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Consecrated Brothers

Father Ivan
Today, I’m happy because I can testify to you all, about the “resurrection” of my life. Many times when we speak of the living Jesus, a Jesus that we can touch with our hands, who can change our lives, and our hearts, it all seems like something so far away, up in the clouds, but, I can testify that I have experienced all of this, and that I’ve seen it become a reality in the lives of many, many youth.
For a long time, about ten years, I lived as a prisoner of the drugs, marginalized and alone, immersed in evil. I started to take marijuana when I was just fifteen years old. It all began with my rebellion towards everyone and everything, from the music that I listened to, which pushed me towards the wrong type of freedom, to smoking a joint every now and then, and then finally to using heroin and needles. After high school I wasn’t able to continue my studies in Varazdin, Croatia so I went to Germany with no particular objective in mind. I lived in Frankfurt where I worked as a mason, but I wasn’t satisfied, I desired more, I wanted to be somebody, to have a lot of money. So I began to sell heroin. Money began to fill my pockets, I lived a classy lifestyle, I had everything: cars, girls, good times – the classic American dream. Meanwhile the heroin began to take more control of me and push me down, further and further, towards the abyss. I did many things to get money: I stole, lied, and cheated. In the last year I passed in Germany, I literally lived on the streets, sleeping in the train stations, running from the police, who by now were searching for me. Hungry as I was, I’d go into stores, grab some bread and some meat ,then escape while eating. The cashiers didn’t even try and stop me, which I think gives you all a good idea of what I looked like. I was just 25 years old, but I was already so tired of life, of my life, that I just wanted to die. In 1994 I escaped from Germany, and returned to Croatia,  it was in this condition that my parents found me. My brothers helped me to enter into the Community right away, first in Ugljane, close to Sinji, and then in Medjugorje. I entered, tired of everything and wanting to rest for a while, with many projects on how and when I was going to leave. I will never forget the day when, for first time, I met Elvira: I had been in the Community for three months, and was in Medjugorje. Speaking to us in the chapel, she suddenly asked us: “Who among you wants to become a good person?”. Everybody raised  their hands with joy in their eyes and on their faces. I, on the contrary, I was sad and angry, I already had other plans in my head that had nothing to do with becoming a good person. That night I couldn’t sleep, I felt an enormous burden inside of me, I remember that I hid myself in the toilets and cried. The following morning ,while praying the rosary, I realized that I also watned to become a good person. The Spirit of the Lord had touched my heart deeply, thanks to those simple words  of Elvira. At the beginning of my walk I suffered a lot because I was very prideful, I didn’t want to accept that I was a failure. One evening at the house in Ugljane, after having told many lies about my past so that I would seem different from who I really was, with great pain I realized how much this evil had become a part of me, living for many years in the world of drugs. I had come to the point where I didn’t even know when I was telling the truth and when I was lying!  For the first time in my life, with much trouble, I lowered my pride, I asked my brothers excuse for these lies, and I instantly experienced my first “taste” of true joy, because I had freed myself from this evil. The others didn’t judge me, in fact, that wanted me even more well. I was hungry for these moments of liberation and healing, and I began to wake up in the middle of the night to pray, to ask Jesus for the strength to overcome my fears, and above all to give me the courage to share my poverties with the others, to share my state of mind, and my feelings. There, in front of Jesus in the Eucharist, the truth began to make way inside of me: The deep desire to become different, to be a friend of Jesus. Today I have discovered how great and beautiful of a gift true friendship is, beautiful, clean, and transparent. I fought to be able to accept my brothers as they were, with their short-comings, to welcome them in peace and to forgive them. Every night I asked, and ask, Jesus to teach me how to love, as he loves I passed many years at the house in Livorno, in Tuscany, and there, in that house, I was able to encounter Jesus many times, and was able to deepen my understanding of myself. In that period, I also suffered greatly: my brothers, cousins, and friends were taking part in the war, and I felt guilty for everything that I had done to my family, for tall the sufferance that I had brought upon them, for the fact that I was here in the Community and they were in the middle of a war. Besides that, in the same time period, my mother became ill, and she asked me to come back home. It was a decision that I fought very hard to make, I knew what my mother was experiencing, but at the same time I knew that if I were to leave the community I would be taking a great risk, it was too early and I would just have been a burden on my family. I prayed for entire nights, I asked the Lord to make my mother understand that I wasn’t hers alone, but I also belonged to the guys with whom I lived. The Lord preformed a miracle, my mother understood, and today she along with the rest of my family are very happy of my decision. I passed 4 years in the Community, and then I arrived at the moment where I had to decide what I wanted to do with my life. I felt my love for God growing more and more as well as my love for life, for the Community, for the guys whom I lived with. In the beginning I thought that I would like to study psychology, but the more I became closer to beginning my studies the more my fear grew, I needed to go to the foundations, to the essentials of life. So I decided to study theology, and all my fears disappeared, I always felt more grateful towards the Community, to God for all the times that he came to me,  grabbing me from the clutches of death, and because he resurrected me, he cleaned me up, and clothed me, in clothes fit for a great feast. The further I went forward with my studies, my “calling” became clearer, stronger, rooted inside of me: I wanted to become a priest! I wanted to give my life to the Lord, to serve the Church as a part of the Community Cenacolo, to help the youth. On the 17th of July in 2004, I was ordained a priest.

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