Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. We sing in a Croatian eucharistic song to Jesus: Christ, be our joy! Christ, be our happiness! Christ, be our life! Amongst these three great words: joy, happiness and life, we shall reflect on only one: happiness and its opposite.
Happiness. Christ, be our happiness! We don’t ask Christ to be our lucky break, our chance opportunity, something totally unexpected. In Latin there are two meanings for happiness: felicitas – this is happiness which is earned, merited, for which one has worked towards and prayed hard for, and fortuna – this is shear luck, winning a lottery, finding a thousand DM on the street. Someone might be crying over that loss while you are rejoicing over your newly discovered fortune, which you should instead report to the police. In our faith we are not talking about the fortune of chance events. Instead we refer to the happiness which comes from an encounter (in Croatian sreća – felicitas comes from sresti – encounter) with a person, parents, brothers, sisters, with people you respect, love and to whom you owe a debt of gratitude. A true encounter is happiness. An encounter with God is the ultimate happiness and God has prepared that encounter for us. We owe him our encounters and our happiness. We also pray to Christ that he be our happiness and that we may encounter him. Today we celebrate him in his Sacred Body as our encounter and our happiness. We encounter him every day in the Eucharist, in prayer and adoration. Let us pray for vocations in our local Church, so that he may choose new labourers according to the Father’s plan. The harvest is great, yet the labourers are far too few (Lk 10:2).
In the Church there has always existed the practical rule that: “if you wish to be happy and if you want to make others happy, then don’t personally ask for anything and don’t refuse anything”. Don’t push your own candidacy forward and don’t bury your talents! Others know about you. Don’t seek to become the Father Provincial! But if you are legitimately elected, then don’t run away, but try your best to lead the Province to happiness, not to adversity. Don’t seek to become a Bishop! Yet if you are legitimately nominated, stay faithful to the end in truth and justice and govern the diocese in unity of faith and love with the Holy Father the Pope.
If anyone is cheerful, let him sing praise (Jac 5:13). If anyone is happy, may be make others happy as well.
Misfortune. Maybe happiness can be better understood when one mentions misfortune: misfortunes at work, during travels, in marriage, in the sky, during the night, misfortunes as tragedies, an automobile accident or train crash, injury, loss, failure, death. There are various types of misfortunes, willed and accidental, all the way up to great church misfortunes. Many local and foreign journalists have asked me by phone or fax these last days: "what do you think of the so-called 'apparitions', which haven't stopped being a mass-media craze these last 20 years?" My response is that I think what I have always thought, and as the local Ordinary of this diocese still hold to what I said from this holy place last year. I think and state that which the Catholic Church on the basis of competent and responsible investigations officially claims: taking into account all the events of the last twenty years, there hasn't been recognized any authentic and accepted supernatural apparition, nor has any supernatural message been recognised, nor has any supernatural revelation been acknowledged. This is what I believe and what I publicly and clearly proclaim, so that there may be absolutely no doubt regarding the so-called "apparitions". At the same time, I express my deep faith in the Blessed Virgin Mary, the humble and obedient servant of the Lord and her role in Christ's work of salvation according to the teachings of the Church.
Yet amongst all these curious questions, very few inquire about the local Church situation which is making many faithful unhappy in this diocese. The situation I'm speaking of is the inhuman, unchristian, unreligious and unpriestly disobedience that continues against the decisions of the highest Church authorities.
Had they asked me, I would have responded with a sorrowful heart that according to revealed facts which have not been repudiated by anyone so far with sound arguments, the disobedience that has been nurtured for years against the Holy See, the Franciscan OFM Order and the local Church, has recently produced the bitter fruits of invalid and sacrilegious confessions, invalid confirmations and sacrilegious masses.
Those Franciscan priests who in previous years took it upon themselves to invalidly confirm or invited others to celebrate "confirmation", have descended this year into such a depth of misfortune that they avoided the local Ordinary and invited someone who not only is not a bishop nor priest, but who isn't even a catholic to "confirm". This person stated: "Our aim is to make the Pope revoke the Romanis Pontificibus decree through these confirmations… the Franciscans and I believe in Mary's apparitions in Medjugorje". Regarding celibacy he said: "when it is abolished, priests will be able to marry. This is what we want". Being a non-catholic he also said: "the impeccability of the Pope cannot regard dogmas" (statement: 23 May 2001). He was probably referring to the Pope's infallibility in faith and morals. These are the beliefs of the person that was invited to three parishes of this diocese: Grude, Čapljina and Tepčići, to illegitimately "confirm" 779 candidates. What is at hand here are not only invalid confirmations and a sacrilege against the Holy Spirit but invalid masses also, which this non-priest acted out before the faithful who were led astray by a hireling, like sheep without a pastor (Jn 10).
I would have responded with a sorrowful heart to questions on the local situation with first-hand testimony that last year some Franciscans approached an Old-Catholic bishop in Switzerland and asked him to ordain a “secret bishop” (Geheimbischof) so that through the sacrament of Holy Orders they could ordain new priests and celebrate the sacrament of confirmation. The Old-Catholic bishop obviously refused their request and ended the discussion (our question: 25 May and his response 28 May 2001). I have no reason not to believe the Old-Catholic bishop from Switzerland, who acted in the current ecumenical spirit of non-proselytising. I have also informed the responsible authorities of the Church on this matter.
I would have responded with a sorrowful heart, that I was recently officially informed that the Franciscan Order has dismissed another three members of the Province of Herzegovina from the Order due to their continuous disobedience and three others were suspended of their priestly faculties. I would have also mentioned that 40 members of the Province refused to sign the Statement regarding obedience, which was agreed upon by the General of the Franciscan Order, the local bishop and authorised by the Holy See. Yet with gratitude I also mention that two-thirds of the Franciscan fathers signed the Statement and thereby expressed their desire to maintain a true spirit of ecclesiastical obedience. I will be counting on them and their participation in the pastoral work within the diocese. I further stress that the Franciscans currently assigned to this parish of Medjugorje have been presented by the Provincialate and legitimately nominated by the Chancery Office of Mostar.
The latter pleases us greatly whereas the former, the attempt to break catholic unity on the part of some in the areas of faith, cult and discipline, hurts to the bottom of the heart. I’m bringing this out in the context of this celebration of the sacrament of Confirmation with my appeal to all in the diocese, in the country and the world, accompanied by a heartfelt prayer that the Holy Trinity save us from similar misfortunes and unfortunate church tragedies.
Therefore I pray for you today, dear candidates for Confirmation, and I invite you after having validly received the sacrament of Confirmation to be true witnesses of Catholic unity and faith, authentic witness of the Holy Spirit and his seven gifts, from wisdom to holy fear of God, witnesses for Jesus Christ who has revealed the Father to us.
Christ, be our joy! Holy Spirit, send forth your gifts: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).
+ Ratko Perić
Bishop of Mostar-Duvno