, which is not afraid even of death, and all other things are irrelevant.

A sacred poverty! Not to care for sensual enjoyment! To give everything and to love your neighbor ardently, what a joy there is in all this!

A SPIRITUAL LIFE

It is not possible to realize an ideal of Christian sanctity without an intensive spiritual life which includes prayer of all forms, receiving the sacraments of Holy Confession and Holy Communion, reading the Holy Writ and spiritual books. Ivan was completely aware that it was the only way of ascending to the mount of Christian perfection. He seriously used all means that the Church and teachers of Christian spirituality put at his disposal to achieve this aim and to make a masterpiece of his soul.

I love silence and peace very much, then I can meditate, think of the mystery of the Eucharist, I can pray for a long time…

It’s more beautiful to creep into a dark small church and, close to the twinkling of eternal light, along with the last sun beams, to pray the rosary silently and to worship the Eucharist eternally, to worship this splendor, this greatness, this immense Love.

I am at a loss for words to express how a religious environment has a positive effect on a person.

A church has an indescribably deep effect, where so many times, along with the mystical glow of numerous candles, this mystery of all mysteries – the Holy Mass takes places.

Humility, prayer, spiritual reading and exercise to strengthen one’s will for the good, are four suppositions without which all inner life is excluded.

The purpose of all people is to become saints. Their purpose is to resemble the embodied Word – our Savior Jesus Christ.

Contemplation – a life of a soul in the ceaseless union with Jesus, is the best life.

Regular, consequent meditation is the only means for us on earth never to lose balance and to rejoice or suffer with Christ from day to day.

There is a flame in me for the endless heights, an ardor for the untroubled embrace of the Son and the Father and the Spirit.

Humility, prayer, spiritual reading, an exercise to strengthen one’s will for the good, Confession, Communion – all of these are only means to help us reach at last a single goal: to introduce God into our souls. Only then the unfathomable emptiness in our soul will be filled, which can be filled only by the immense God.

A man who wants to live a full h u m a n life, has to live a life of Grace, a life of union with God. It is the only real human life.

To have Grace on earth and a glory in Heaven is the aim of all human endeavors.

Each of us carries in himself/herself foundations of one cathedral which he/she has to build: this is a temple of the Holy Spirit in our souls.

Who is a better teacher of spiritual life than the Holy Church, which besides its two-thousand-year-long experience acts under the influence of the Holy Spirit Himself!

All human activities have to enable a human soul to lead as deep a religious life as possible – contemplation.

The Gospel is really a charming book, for no matter how many times you may read it, it always seems you are reading a new book.

The two sacraments – Holy Communion and Holy Confession – are the sources of a permanent and successful reform of the inner life of each Catholic.

God wants to lead people by means of people. A confessor gets the special graces of God to show us the Will of God.

* * * * *

What was a state of Ivan’s soul after finishing his studies and at the beginning of his public activities in 1923, we can see from his answers to the questions in one poll from which we quote only some of them.

What do I pray in the morning and in the evening?

– In the morning: meditation for three quarters of an hour. In the evening: the rosary, examination of conscience, I prepare the text for meditation for the following day.

What’s the use of Holy Confession?

– To conquer my faults more easily.

How many times a year do I receive Holy Communion?

– Daily.

What is a spiritual life?

– Meditation about divine things; participation in God’s inner life; to become, in a way, God.

Do I need a spiritual life and why?

– Yes. Because, without it I would stop to exist. Without it there’s a hell.

Do you have religious doubts?

– No.

What is in my opinion, or from my experience, the safest means to preserve chastity of life?

– Enthusiasm for the Holy Church which is based on the knowledge of faith. Daily Holy Communion, systematic daily mastering of the body (in food, sudden getting up from the bed, regular physical training at least 10 minutes a day), and not to look for female company.

IN SCHOOL OF SPIRITUAL EXERCISES

A special means of spiritual growth and of coming closer to the ideal of Christian perfection were spiritual exercises which Ivan used to have every year and from which the precious notes have been left. From them we can see how Ivan was elevating with long strides toward Christian holiness. We present here only the most significant thoughts from these notes.

Since sin is the greatest evil, in fact the only evil, it deprives us of the only good – God. It means that we should hate sin most and fight against it with all our might.

Sin is the cause of the greatest catastrophes of humankind.

The essence of each apostolate must be a fight against sin. This is the main issue, and other kinds of apostolate come into it.

The one who fights inside the Church, has only one enemy – sin; all other things are indifferent and we should use them to fight against sin and promote the salvation of souls.

All that has been done to me, all that has happened to me I should consider to have come from God Himself, and nothing should disturb our spiritual peace.

How sweet it is, Jesus, to be in Your army, to serve under Your flag.

All that is dear to me I forget when I remember Your heavenly vision and Your dear Mother. Jesus, I devote myself to You.

I would like best to serve You there where You are constantly being thought of, and where only You and nobody else is being served.

Not to have any other Fiancé except You, my Savior. Don’t let me ever betray You and give me strength to become more and more similar to You in a voluntary suffering.

I felt all God’s love, which manifests itself in His innumerable benefactions, in benefactions of the body and spirit; in all of them He Himself is present.

The greatest benefaction is when the immense God gives Himself to us.

God shows his never-ending love most in giving us all His immensity and His infinity in the small Host which feeds us.

Oh, the lavishness of God’s love, which endow with an incomprehensible gift an insignificant, miserable human being! I give myself to You, God, as a gift in return.

Life without a cross, a comfortable one, should be shameful to me.

To perform my duties conscientiously and consider it as the cross of my life, as my daily crucifixion, brings blessings in the work for redeeming souls in the Catholic Action.

In order not to collapse in the face of difficulties and physical toil, I won’t form a judgement myself, but willl ask my spiritual guide for advice.

On my death-bed I’d like to have been an ambassador of the Great King, it means, always in the presence of God, aware that praise, honor and divine service are the only things that matter, and all the rest is vanity.