In military academy - studies in Wien

EVERYTHING PASSES Ivan wished to study art and literature. His parents, however did not agree with him and for their sake Ivan enrolled in the Military Academy at Wiener Neustadt. He endured only three months there, since he had neither the desire nor the talent necessary for a military career.

His short stay at the Academy was not worthless. Ivan had the opportunity to become acquainted with the reverse side of life, the moral poverty of people. His diary of those days is abundant with descriptions criticizing the vicinity in which he had to live, against which Ivan’s inborn correctly disposed nature complained spontaneously. One thing is particualrly evident: the world of faith, as opposed to the moral evil surrounding Ivan, attracted him more and more. Religious thoughts occupied an increasing space in his soul.

DIARY – WIENER NEUSTADT (Vienna’s New Place)

Wiener Neustadt. 21st September, 1914 – I have already written extensively and some of the cards are full of hatred for all this. I can now also see the horrible sides of this, but I will not “succumb”. My faith seems to be weakening. Beautiful thoughts about religious life seem to be fading away. This is because I have no company with whom I could talk about higher things. Confession, something I long for so much, does not seem possible here. I cannot take Holy Communion… One of the academics has killed himself. Their ideal is to be a soldier, why, how, they just do not think of these questions. When this ideal disappears, it is no longer known what is the purpose of life and they no longer want to live. Life is not pleasure but sacrifice.

15th October, 1914 – The meanness of people breaks out best in the most exalted moments. It was “Ausmusterung”. The new officers were taking their oaths to sacrifice all they had for God, the Emperor and their country, and all the colleagues got drnuk like animals. God is cursed here in Croatian, the speech is vulgar; people get sick and spit all over the floors. Some of them sit on the floor drinking champagne out of bottles. Yes, these are the very same people who made fun of me yesterday for studying Latin, for striving for the spiritual.

It was pleasant and warm when out of these loathsome surroundings I visited with K. the grave of Zrinski and Frankopan (their remains were transferred from Wiener Neustadt to the Cathedral of Zagreb only in 1919 – the writer’s note). The inscription on the tombstone is in Latin. There is a faded wreath on the grave with a rag that still shows traces of the colours of the Croatian flag. This reminds us that some good people were here to express the love for their heroes that can only be shown for bones. Their bones are resting under the linden and cypress trees in the evening red mixed with blackness of smoke. Glory to you, honest Croats! Even a heart of stone would burst into tears seeing how good people are destroyed. But no, they are not destroyed: they still live in the memories of honest Croats.Out of their blood flowers and roses bloomed and will bloom.

25th October, 1914 – Everything passes! I feel it now with all my soul. And maybe any moment will bring me ugly thoughts: a battle between soul and body. Life in total is such a battle between two elements, and in this battle we are getting closer to the Ideal of our life: to the Almighty. God, oh holy God, give me strength to pray, to come to terms with my Creator, with the Creator of all the wonderful laws of nature, with the Lord of the immense twinkling stars, with the enernal Truth! “To pray means to believe.” I believe in the Lord, in God Almighty, I believe that He is perfect Spirit in freedom of will and greatness. I am a meagre man, I have a free will but it is limited. The little sparkle of Prometheus I have, a tiny part of the Almighty is drawing me to This and is documenting the existence of This. Like a man who has not yet stepped into mud completely wishes to talk to someone more sensible than himself, the same way the spirit strives with all its strenght for perfection, for the great Spirit. He talks to Him in prayer and He answers so wonderfully, delicately that man thinks he is breathing air from the heights. This conversation with the Almighty, this connection, the recognition of the Almighty, this is religion. Religion without prayer is dead. However, prayer is not measured by its length and it doesn’t need to be read out of a book. Conversation from one’s own feelings, meditation about the Scriptures and of the intentions of the Almighty, this is prayer. God is a spiritual being. And since we are in body, our thoughts of Him are both material-spiritual. He became Emmanuel, similar to us, so that we could understand Him. And we can pray to Jesus and this prayer is easier for us by far since Jesus is closer to us.

7th December, 1914 – I met the members of “Hrvatska” (members of the Catholic student organization “Croatia” in Vienna – writer’s note). I felt the bond that ties them all. It is a pleasure to come from a society not finding enjoyment in eroticism only, living for eroticism alone; among people, male and female who work for one and the same thought, who live honestly and nobly. No, it is not necessary to speak of the greatness and beauty of Christian life…

19th December, 1914 – Whenever I hear vulgar talk, whenever nasty pictures want to steep into my soul, I always see unchanged the picture of the Madonna with Child, that beautiful and majestic expression, that centralization of everything sublime.

22nd December, 1914 – I am finishing my diary and I am hoping. I am praying to the Almighty who prepared a road leading to the sun and the stars, a direction to every stalk and a duty to every ant, that from now on He shows me also the road to Chastity, the great art, to everything Supreme and Eternal. Let Faust who seems to have fallen asleep here wake up again and again.


His parents finally realized that there was no sense in demanding that Ivan enter a vocation he neither desired nor felt satisfaction in. When he came home to his parents in Banja Luka for Christmas of 1914, he was not asked to return to the Academy. At the beginning of 1915, he went to study in Vienna. To please his mother he enrolled in the Law Faculty, but in addition Ivan also attended lectures on literature.

Ivan’s cultural horizons expanded a great deal in Vienna. He read a lot, attended the theatre, concerts, operas. He became closely acquainted with scientific and literary atheism, with its moral and social results.His spiritual maturity developed. This was the era of his greatest internal roaming and searching. The problem of love tormented him. He thought and wrote about it very much. The memory of Greta was still alive. Religious problems also pressed him; but for all his doubt he wished to believe. He found joy in the Eucharist and he noted his feelings and experiences about this Sacrament many times. He felt a great striving for moral perfection, for rising above mediocrity.


Vienna, 17th January, 1915 – My prayer now goes to the Immaculate; let Her follow my every step in this city! Let my every walk and each step be directed to the beautiful! I want to delight here, in general, in beauty only. My slogan is Keats’s: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Only Beauty leads to the Source.

27th January, 1915 – Communion on Sunday. I cannot comprehend that Christ, the Lord-Creator, He towards whom everything is aimed, whom man feels walking and sleeping, He who is strong and almighty, who puts the universe into motion, He who watches over every blade of grass and each little worm, that Christ whose hands and feet were pierced by nails, who was spat at, He who restored to life the dead and who loved children, and who at his own death darkened the sun and shook the earth, that He will be mine, He will talk to me, a man for whom I alone know rightly. For all this, just for this I know that it is Him, because He has shown just in this his great love.

10th March, 1915 – Our life must be a sacrifice, it should not even see much that is beautiful.

17th May, 1915 – My life is a big question-mark. My childlike faith is fading from day to day. I miss that differentiation between good and evil I used to have. I am asking myself whether what I used to consider good is really good. What is “truly good”? Does “good” exist? All these views of the world – are they merely prejudice? And I am always living this way, asking myself. Only what I can see in front of me, I recognize as existing… Does God exist or not? Then, what is my perception of the name of God? It is a fact that He does exist, that I can feel Him all around me, in me, here, there, everywhere. His melodies hold and fill the whole universe. Every man feels the breath of something greater and more eternal… Well, God exists. Then we ask ourselves: who is that God, what is He like? Can we pray? Is He personal? All these questions are answered in individual simple cases by our soul. When I hurt my parents, I am terribly sorry. This is proof that the feeling after being unjust is not prejudice, but there is justice in us. Justice is a principle that is in us, and all of our inside gets excited if we act against this principle. And He whom we feel around us, of whom our reason says is eternal, whom the soul unintentionally desires, He will doubtlessly be just. This brings us to a personal God. He does exist, and I believe this firmly, and even during the most difficult moments of temptation and doubt, I believe that He is the only, eternal, great God. And if He exists, it follows that our life has a purpose.

Then, one has to consider what people usually do not think about, and what could easily lead them to the rihgt conception: that we will die. We love someone tremendously, and that person dies. We will never, never see him again. Then, we ourselves are full of doubts, aspirations, ideas… And now suddenly we die. What was the purpose of everything? Why so many thoughts and aspirations when everything is in vain, everything stumbles down into nothing, when the spirit is not a separate element? No, it cannot be. When everything in nature is so splendidly arranged, there must be an eternity to our lives in the sense of justice. Truly, it is so, and I believe in it being so, and the moment when I feel it with childlike faith, when I loath evil and when I am melting away in prayer, at the bottom of my soul, again, the doubt remains, the great question-mark of the last Adam: why? what? And again, in spite of all the doubts, I still believe.

However, just to believe is not enough. Our faith must be a system, a road-sign of life, so that we will not work against the principle of justice and eternity. Religions give us systems. And I say: “aut catholicus aut nihil” (Either Catholic or nothing). I have never had any doubts in this respect. I know and I feel that Catholicism is the only true faith (if faith exists at all). I have never thought that other religions might be better than Catholicism. Well, I am a Catholic at heart, but that primeval man in me, that Faust who does not know about education or prejudice, is pulling me down in my aspirations and makes me doubt everything.

Well, enough of this. I should criticize my own life. My firm faith in Catholicism has weakened and this made every true enthusiasm decrease, and every sharp judgement over all events weaken. Whatever I observe, I watch and I no longer know whether it is good or bad. The world is loving, embracing – well, let them love and embrace.Someone slapped my face. It is all the same, let him do it again. So many in the world are poor, so many get slaughtered. Well, let it all be, as long as it does not concern my own skin. In fact, if my reason says that this is not right, it says so because I have experienced all this in my inner doubts. And now it is high time to shake it all off and consider that Someone died on the cross for me, to serve Truth… Thus I have carried out an emotional analysis: If I had gone by the sacred sentence “fruits tell what the tree is like” I would have arrived through reason, science, art and especially history at the conclusion that there is a certain truth and this truth is found throughout history and that all aspirations and human errors are just roaming around Catholicism that has hardly been felt properly by anyone. In addition, I am human, and doubt remains at the bottom of my soul, and it strengthens me, because this doubt is the cause of the spiritual struggles and examinations I experience as a man.

23rd April, 1915 – My dear parents congratulated me on my name-day. The Almighty, bless them! Whenever I doubt the Highest, Goodness and my own ideology, there is an unshaken love and affection for my parents that I feel so lively and this testifies that love, spirit and God are not utopia, that all this exists, that man truly is an idea longing for its source.


Just as Ivan finshed Grammar School World War I started. In the summer of 1915, Ivan was drafted. Awaiting departure, he spent some time with his parents in Banja Luka. During that period he passed a Latin exam in Sarajevo for which he had not studied in grammar school. He continued to read many literary works, and diligently wrote his diary. The problems which tortured him in Vienna were still present. Yet apparently he was calming down slowly. A solution of many problems was dawning slowly in the light of faith. Ivan still felt a desire to perfect his soul and his character. He felt weak, and in sincere prayer turned to God for help. During this period Ivan took a very significant step on the road in the development of his personality: on the holiday of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on December 8, 1915 he took his vow of chastity before marriage. With these vows Ivan consciously put himself under the obligation not to sin against the 6th an 9th God’s Commandments.


5th September, 1915 – Let me again tell my best friend about myself! I have been in a terrible mental state all day long. I could not truly concentrate at church; I was constantly bothered with questions whether or not I was deceiving myself, misleading myself; was it merely my imagination? In addition, a horrible conflict with nature joined in… Catholic or nothing, I say again. But why these dreadful doubts, tearing me apart? Apart from this, there was such human egoism present that I felt disgusted with myself. To tell the truth, I have by now emerged slightly out of these confusing emotions. The picture of the Madonna in purple is in front of my eyes.

Sarajevo, 25th October, 1915 – Some parts of John’s Gospel on Communion are splendid. I thought a lot about these at my last mass and got so deeply into these thoughts that I actually mystically felt the consecration and that Christ was present there, to be worshipped.

Vienna, 24th November 1915 – I have worked somewhat more intensely on the cultivation of my soul. I have been reading “Follow Christ” and thinking about it. It is a great book, full of mysticism, which I also need. A man can see how tiny he is and how great is the One who died for us, the One who gives us Bread – God, His own Self, all His greatness, all His love. It cannot be expressed how one feels when He is united with us. Nor the wish for even more and more, for the whole Christ, for the Light, for God – the Creator, whom our hearts eruptively desire.

Banja Luka, 12nd December, 1915 – I have made my peace with nature maybe for ever. The female element has finished playing the role it had to play in my life. I have nothing more to do with women here. I do not want to fall in love, it could deteriorate into sensualism. The rest of women should play the roles of male friends, particularly gentle male friends. But I feel awful at the thought that I would always have to move in a society full of sensuality. I made my vow of chastity before marriage to the Blessed Virgin the other day. Maybe it will last as long as I live.

28th January, 1916 – Somehow I am at peace with my soul, but I still realize that I am tremendously far away from any kind of perfection (to be better than one’s surroundings). It hurts very much. I am conceited because of my good example and then I see that I am a Christian in words only, not in my deeds. Christianity has not entered into my blood. There is nothing harder than to be a good Christian… My whole life is against my wishes, weakness and constant weakness. I should pray longer to God so that I do not lose the mystic connection I have with Him, that I feel Him in every thought, with each look and each job I perform. But now, I pray in the mornings and evenings, in fact mechanically pronouncing the sacred words. I should read daily, at least for half an hour the Gospel and think about it, then at noontime after saying the Hail Mary imagine some transcendent things and thus all day long, all my life I will live in the mystic light, creating a masterpiece out of my soul which searches for the Truth – the Aim.

28th February, 1916 – I will put down a few sentences before leaving for the Army. With this I am ending my diary; with it I wanted to educate my inner being and to make a masterpiece of my soul. I feel that I am still very far away from the goal… I received Communion yesterday and I am so cheerful and satisfied that it seems to me I will never be sad again, no matter how heavy my heart might be… Man is only a traveller here, his real destination is not here on this earth; he has been chosen for something higher. Truly, when one retires into solitude, into darkness, the whole real world, all his pals, his friends, all of the marvellous nature seem like a dream to him. One now feels that nature is unreal, and that thought is the true reality, that the spiritual world, the world of the night and prayer is more real than anything visible that exists. One should aim at this life only, at this reality.

The same evening: My head is still spinning: the laughter and shouts of the girls, Vikta’s advice… I wonder if I am sorry for all of these people. Yes, I have noticed that many of them came to like me… What I am most sorry for here is Dr. R. We have not talked much, but with him everything is full of energy, full of love and some strange, one could say, mystic chastity. What an influence such a man could have on others! I myself feel that a man, no matter how intelligent, could not impress me as much as a chaste one does. It really is so and just this confirms the truthfulness of Christian moral principles. Chastity and chastity forever should the slogan be. God, health, and everything else will come! If I could only find some relevant works for the Scriptures to study!