Friday, June 8, 2018

Terror Inflicted on the People in the First Days of Medjugorje

This is an amazing eye-witness account of the terror the Communist soldiers inflicted on the people in the early days of Medjugorje, including an account of watching Fr. Jozo's arrest... Read how the Holy Spirit inspired a visiting priest to offer Mass defying the armed militia... It is taken from the June 2018 newsletter at:
Fr. Stanko Dodig's Story
By Louise Lotze
On my last pilgrimage to Medjugorje, I purchased the book, Medjugorje, Our Lady's Apostles, Vicka's Testimony, ©2016 by Mario Vasilj. Mr. Vasilj interviewed Vicka, her mother Zlata, and her brother Franjo, as well as Fr. Stanko Dodig. The interviews were focused on the early days of the apparitions. I was impressed and in awe of Fr. Stanko's story. 
Fr. Stanko was born in Medjugorje in 1949. He was ordained a Franciscan priest on June 26, 1977. Currently he resides in Dubrovnik, after having spent 32 years in Rijeka. 
When Fr. Stanko first heard about the apparitions, in June of 1981, he was, of course, surprised and thought perhaps it was a fabrication by the Communists to discredit the Church. He heard about the apparitions from relatives, various publications, and mass media – the latter, of course, in negative context. At first he was in shock and disbelief. But believing that for God everything is possible, he told himself to study all the information, to be open-minded and to have an open heart. His conclusion was – if it is God's work, it shall definitely survive, and if it is human or Satan's work – it shall stop by itself and disappear. He states that the fruits of Medjugorje are evident, and they tell us that Heaven is involved in what is going on. However, the fruits do not guarantee with certainty that Heaven is coming down to earth. 
It was merely four days after the first apparition that Fr. Stanko came to Medjugorje. He wanted to find out firsthand what was going on in his birth parish. He talked to the visionaries as well as others who participated in some way in the events. Based on his inquiries, he returned to Rijeka to inform his fellow brothers, other priests, as well as interested lay people of the events in Medjugorje. 
On the occasion of his next arrival, during his vacation, on August 17, 1981, Fr. Stanko was with his mother in the morning in the field to pick tobacco and string it up in the shade for the day. This time was during the most violent and brutal repression of the visionaries and believers. As people were passing by, and above their house, they heard voices and crying, and even roars. Father told his mother he was going to see what was going on. The people said that the militia had placed guards around the church and kept them from coming close to the church. They were also convincing people that the apparitions were fabricated and that there would be no evening program anymore in the church. Strong militia forces, armed with automatic weapons and accompanied by trained dogs, surrounded the parish house and church. Father did not see any helicopters, but he found out later that the militia and dogs had been dropped off from helicopters in front of the church, which intimidated the people.
What Fr. Stanko did then, he stated, was definitely God's grace. Something pushed him to come closer to the church to see what was going on. Since he knew there were tobacco fields near the church, he decided to pretend he was picking tobacco. He had brought a "duhanjara" (a linen dress for picking the tobacco) in case the militia would stop and question him. He had to squat down several times, and even lie down, so he would avoid being noticed. Luckily, he found a place which gave him a good view of the whole complex. He noticed a female in militia clothes in a house of nuns. Later he learned that she had strip-searched them. Fr. Stanko also witnessed the arrest of Fr. Jozo Zovko. He saw some kind of turmoil at the stairways in front of the parish office. Fr Jozo was wearing his habit and his hands were tied up on his back. Fr. Stanko saw two local people taking Fr. Jozo. One of those informers even kicked his bottom and Fr. Jozo began to stagger and almost fell over the stairs. They pushed him into the paddy wagon and drove him away, probably to the militia station in Citluk. Then inspectors wanted to come into the parish office in order to search the books and other documents. Fr. Zrinko, who was still there, lay down at the doorstep and said, "Only over my dead body!" 
At that time, the church bells sounded. Fr. Stanko found out later who had rung the bells (Fr. Jozo Jolic) and how he had shouted in front of the open window at the house of nuns, "The key?" Then somebody threw the key outside. He immediately unlocked the door of the bell tower and pulled the rope several times to ring the bells. Some people had come on foot from Duvno to Medjugorje. They were kneeling at the barrier, praying and singing. About 6 P.M., a militia car came, and a gentleman stepped out. When the barrier was removed, the people crowded from all sides and soon came in front of the church. After hearing the bells, the other townspeople of Medjugorje hurried to the church. The door was hammered shut, but the men easily broke the boards and set the door free. Women embraced the statue of Our Lady inside the church by loud imploring in prayer. 
In those moments, Fr. Stanko said some strong hand which he could not resist was leading him. He felt a huge peace, but with a bit of fear at the beginning. He said he received some additional strength, which enabled him to move. He strongly believes that he was led at that moment by the hand of the Queen of Peace and Her Son. 
As Fr. Stanko was crawling towards the sacristy door, he was praying for it to be unlocked. He was thrilled because when he grabbed the door handle, it was indeed unlocked. This made him realize that it was God's work and it gave him the shivers. After entering, he removed the "duhanjara", locked the door, and rolled a wardrobe against the door so the militia could not break in. He then faced a dilemma – how to turn on the lights and loudspeakers, since he was not familiar with the room and its technical equipment. He was pushing all the switches with a shaky hand and testing the loudspeaker, which he found functioning. After washing his hands and face, he dressed for Holy Mass and prepared the wine, water and readings for the Mass. While he was dressing for Mass, he looked through the sacristy window and could see the confusion of the militia and that they were making gestures to one another. Kneeling down, he prayed, "Jesus and Mary, I implore you to show now if this is truly Your work that has been going on! The enemies of Your Church, Christ, have joined their forces against Mary and all of us who believe in You. Now it is the opportunity to break them their wings. And that is why I go to the altar in the name of You and in the name of the Queen of Peace." 
The people did not notice Fr. Stanko until he came to the altar and crossed himself. All heads suddenly turned to the altar. He could hear the words of blessings: "Our Lady, thank you! Jesus, praise be with You for sending this priest!" Fr. Stanko remarked that this moment was impressed on his memory and it shall stay there until the end of his life. 
Fr. Stanko related that he had butterflies in his stomach and was under great pressure. All this time he was concerned about the conditions outside. In front of the church the militia stood with automatic weapons and ferocious dogs. There was a possibility of their breaking in at any moment. He said he was not so afraid for himself, but for the people. 
Fr. Stanko said in this interview that he could not remember his sermon that day, but that he began by saying something like this: "Dear believers, you thought that you would make a short vow, come to kneel down before Jesus and Our Lady and to come back [to] your homes. However, it shall not be the case. Heaven wants the Holy Mass to be celebrated here and now." The militia had told the people that the Bishop of Mostar had forbidden the evening program and the celebration of Mass. Father Stanko told the people that this was not true. "We have nothing to be afraid of." 
Towards the end of his interview, Fr. Stanko spoke about the fruits of Medjugorje and that he is happy for Medjugorje to have become a "world chapel" and a "world confessional" where people come and in which they convert and sincerely repent and want to be better persons and believers. He emphasized that Medjugorje is a school of love, of prayer, of kindness, and the school of motherhood. He agreed that he also is an attendant of Her school. "First of all, I am an apostle of Christ. It means, of course, that I am also the apostle of Our Lady because She is a faithful executor of God's will and She does everything what He orders Her to do. We all have to be the apostles of Christ's Gospel. We also need to be the witnesses of Our Lady's apparitions in Fatima, Lourdes and Medjugorje so that we could stimulate the world to become better." He added, "Everybody should be satisfied with what they have. Everybody should express love, kindness…We should thank God every day…and thank Our Lady for not getting tired of us. But our thanks should be expressed rather by our acts than by our words." 
Thank you, Fr. Stanko, for sharing your participation in the early days of Medjugorje with your vivid and honest eyewitness account. 
Editor's note: Louise is from Ashtabula, OH. She received permission from the author to share this story with our readers. offers an online newsletter each month -- filled with stories, testimonies and miracles of Medjugorje. Check it out!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Does God Love the Devil?

Does God Love the Devil?
What do you think?

Vasili-Surikov -The Temptation of Christ-1872
This question was reflected on by Father Leon Pereira, OP., the Chaplain to English-Speaking Pilgrims in Medjugorje.  
A transcript of his homily and answer follows: 
Sometimes to know what we truly believe, we have to ask questions, and ask good questions! And expect an answer. And the sort of questions that children ask are usually very good. For example, children will ask things like, "Does God love the devil?" What's your answer? Anyone for yes? Anyone for no? Ok! Undecided! 
Now, does God love the devil? That is a very important question. The short answer is, yes! Of course He does. I knew someone who always used to say, "I can't reconcile the idea of a God of love with the existence of Hell." So I said to him, "Well, look, if there is no Hell, it means we are forced to go to Heaven. And if we are forced to go to Heaven against our will, then God is some kind of despot, or He is not love." Right? Because we are forced, and if we are forced it is not love. So Hell exists because God is love. 
And I will put it to you this way. The cause of all three things, Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, is God's love. In Hell the damned are love by God, and they don't want to be loved. So they experience it as shear torture. In Purgatory, the Holy Souls are loved by God. And they see how they have held back from His love. How they have been selfish. And this pain purifies them. In Heaven the Blessed are loved by God, and they delight in being loved. And this is the cause of their Beatific State, seeing God as He is, face to face. Becoming like Him, living by His Divine Life. Ok, so all three are caused by God. 
In the Narnia Chronicles, the last book - you know those children's books by C.S. Lewis - the last book is called "The Last Battle". Near the end, there is a scene in which the heroes, the children, end up in a barn with all the bad guys. And the heroes, the children, experience the barn as all lit up beautifully, with all these wonderful silver candlesticks holding candles, and a wonderful meal set out on silver platters. And they drink fine red wine out of crystal goblets. But meanwhile, the baddies think they are in a dark barn, eating and drinking swill. And they tread on each other and they curse each other, and they hate everything and everyone including themselves. 
This is a powerful image of both Heaven and Hell, both caused by God's love. To the extent you are open to God's love and mercy, you receive it. To the extent that you are closed, you receive His justice. There is a gentleman, a friend of mine now, who was a pilgrim like you. And he said, "Father I used to struggle to believe that God loved me, but ever since you said that God loves the devil, I think I can believe it now!"
But remember God is love, God is not sentimentality. We must be open to that love. And if we are not open, then He will lovingly send us to Hell. 
What an amazing answer and reflection on the God of Love Whom we serve and worship!!! St. John expresses the essence of God as Love:
God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. (1 John 4:8)
not to be confused with sentimentality as Fr. Leon clarifies, but that He, GOD, is - in and of Himself - LOVE! 
Love Unconditional and Unchanging! 
What good news! 
God cannot not love! 
Because to not love is against His very nature.

For those of us who struggle with believing that God can really love us after all we've done and all the mistakes we've made - like the pilgrim Fr. Leon mentions in his homily - may reflecting on Fr. Leon's words help us to accept the REALITY of God's love for us!  

May we not only accept, but receive this Life-giving, Transforming Love of God! 
May we allow God's love to pour into us anew and heal our woundedness that keeps us always questioning and leery of God, and thus, separated from the union God desires to have with us.   

© Janet Moore 2018. All Rights Reserved.

We can listen to Father Leon's wit and wisdom daily, as his homilies are posted on MaryTV each day. For example, in today's homily, for 6/7/2018, he gives an incredible teaching on the Holy Mass! 
Please make sure to click the link above!  It is an excellent teaching on the greatest gift God gives to us and a glimpse into the Reality of Heaven's worship. 

Lastly, my family and I were blessed to first meet Father Leon on our pilgrimage to Medjugorje last year and then, were blessed also to host Father Leon in my diocese a few months back. So many people loved him, that we estimate 1000 people came to listen to his teaching and his testimony. 

If you can't get enough of Father Leon, you can watch and listen to the talk he gave to our diocese here:

Thank you to Cathy Nolan of Mary TV for transcribing his homily and for posting his homilies each day!

May God bless each of us and transform us by His Love!