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Fr. Jozo talking © COB

 

Fr. Jozo, was 40 years old when the apparitions began. He was a very rational and deeply spiritual priest who could not set his mind or his heart at rest concerning the authenticity of the apparitions. As the parish priest of Medjugorje, he was responsible for the welfare of the parish. The villagers, most of whom had believed in the apparitions immediately, looked to him for his own testimony of belief but he could not give it. He was deeply concerned that it was a communist plot to destroy the faith of his people. He implored God for light. In Fr. Jozo’s own words, he describes what happened to change his lack of faith into a living faith consumed with spreading the events of Medjugorje.

 

“… a turning point in my attitude happened and we can say in my life, in my priestly life. I remember when I was preaching to the people, to the congregation, the…last Sunday, in the month of June it was the fourth day (of the apparitions). I was preaching to the people about revelation. I was preaching to the people about what God did, starting with Creation, then through Abraham and Jesus Christ and the death of the last of the apostles. But, the people were not disposed to listen to these words. They wanted me to give a testimony but I told them openly, I‘m not a witness. I can’t tell you what you ask from me. And I told them what Jesus actually said. “We do not need any special signs because the Sacraments, the Church are the signs for us. The Word of God which has been lived by the Church for 2,000 years. If you want to experience Jesus, He is here.” But the people were deaf to this. They asked for what Our Lady was saying but I could not give that to them.

 

Fr Jozo Blessing Pilgrim © COB

 

“…God answered…to the needs of the people (at) that moment (and) I became a witness too. It happened when I expected it least. We were present in the Church. Jakov, after Mass, took me by the hand…and said, “I have a message for the people.” I asked him, “What message.” He said, “You will hear.” I said, “Alright.” I put him on the altar…He was small. He could not reach up to the microphone. And standing on the altar, where I had just presented the sacrifice (Fr. Jozo seems to be bringing to mind the Old Testament sacrifice), 10 year old Jakov spoke and said, “Our Lady said, everyday we should pray the Rosary together in the Church. To pray also at home.” Listening to Jakov, I was sad. What, what message is that? These were only ordinary words for me. But the people were enthusiastic. They looked at it with different eyes. So they greeted this message with applause, applauding, and they remained spontaneously. No one wanted to go home. So I remained too. And we started praying again. During the praying of the Rosary, Our Lady appeared. She blessed all the congregation, full of joy and gratitude to everybody. She repeated the same words which Jakov had said two hours ago, after the Mass, She repeated the words, “Pray the Rosary everyday. Pray together.” And She went away.

Fr  Jozo Holding Cross © COB

 

“She appeared during the rosary while the whole congregation was present but not everybody saw Her. Not everybody. Only the visionaries and some other people, and so did I.”

 

And so Fr. Jozo became a believer and a witness to the apparitions. Besides the profound moment when Fr. Jozo saw Our Lady, of that night, another image was also solidly embedded in Fr. Jozo’s mind. It was from the dirt of Jakov’s little footprints that remained on the altar cloth once he was lifted down from the altar. The courage and the witness of this small visionary touched Fr. Jozo deeply, especially in light of his own initial disbelief.

 

Jakov’s testimony helped to embolden Fr. Jozo’s own decision to speak strongly on behalf of Our Lady, to give his own testimony of his belief of the apparitions, and his sermons often ran counter to the current communist establishment. He soon became a target of the communist authorities and eventually was thrown into prison when he refused to be silenced and intimidated by the police. When Fr. Jozo was sentenced to 3 ½ years in prison, the villagers greatly feared for his health and safety. But Our Lady reassured them, through the visionaries. She told them not to be afraid and then added an astounding statement in regards to Fr. Jozo being a saint. She said on October 21, 1981: “Do not fear for Jozo. He is a saint.” Fr. Jozo served 1 ½ years of his sentence before he was released. Though his experience endangered him and he was treated severely, he said that he felt the embrace of the Church throughout his ordeal, that the presence of God and Our Lady comforted him very much, and that he believed every priest should have to spend some time in prison for their faith because of the fruit that he experienced in his own spiritual walk with God during those 18 months in which he was separated from everyone and everything that he loved and was dependent upon, including the sacraments and the Bible.



© SJP Lic. BVM Caritas