An Interview With Fr. Tomislav Pervan
From GLAS MIRA No. 7. 1996., pages 9/13.
With the beginnings of Medjugorje, we encounter something which we can call world phenomena, a miracle in the making which is surviving and continuing. Many try to dispute its authenticity saying that's just a cheap way of comforting the deprived, the cheated and those who have lost their way in life.
Over the past fifteen years, it has been subjected to criticism, opposition and negation and even to the most advanced computerised medical analysis, but it continues to be adhered to by 22 million pilgrims from all parts of the globe. Despite all this, it represents a fount of mercy, and an inspiration towards peace and love between peoples in our contemporary world. In the following interview, we speak to Franciscan friar, Dr. Tomislav Pervan, provincial of the Hercegovinian Franciscan Province.
Miro Bri: On the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of Our Lady's apparitions, a magnificent concert was held with world renowned celebrities such as Carreras, Gasdia, utej and Colusso.... 12 choirs participated from all continents, like the twelve apostles. It was like the world in miniature. Amongst the political dignitaries, there were no church representatives, I mean, no bishops or Cardinals, with the exception of one Bishop from Australia. Why was this? Were they too busy or was there some other reason?
Fra Tomislav Pervan: The question about the absence of Church dignitaries at the concert should really be addressed to it's organisers. I can only say that the official position of the church with regard to Medjugorje has always been ambivalent. On one hand, there are many bishops and archbishops who are deeply convinced, and some of these have make public statements, they have personally approved and accepted Medjugorje as a world phenomenon, and a fact, therefore encouraging those in their dioceses. (Three of them were present in Medjugorje at this time). On the other hand we have the official position of the Church, which was pronounced and published by the former Bishops Commission of Yugoslavia, in April 1991, amidst the persecutions of the war in the area of Ex-Yugoslavia, and the unseen aggression in Croatia, in which it states that the findings up to the present don't give adequate proof of the supernatural-ness of the phenomena of Medjugorje. This, of course, doesn't rule out the eventuality of a change in the official stance of the Church in the unforseen future. But that concert held in the open behind the church in Medjugorje certainly was a magnificent opening to the days which followed.
M. B.: The official position of the Church regarding Medjugorje is well known to the pilgrims and yet they continue to come. Why do you think this is?
T. P.: Indeed, I ask myself the same question. For example thousands of Polish people are coming these days to Medjugorje even though they have their own "Madonna Nera" and at Easter there were over two thousand Czech people and there are even more than that now. Amongst them, a large representation of youth and some very devoted priests. It was really the evil spirit of communism which spread decay and diluted the fervour of the Czech people. It gradually ripped the seams of the Czech church and took God out of their everyday life. Today we witness the renaissance of the faith of that people. Their deceased Cardinal Tomasek who was something like a symbol of resistance to the communist dragon in former Czechoslovakia, was very pro-Medjugorje. He welcomed the visionaries from Bijakovici as well as the Franciscans. Clearly his position had an influence on the faithful who visit Medjugorje. I suppose everyhuman being is a little like the migrating bird, always looking for a warmer place especially for the heart and the soul. If countless millions hadn't found exactly that, the warmth of the mother, her heart, if they hadn't experienced a glimpse of heaven being given, graces and induced to conversion, others wouldn't have received the strength to undertake such a long journey, with so many sacrifices and renunciations. Just as the migrating bird has a built-in urge to long for warmer regions when it begins to freeze, so too man, surrounded by indifferent hearts and a non-caring society, in a cold atmosphere of cities with all its technology and computerisation, also seeks a refuge where he can nourish his heart and soul. He requires a heavenly purification where he can wash away his whole past and unburden himself of what he has been carrying. Then he is no longer Sisyphus or Prometheus. He is already a follower of Jesus Christ and it is Mother Mary who has led him to her Son.
M.B.: The evangelical message of peace from Medjugorje has drawn more that 22 million pilgrims from all over the world. The Queen of Peace is clearly a witness among us. She gives refuge and solace for people of the whole world,especially to those who are oppressed. Many of us are not ready to accept that truth. It is impossible to measure the immensity of the fruits of Medjugorje. How can we bring back life to that organism which is dying?
T. P.: It is not coincidental that Our Ladys Magnificat became something like a manifest amongst the oppressed and the homeless of Latin America. Mary's prayer is like an overture to Jesus' sermon on the mount which revolutionises relationships between people. In this way the "little ones" and the oppressed become aware of their important role and their responsibility for the destiny of the world. Jesus, and Mary too, with their lives give measure and perspective how to responsibly approach the world and change it. And it really is those "little ones" who are most open towards what's new in the Gospel and to heavens' message. Lets just examine retrospectively the history of the world over the last century and a half in the light of the history of salvation. If we just try and highlight where it converges with the history of philosophical thought and its development- there we find the phenomenon of Marys apparitions, beginning in1830 ten years after the famous Marxist "Communist Manifest". At Lourdes in 1858, Mary reveals herself as the Immaculate Conception, who crushes the head of the Serpent (which might well be the communist Serpent too). On the eve of the October Revolution we have the apparitions at Fatima. A huge sign, an appeal to conversion, and an appeal to pray for Russia who will bring an atheistic ideology to the world. In the middle of this century, Pope Pius XII proclaims the doctrinal truth of Marys assumption into heaven as a response to the vast slaughtering in the second world war where one hundred million people lost their lives. These numerous wars were the answer to all these new philosophies and existentialism, having underestimated, invalidated and distorted the truth about the human condition. It was amidst all ungodliness and turmoil that faith in the "resurrection of the body", was proclaimed, with Mary as the model and heralder. Medjugorje was something like Jericho's triumphant trumpet blast, a seven year long prayer overture, a torch-lit march in prayer to break down the communist atheist and antihuman reign of terror. As far as I know, no-one has written about this event treating it as a big occurrence, in the light of philosophical history. But we can be sure that without the prayer and sacrifices of those "little ones", the deprived, who day by day fasted prayed and cried out to God to save us and to deliver us from evil and the evil one, this important event would never have taken place. It may even be the most important event since the dawn of Christianity.
M. B: Our times will go down in history as one of great contrast with absurdities and many wars. We can't seem to take destiny into our own hands. We are tortured by too many problems, weakened family life, drugs alcohol,prostitution crime etc. While on one hand Mars is threatening further warfare, is Venus smiling at him awaiting the right moment to turn him on the true path and show humanity of today the real way to salvation?
T. P.: I think it was C.J. Jung who said that the Gospel is the remedy for the whole world. So, the words of Jesus of Nazareth stand out with authority for all peoples of all times. They give bearing and proportion, true perspective and direction for human life and the future of humanity. If we were even in a small measure to accept Jesus authority, I believe that the face of this earth would look different. It was the saints and the mystics who greatly helped this world, not by delving into the depths and expanses of space, but by going into the depths of their hearts. There, they uncovered an image of God within themselves which they were then able to pass on to others as a fount of wisdom for life. How they differ from all those intellectuals and scientists who with their discoveries only led man to his downfall and to hell. Life without technology and technological advances is hardly imaginable, but what if all of it moves out of control? That really is the path that we are on, because modern man is Prometheus or Camus' man in revolt, against every authority, trying to dominate whatever is most out of his control. We ourselves don't even know where these chariots of fire are leading us. That is why Medjugorje in all its simplicity (and simplicity is always perfection!) is essentially an invitation to live the Gospel. There is no new teaching, just an accentuation of truths known written and lived for centuries. It is a clear contemporary proof of how possible it is to live by the Gospel today. People are open to these messages, many prayer groups have been formed, inspired by the events, which is a clear message of how this can happen. It is not on the surface, but deep in the heart of the Church, centering around the Eucharist.........
M. B. ....Getting back to Medjugorje which is a continuation of the fulfilment of the Bible. The people become aware of their importance. Some time ago, you referred to a "dragon" who wishes to devour the child which has just been born. How is it posible to stop that dragon?
T. P. Right from the beginning I have been tightly linked with Medjugorje, and after fifteen years, I am convinced that it is not a meeting place for the inquisitive, the sensationalists and the fanatics. It is already known as a place of prayer, conversion and for celebrating the sacred mysteries of our faith, especially the Holy Mass. Medjugorje began with the laity, with ordinary children, it was brought to the laity and it was they who first beleived and only then was it passed on to the priests. And today it is the laity who bring the Medjugorje movement to the whole world. It is really the laity who hundreds of times cross even oceans to come to Medjugorje. When I ask them why they come so often to Medjugorje, and why they bring pilgrims to these parts which aren't safe, they reply that they do it because they see changes in people. Spiritual changes. Just like the change in the apostles before and after Jesus' Resurrection and after the descent of the Holy Spirit. People change and that becomes a motive for a return visit, for the establishment of prayer groups, an then we have a renewal of the Church from the base upwards. Note that neither Mary nor Jesus and certainly not the apostles nor the first disciples came from the priesthood, but rather from the laity. Jesus Christ is clearly the Son of God, but he wasn't brought up in the temple and amongst the priests and hierarchy of his time. Because of Herod and the Roman government they even tended to hide Him from the world.
Only time will tell if Medjugorje will grow into the Shrine of the Queen of Peace and whether this sacred ground will be proclaimed an official shrine of the Church. Just this Monday and Tuesday, (the anniversary) over fifty thousand Holy communions were distributed, there were many occasions of grace and of reconciliation, of interior and physical healing. On the 25th of June at Holy Mass there were 250 concelebrants and at least 50 tireless confessors worked in the confessionals throughout the day.
There where Holy Mass is celebrated, it breaks the power of Satan, and the dragon, and there where Mary is loved and esteemed and sung to with raised hearts and hands which cry up to the heavens, the hellish violence which was shackling and still chains us, will diseappear. Let's allow the Spirit of God to work through us. Even today the Pope in his foreword to the new Code of Canon Law says " it appears sufficiently clear that the Code is in no way intended as a substitute for faith, grace, charisms and especially charity in the life of the Church and of the faithful. On the contrary, its purpose is rather to create such an order in the ecclesial society that, while assigning the primacy to love, grace and charisms, it at the same time renders their organic development easier in the life of both the ecclesial society and the individual persons who belong to it.". The important question is whether its this love and grace which are a driving force in our lives or just mere rules. We should all ask our selves that question. It is a simple question, but the most difficult one to face.