Prepared and commented by Bozidar Nagy, S.J., the postulator
Translated by prof. Vlasta Molinar
Language editing by Joan Cruz
“In each text Merz had written I felt strength, because everything
he had written, he’d written with sacred enthusiasm and the brilliant protection of unexplained Grace. This was his strength, and it still is.”
One of Ivan Merz’s contemporaries, his cooperator in the apostolate Ton S.,- who had never met or seen Merz personally, but had only read his texts and expressed what so many people felt and experienced: that Ivan Merz’s thoughts, his written documents and texts resulted from a deep religious experience, from the experienced and lived-through truths of the Catholic faith, which were written in a “brilliant protection of Grace”. And here it is where his strength derives from, a fascinating appeal and beauty, which stimulates and asks for reflection.
Ivan Merz’s rich spiritual heritage
During his short life Ivan Merz wrote a great deal: the extensive diary, doctoral dissertation, numerous articles, brochures, essays; and a large number of works are still in manuscript form His diary is an especially rich source of information about his personality and a real “mine” of wonderful thoughts and sayings which are evidence about the effect of God’s grace in his life. Many of these writings have already been published.
In the process of his beatification, there is an urgent need to publish a selection of his most beautiful thoughts, in order to learn as much as possible about his personality and his work, and to spread his spirituality and messages which God is directing us by his saintly character. Therefore, from his rich heritage we have chosen thoughts which shine like pearls or crystals, and which are able to send a message to present- day people.
The man of faith and sanctity
Through his words, which speak about his strong faith, we can penetrate into the sanctuary of his heart imbued with Grace, and admire the mystery of God who resided in this chosen soul, and who lead it towards the peaks of sanctity.
Having read Merz’s thoughts, three words struck us spontaneously, by which their author can be defined: the man of faith and sanctity.
Merz, as he appears from these thoughts is a man of deep Catholic faith, marvellous moral virtues and Christian perfection and sanctity which he was reaching gradually, by his own efforts, while being lead by the Grace of God.
Wanting this issue of his thoughts to be as accessible to the general public as possible, we had to renounce numerous quotations which refer to their sources. Those of you, however, who want to know exactly the sources of his thoughts are directed to the two works of Ivan Merz where these thoughts are in their context. These books are;
«The Way to the Sun – Ivan Merz Speaks to You», (Zagreb, FTI, 1993) and «The Burning Longing for the Heights»,(Zagreb, FTI, 1999). In these two publications, a reader will find more of Ivan’s valuable texts which could not be included in this issue of Merz’s thoughts. In these two books will be found a complete bibliography of Merz’s published works, studies and articles.
The sources of Merz’s thoughts
Merz’s thoughts published here, have been taken in the first place from his diary, then from his articles, his private correspondence, and his statements to his friends. They came into being in the period of fifteen years, ,that is, since Merz’s was 17, when he started writing his diary, to the end of his life: The last thoughts at the end of this booklet have been taken from his testament he wrote right before his death. All these thoughts were developed during various circumstances. A large number of them have been taken from his diary, which were written down as far back as secondary school, then at the battlefield in the First World War, or during his studies at the European universities. Others have been taken from his articles and studies which he was publishing as a mature Catholic intelectual, living and working in Zagreb. But presented even in this way, outside their context and without stating a source, Merz’s thoughts have their strength and message.
The circumstances under what the thoughts were developing
In order to appreciate the value of Merz’s thoughts, it’s good to pay attention to when and under what circumstances Merz wrote them. For example, it isn’t the same if Merz said one thought as a youth at the age of 18 or 20, when he was still in the period of maturing,while experiencing inner struggles,or searching for his self and his identity, or if he wrote it as a mature, complete personality and Catholic intelectual aged 25 or 30. The circumstances under which Merz wrote certain thoughts, which increases their value, a reader will find in the above-mentioned books.
Merz’s thoughts – the leading ideas for life
Merz’s thoughts became the leading ideas for a great number of the young and grown-ups, as many have given evidence. His name meant a program of life and work for a whole generation of young Catholics. Sometimes only one Merz’s sentences was enough to enlighten a life’s path and give courage in a certain life situation, as Dr. Brigita K. from Zagreb testified. She said how only one of Merz’s sentences – “to go into unpleasant situations” – helped her a great deal in her life. (Merz wrote it in Paris as one of his decisions in his “life rule”).
Elevation toward holiness through pains and efforts
In Ivan Merz’s spiritual development toward holiness there was a gradation and ascending which can be noticed by reading his thoughts and texts arranged in a cronological order. His early youth was often full of vagueness , wandering and searching in a religious and moral field, which can be seen in his diary. Merz gradually ascended toward Christian holiness, but it wasn’t without a struggle, self-denial, noticing his own weaknesses and the resistance of his human nature. After his youthful wandering and searching, and after his deeply experienced conversion during the war, Merz reached a deep experience of faith and completely developed Christian attitudes, characteristic of the mature period of his life, which can be seen in his articles and works published and written in the last years of his life.
Cardinal Franjo Kuharić speaking about Ivan Merz
Cardinal Franjo Kuharić also expressed himself about the strength and beauty of Merz’s thoughts:
By discovering Merz’s soul we enter into a wonderful mountain-range…
Ivan Merz flashes in this row of great, faithful sons and daughters of our Church in the Croatian nation as a blazing peak. And as the brave mountaineers climb the mountain peaks, I’d like the young people of this generation and circumstances to discover Ivan Merz, so that this may arouse the desire to climb, to go into the heights and feel how wonderful it is to look from these heights at the broad horizons of God’s reality, and to feel how fresh the air is in the heights, and that they should always long for them…Ivan Merz has a great deal to say nowadays to our young people, our seminarians, our divinity students, our friars and nuns, to us – priests and bishops.” (The speech at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of I. Merz’s death, in Zagreb, 25.11.1978)
* * *
When Ivan Merz had already entered Eternal life, grateful young people laid a wreath on his grave with a silk ribbon on which was written:
“THANK YOU, THE EAGLE OF CHRIST,
FOR SHOWING US THE WAY TO THE „ SUN„ !”
This sentence may best express what Ivan Merz meant for his time, and what he may mean today, for the messages of God’s holy people, their thoughts, are always up-to-date.
We wish you, dear readers, to make sure of it, having read these thoughts!
Dr. IVAN MERZ
1896 – 1928
Ivan Merz was born in Banja Luka on December 16,1896 and was brought up in a liberal environment. He attended high school in the place of birth. After taking his final examinations in 1914, he attended a military academy for three months. Then, in 1915 he started law studies at the University of Vienna. The First World War interrupted his studies. He was mobilized. He lived through all the horrors of the war on the front in Italy from the years 1916 to 1918. After the war he continued studying literature in Vienna during the years 1919 to 1920 and completed it in Paris in a period of two years, from 1920 to 1922.
After completing his studies, in autumn of 1922, he came to Zagreb where he taught the French language and literature as a professor on the Archdiocesan classical high school. He obtained his doctor„ s degree at the Faculty of Philosophy at the Zagreb University with a thesis in French on the influence of liturgy on French writers. Then, within the next two years, from 1923 to 1925, as the first layman in Crotia, he studied philosophy and theology under the leadership of Jesuits, trying in this way to become qualified for apostolic work.
By means of deliberation and studies, and especially in the blood and flame of the war, he became aware of the truth of the Christian faith. He made himself a complete gift to Christ by making a vow of perpetual chastity as a layman. All of his spare time he devoted to the upbringing of the Croatian young people in the Catholic organisation “The Croatian eagle alliance” to which he gave a motto, “Sacrifice – Eucharist – Apostolate.” As a catholic intel lectual , in word and pen,he filled the young and adults with enthusiasm for Christ and the Church. He was one of the leaders of the liturgical movement among the Croatians. He sistematically introduced into Croatia the ideas of Catholic Action of the pope Pius XI. His most important characteristic as a Catholic intellectual was his love and devotion to the Catholic Church, Rome and the Pope, which he tried to implant into all the people he communicated with. Although he was young and a layman, he was considered to be “the pillar of the Church” in Croatia.
By means of his apostolic work and his extensive literary activity in the catholic press, he left a precious spiritual heritage which became the source of inspiration for the generations to come. His intention was to establish a secular institute – a community of laymen who would work for Christ and the Church. After his death his idea was partly realized by Marica Stankovic who founded the Community of female cooperators of Christ the King, as the first secular institute in Croatia. Ivan Merz„ s name meant, and it still means, a program of life and work for a Catholic believer who wants to take an active part in spreading the Kingdom of Christ under the leadership of the Church and its shepards.
Ivan Merz was a man of lively faith, sincere prayer, self-denial, daily Communion, adoration, devoted suffering and wide education. He was close to people and showed Christian love to everyone.
He died in Zagreb on May 10, 1928 at the age of 32, having a reputation of sanctity. On his deathbed he offered his life to God as a sacrifice for Croatian youth. His sacrifice yielded abundant fruit in Catholic organisations which continued to realize his spiritual heritage.
A diocesan process for his beatification began in the year 1958. In 1977 his body was transferred into the Basilica of the Heart of Jesus in Zagreb in which he regularly received Holy Communion and prayed during the last six years of his life. Since 1986 the process for his beatification has been continuing in Rome. Graces and answered prayers by means of his intercession have been multiplying. At the beginning of the year 2001, the Croatian bishops presented a written application to Pope John Paul II. asking him to beatify Ivan Merz as soon as possible.
Ivan Merz himself wrote a great deal, and a large number of biographies, essays and articles about him have been published. The most important of them are listed at the end of this book. Ivan Merz has his page on the Internet too. The address is : www.ffdi.hr/ivan-merz
All the other pieces of information about the servant of God, Ivan Merz, can be obtained at the address:
Postulatura Ivana Merza, 10 000 Zagreb, Vlaška 93.