In the year 2000, it was the one-hundred-year anniversary of the monumental event when over 160,000 young Croatian’s in 1900, consecrated themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The memory of this consecration has remained in the Croatian people to this day: one of the most popular 20th century Croatian religious hymns “Do nebesa nek se ori”, was specially written and sung just for the occasion. We will outline how this consecration was organised and performed with this review. (see note: 1)
Preparatory Committee for Youth Consecration
Pope Leo XIII, together with all the Bishop’s of the world in 1899, consecrated the whole human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This event was inspirational and in Croatia, the following year, 1900, an initiative was launched for Croatian youth to consecrate themselves, personally to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The main person behind this initiative was O. Antun Puntigam, D.I. a Jesuit priest stationed at the seminary in Travnik. In the early part of 1900, he inspired several priests in Zagreb who were involved with youth pastoral ministry with this idea and they established a special committee to organise the consecration. From their first meeting on February 24, 1900, they sent a public invitation to the Croatian youth for the consecration, which was also published in the press. The initiators of this consecration, in addition, to the response to Pope Leo XIII, wanted the end of one century, and the entry into the next, to be marked for the Croatian youth by their confirmation of faith and devotion to Jesus Christ. The Board members were: Dr Andrija Jagatić as president, K Matica vice president, Stj. Ćukac secretary, and board: Dr J. Lang, N. Kamenar, Dr K Bosnjak, Stj. Niemčić, Dr L Jambrekovic, M. Rukavina.
The Croatian Bishops and the provincial government approved of the idea
The committee immediately informed the Croatian bishops of this initiative. The entire Croatian episcopate readily approved, blessed and took it under its wing, and promised the necessary help. Some Bishops also confirmed their approval in writing. The Archbishop of Zagreb, Dr Juraj Posilović, appointed Dr Andrija Jagatić as the head of the committee, and sent the following words to the entire committee in writing: “I recommend and gladly bless the wonderful idea that our Croatian youth, this year consecrate themselves as solemnly as possible to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and in a special way pay homage to Pope Leo XIII”. Sarajevo Archbishop Josip Stadler, a great promoter of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Bosna warmly recommended to everyone in his diocese to “work as reverently as possible on this celebration.” Bishop of Đakovo J.J. Strossmayer especially advocated the realisation of the idea and issued a circular for the whole diocese approving the whole initiative, and giving very specific instructions on how this initiative should be implemented among young people in the diocese of Đakovo. The other Croatian Bishops did not lag behind in their recommendation and commitment to the consecration.
The High Provincial government to which the Board applied for patronage, gave its consent, and approved all the actions which were organised for the consecration by schools.
Accompanying actions with the consecration would be: an album with signatures and a golden heart for the Pope, a contribution to Peter’s Pence, and a pilgrimage to Rome.
After the “Call”, which was made public in the form of a leaflet, the committee published a special thirty-page brochure entitled “Celebration of Croatian Youth at the Dawn of the New Century”, in which it explained in more detail the meaning of the consecration and the way it should be performed. In this brochure, for the first time, the hymn of the consecration “Do nebesa” was published, written by the 19-year-old high school student, Petar Perica. In three months, 50,000 copies of this booklet were distributed throughout Croatia and Herzeg-Bosna.
The brochure explained all actions initiated in connection with the consecration, and aimed to give the whole venture a character of seriousness, visibility, and confirmation of its sincere adherence to Christ. All those actions consisted of a connection with the Pope – the Vicar of Christ, in Rome and consisted in this: preparing and creating the album with all the signatures of those who participated in the consecration, and gathering of a “spiritual bouquet”, ie: the prayers and acts of piety, for the Holy Father, collecting Peter’s Pence and the pilgrimage to Rome, to hand all the gifts over to the Pope.
More than 160,000 Croatian young men and women responded to the call, all their signatures were collected, over several months, in a large album dedicated to the Holy Father. The “heart of gold” was created, this figure of gold was the size of the human heart, which represented the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Within this “heart of gold”, was placed a list containing the “spiritual bouquet”, i.e.: all the acts of piety that young Croatian Catholics undertook for the Holy Father over several months.
These acts of piety consisted of the following:
800 fasts, 1,200 Way of the Cross, 1,500 three-day Masses, 2,000 novenas, 5,000 Church pilgrimages, 8,000 golden rosaries, 40,000 sacramental Holy Communions, 60,000 Spiritual Communions, 90,000 Holy Masses, 126,000 Rosaries of Our Lady, 130,000 acts of self-denial, 150,000 Litanies, 575,000 other prayers. Total: 1,189,500 prayers and good deeds.
The book “Croatian Youth under the Flag of Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Remembrance -Awakening the People of Christ” tells of confirming the consecration of the youth and its devotion to Christ’s Vicar. This remembrance book was published in Zagreb in 1901 and it was presented with a wide-ranging display of numerous documents and photographs of how the celebration was prepared and took place in all Croatian dioceses. The book was written by O. Antun Puntigam, D.I. who was also the conceptual director of the entire celebration. On page 38 we read: “The Croatian youth would not give the Holy Father the heart of gold as he pleased, but the figure of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. They consecrated their innocent hearts to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; the Heart of Jesus and the heart of Croatian youth became one heart with this consecration. As an external sign of this inner consecration, young Croatian’s showed its heart in the Heart of Jesus to the visible Vicar of Christ. “
Together with the above actions, the action of collecting “Peter’s Pence” flowed. These are monetary contributions collected by Catholics around the world for the Pope and for the purpose of maintaining the central institutions of the Church. In this action, young Croatians collected 500 ducats that were handed over to the Holy Father during the Roman pilgrimage.
A solemn celebration for the consecration to the Heart of Jesus in Croatian dioceses
The celebration of the consecration of Croatian youth to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was performed in most Croatian dioceses on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday 22 June 1900, and some on, Sunday 24 June 1900, where there were outdoor celebrations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The celebration of the Solemnity brought extensive descriptions from all Croatian dioceses. It was particularly solemn in Zagreb. According to Archbishop Posilović, the consecration of the youth, was performed in the Zagreb Cathedral, which was completely filled with young people. It’s calculated there were about 5,000 youth.
In the book of remembrance, pg 40-173, which is the largest part of the book, are listed reports and descriptions of how the consecration was performed in Zagreb and in many other places in all the other Croatian dioceses.
Liberal resistance to the Consecration
To be objective for this presentation of the actions of the youth, it needs to be mentioned, the fact that there was resistance to the consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which according to the organisers themselves only contributed to greater success of the consecration. The book of remembrance has a special chapter entitled “How the devil promoted the celebration”. (pg 35-37) speaks about the twelve Croatian students who studied in Prague, who issued their protest, in Croatia, stating: “We protest against this, among other things, that the fanatical worship of the Pope and the fanatical enthusiasm for the idea of clericalism, which has nothing in common with our people’s lives, kills ever more progressive and free voices. We want young people to be raised real and free, able to successfully solve life’s tasks.” (pg 36). Of course, they did not achieve what they wanted through their protest, and some public voices sent them harsh criticism. Thus “Vrhbosna” writes: “Can our people hope for any good and success from these people, with their absurd and laughable protests boasting in front of the educated world? From souls without a heart, and without any ideals, from souls which today shout and grumble longer, and tomorrow for a slightly thicker salary everyone’s superficial puppets, without even a little serious and thorough knowledge.” (Vrhbosna, no. 8, 1900). An even harsher critique was addressed to these liberal students from Zadar. After rejecting their protest against the Croatian clergy, they continued “Let us ask the twelve apostles of someone else’s thoughts, did your parents send you to study science and pay your costs to put yourself into conflict with their convictions with exotic doctrines, and to introduce to the people confusion with crazy innovations, for which even the corrupt west wouldn’t give a pipe of rotten tobacco? If you have learned nothing better than to plough in the garbage of foreigners, you better come home and accept the hoes or paddles!” (Croatia, Zadar, no. 27, 1900).
The consecration gained even more popularity, after this protest by the liberal students and the public criticism they received for their actions. The remembrance book cites the fact that the father of one of those “twelve” gave 20 kruna “for his misguided son” as a contribution to making a heart of gold. (p37)
Pilgrimage to Rome and meeting with Pope Leo XIII
At the beginning of July 1900, the great Croatian pilgrimage to Rome, took place during the Jubilee Year, which included more than 700 pilgrims, of which there were 50 young men and women and youth representatives, who consecrated themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The pilgrimage was led by Croatian Bishops. On July 3, they were received by Pope Leo XIII in the Sistine Chapel. Two young men, high school student Petar Perica, author of the consecration song “Do nebesa”, and Franjo Scholz from Zagreb, presented the Holy Father with a large artistic album of Croatian Youth with over 160,000 signatures of young people. Three girls, in folk costumes, then handed over to the Pope a large heart of gold, containing within it the “spiritual bouquet” of prayers, sacrifices and good deeds that the young had undertaken for him, over the past few months. The Pope was visibly surprised and moved by this great gift of the Croatian youth. After that they handed over to the Holy Father, Peter’s Pence, ie: 500 ducats, which was also a gift from the Croatian youth. This heart of gold with the “spiritual bouquet” so overwhelmed Pope Leo XIII that he kept it in his private room, as he later confirmed verbally and in writing.
Thanks, from Pope Leo XIII for gifts from the Croatian youth
After the pilgrimage to Rome and the visit to the Holy Father, Pope Leo XIII, he sent a handwritten letter to Archbishop Juraj Posilović thanking him especially for the gifts that the Croatian youth gave him as a sign of their consecration to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Archbishop Posilovic read the Pope’s letter publicly at the opening of the first Croatian Catholic meeting in Zagreb on 3 October 1900.
Here’s this Pope’s letter in English translation:
“Honourable brother, I salute you with the apostolic blessing! Among the many joyful events, which, by the goodness of God, pleased our soul in this holy year, to comfort and strengthen an excellent place was taken by Croatian youth as the proof of love and loyalty they contributed to us. This witness is very dear to us not only for the sake of the large number of those who have participated and contributed, but most of all the reason that they solemnly committed, that under the flag of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, “pro aris et focis”, namely to fight consistently and courageously for their faith and homeland. As a sign of this vow, we are shown a heart of gold, which has pleased us so much, that to this day I have reserved it to myself. Therefore, to you, the honourable brother, according to your vocation, to express our gratitude to this youth again and to encourage them on our behalf, let them hold fast to their decisions, because from there they will draw abundance of consolation and sure hope of future bliss, if the Heart of Jesus is revered and zealously followed. In this name and for the pledge of our fatherliness, we gladly grant our Apostolic Blessing to you and all who have signed the album.”
Given in Rome at St. Peter’s, dated 15 August, 1900, and in the twenty-third year of pontificate “Leo PP. XIII.
Memorial to the Consecration: Book of Remembrance and the hymn “Do nebesa”
In 1901, to preserve the history of this great event, the consecration by Croatian youth, a book was published – “Croatian Youth under the Flag of Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Remembrance – Awakening” – Zagreb, by Antun Scholz, 1901, 236 pp. Within it are detailed all the actions that prepared and accompanied the consecration, and the extensive description of the consecration in various places in all Croatian dioceses. It is a precious document of this unique event that took place on the threshold of the 20th century. In addition, to this book there is another memorial to the consecration throughout the 20th century throughout all Croatian regions: the hymn “Do nebesa” by Petar Perica, written for the very occasion, and sung all these hundred years, and is still sung as an expression of fidelity and loyalty to Christ of the entire Croatian people.
DO NEBESA NEK SE ORI
Do nebesa nek se ori naših grudi gromki glas,
neka jeknu rajski dvori, nek nas čuje Isus spas.
Isukrste, Srcu tvom s nama naš se kune dom:
dušom, tijelom vijek sam tvoj za krst časni bijuć boj.
Čujte, puci širom svijeta, oci naši, čujte sad;
čujte, sluge pakla kleta, kako Hrvat kliče mlad:
Stijeg Hrvata, Srce Krista, tu nam rudi sreća, spas;
tu sloboda zlatna blista, tu se ori slavski glas.
Pređi naši kano lavi za krst časni biše boj.
Tko je sinak ovoj slavi, Kristu vjeran uvijek poj:
Neka grmi pako hudi, neka bjesni cijeli svijet
neka borba lomi grudi, čvrsto stoji zavjet svet:
Kralju slave silni, blagi, blagoslovi zavjet taj!
Blagoslovi rod nam dragi u svom srcu stan mu daj.
Spjevao Petar Perica 1900.g. za posvetu hrvatske mladeži Srcu Isusovu.
Pod Barjakom Presvetog Srca Isusova Series
– Part 2 (Consecration of Croatian Youth to the Sacred Heart of Jesus AD1900)
- English text translated from original article in Croatian at http://ivanmerz.hr/staro/glasilo/1999/1999-posveta.htm