MONS. VALENTIN POZAIĆ, ASSISTANT BISHOP OF ZAGREB
Homily on the feast of Our Lady of the Snows (see Note 1)
Our Lady of the Snows – Homeland Thanksgiving Day – Veterans Day
5 August, 1995-2012
Marija Bistrica – 18th Sunday of the year (B)
Today’s liturgical readings from the Scriptures, which we have just heard, point us to a deeper foundation and understanding of the events in our human life and work. In different times, due to different life conditions, we are ready, and often mercilessly compelled, to undertake various and great acts of renunciation, which are not exactly harmless to regular personal, family, religious and social life.
And when we are without, we strive, at the very least, to provide for ourselves and others that most basic of necessities without which we cannot survive: food and drink. Food is a necessity for our physical survival, but its significance is much greater: it has both a social and a spiritual dimension. Man is not a machine which takes in fuel, rather he is a physical-spiritual, personal being who feeds and is nourished.
Whatever we celebrate, or whenever we socialise, in joy or in sorrow, we gather together alongside food and drink. In that way, regular meals at the family table or on a family outing, especially on feast days, uphold our fellowship, keep people together, shape and strengthen community.
In the Bible, it is often impossible to separate these two aspects of food and eating: the physical aspect, and the spiritual, mental, emotional aspect.
And so it was with Jesus. Seeing His audience was exhausted from hunger and from the journey because, ignoring their material needs, they followed Him instead, thirsting for the Bread and water of eternal life, Jesus responded by feeding them with food for this life, and directing them to loftier values.
He left this way of feeding as a legacy to his Apostles, His disciples, when at the Last Supper He said to them, ‘Do this in memory of me’ (1 Cor 11:24). And throughout history they remained faithful to that bequest. We are faithful to this will of Jesus today too in this holy celebration and partaking at the altar of the Lord.
Today’s date is also a feast day, one of those that are permanently inscribed in Croatian national history. We remember the day when, after several years of the relentless aggressions of evil and hatred, our beautiful homeland was magnificently defended.
It was, and remains, a day of victory, pride and glory. For that long awaited and deeply desired day many laid down their lives, their health, their loved ones at the altar of our Homeland, and our whole Homeland suffered innumerable cultural, intellectual, spiritual and material losses.
That day of victory, pride and glory occurred on the feast of the Mother of God – Our Lady of Snows. It was a blessing from heaven in response to the persistent and persevering prayers of both the defenders and the people. So many eyes were fixed on the sacred sign of the Cross of Christ, elevated in many places; and the Rosary on the neck of the defenders, the Croatian knights, and in the hands of the faithful people, became a beloved and inalienable possession, a sacred sign of the recognition of faith and hope and love, and the future of the Croatian people.
We admire all who managed to survive the war, and equally so, the post-war woes: we congratulate and thank them – and the deceased we treasure with deep reverence in our hearts and our prayers. And still the fate of many remains unknown, and this is an indelible pain.
The chosen people, as we could hear today, exiting slavery and entering the promised freedom of their land, quickly forgot all the terrible evils of slavery, and succumbed to the infection of an imposed submissive mentality, servitude; led astray by evil-doers amongst them, they grumbled against their God-given leaders and deliverers, against the wonderful land; they even wanted to go back – despite numerous sacrifices and glorious experiences.
They became ungrateful for all the gifts they received and belittled and insulted their liberators. Satan tempts man to despise the treasure he has, or to see only what is not good, or what seems so.
Many have stumbled on the path of elation and joy of a liberated Croatia. We hear serious grievances: ‘Croatia has been liberated, but it is not free’; ‘she will be punished because she was not supposed to be freed’, or ‘in Croatia, it is good – for those who did not want Croatia’.
The malicious evil of communist terror and intimidation has not dissipated; indeed, it continues to be renewed through the glorification of crimes and the erection of monuments. And though every day new atrocities and evils and new mass graves come to light, this society is not de-communised.
On the contrary, positions and powers and privileges are enjoyed by those who have committed crimes, those who protect and defend and glorify them, and still erect monuments to them. It is not known how many receive large profits even today.
Persecutors of people receive rewards – for promoting human rights. In today’s Croatia, the dark communist past is not punished, but rewarded. Moreover, mass murderers and terrorists are compared to Croatian defenders – which is a sign of extreme moral depravity. And although that ideology is one of the greatest evils in the history of mankind, they are not ashamed.
A well-known prayer of the Church is the ‘Litany of All Saints’. Through this prayer, which calls on the intercession of all the saints and martyrs, we cry out to the Divine Majesty to hear us, to grant our requests, in our numerous needs and tribulations. It is a long prayer of many invocations.
To these numerous invocations, we in Croatia should add a new one, an altogether special invocation for a very special need, which some other nations, delivered from the same communist terror and slavery, resolved in their own way quite long ago.
If there were among those many invocations that of ‘Holy purification: visit us, set us free! ‘, we should pray the ‘Litany of All Saints’ every day.
Let the purification go from Pantovčak, across St. Mark’s Square on both sides, let it go down to Zrinjevac, then across Prisavlje – let it visit our entire Homeland! And let it not forget the snake that sits in the Croatian bosom, and the one that breeds new anti-Croatian snakes.
Yes, today we celebrate Victory Day and Thanksgiving Day, Veterans’ Day. What today we celebrate symbolically, we should live out every day. Thanksgiving Day is a reminder that we have done a lot, but that we have been given a lot – from above. We nurture our life, but before that we received it as a gift. He who is grateful knows where he is and who is the foundation of his life.
Did we quickly forget the all-encompassing message of Cardinal Franjo Kuharić: love of God, love of neighbour, love of country?
Are we grateful when we take a stand against life, against family, against truths about Croatia’s past and present – and when in that way, consciously or unconsciously, we give up the future?
Are we grateful when we observe indifferently, and so in that way participate in, the shameful enactment of the law that betrays life, marriage, and family as it was conceived by the Creator and Lover of life (Wisdom 11:26)?
Are we living as a people of life for life or have we betrayed life? Holy Scripture loudly proclaims, ‘I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For He is your life, your long life, that you may dwell peacefully on earth’ (Deut 30: 19-20).
When he was at the Croatian National Theatre last year, in front of the elected ones of Croatian society, the Holy Father Benedict XVI spoke about the importance of conscience. They applauded him with a great deal of clapping. Where was the conscience a year later, on Friday 13th July this year, 2012? Are we aware of the hand of the death Industry working within Parliament? This hand is for Satan, who is a liar and a murderer from the beginning, from Cain through to today (Jn 8:44).
Is there any believer, who performs his duty responsibly, able to claim that he has not learnt of and known God’s truth about marriage and the family, about the beginning and dignity of human life at all its stages – thanks to the civic initiatives of ‘Vigilare’, as well as the campaign ‘I too was an embryo’?
Is this the only way Croatian bishops have repeatedly spoken on this issue and reminded people that such a bill is “deeply immoral and inhumane in its content and nature” (Statement of the Permanent Council of the CBC on the final Bill on medically assisted insemination’, July 9, 2012 )?
Let us be grateful and not abandon our beautiful homeland: let us not despise her beauty and riches; let us not allow all that was created worthily to perish; let not the weeds overgrow our fertile fields and meadows, and vineyards and olive groves; let us love our blue sea not only for tourism, but far more as a rich fount of health and food and development; let us love our beautiful homeland not only in words but above all in deed and truth, with a wholehearted commitment to honesty and justice, so that our homeland is not overwhelmed by sorrow and pain from dismemberment and sale, but to rejoice in the flourishing progress, pride, and dignity of her sons and daughters.
Let us be grateful to all those generous individuals, families, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, brave and joyful defenders, who lived, worked and prayed for this holy ground, in whom the spirit lives and the heart beats: As long as there is a heart, there will be Croatia!
Let us be appreciative by living and working so that this sacred little part of the universe always remains our happy and blessed beautiful homeland!
And you, Soul of the Croatian soul, Mother of Jesus, the most faithful advocate of the land of Croatia, stand on the defense of the faith, keep our holy faith and the Croatian home! Amen.
Note 1: The above English text is a direct translation from Croatian original homily which can be found here in PDF.
Bog i Hrvati