On October 3, the twentieth anniversary of the beatification of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, the priests of the ecclesiastical territory of Zagreb made a pilgrimage to the parish of the Most Holy Trinity in Krašić, the birthplace of the beatus. Mass was led by the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, in concelebration with the bishops and priests of the Metropolitan Archdiocese.
Recalling the day twenty years ago when Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac was beatified, Cardinal Bozanić explained how the bishops, priests and religious of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Zagreb had decided to visit Krašić, a place where their predecessors used to come surreptitiously in order to see Archbishop Stepinac, receive his blessing, transmit his message and find new inspiration for perseverance in their lives and apostolates.
“We make this pilgrimage to Krašić today in order to commemorate all the priests and other people who, despite difficulties, sacrifices and even mortal danger, came here to visit the archbishop, in order to preserve and strengthen fidelity and ecclesial communion. That is what we also need today. This place was and remains a spiritual center for renewal in our daily lives,” said Cardinal Bozanić. “Why has this place in Krašić become a place of a special spiritual presence? First of all, it is because Archbishop Stepinac constantly lived in God’s presence, which encompassed and guided him,” said Cardinal Bozanić.
Recalling the suffering of Job in the Old Testament, Cardinal Bozanić said that suffering remains a challenge for every person: “Suffering is a challenge at all times and poses questions during trials, especially when God’s providence is not accepted. In a particular way, Archbishop Stepinac found himself facing the temptation of the abyss of evil and precisely here, in this very church, while being held under house arrest by the communist authorities, sought to answer many questions. He always held God in the first place and repeated: ‘In you, Lord, I trust.’ It was precisely in Krašić, his birthplace, where he considered his vocation, in the awareness that a disciple is not above his Teacher.”
“Speaking about sanctity in this place comes naturally, because sanctity cannot be restricted. For us priests and for future priests, coming here is a fruitful experience. Historical circumstances have made Krašić the core, so that there would be seeds yielding abundant fruit,” said Cardinal Bozanić.
“Here we see that in insignificance, with meager means and full hearts, a Church is built that opposes tyrants with the power of the gospel. Here we find the criteria for differentiating good from evil, both inside and outside the Church. In this place, which has remained a link of community and cohesion, we pray for the Universal Church, for Pope Francis, for our diocese, for all the Croatian bishops, priests, religious, and Christ’s lay faithful in the homeland and throughout the world, noting that Blessed Alojzije is a saint of fidelity to and unity of the Church, as well as a firm buttress and compass for the Croatian society.”
Cardinal Bozanić recognized priests for their pastoral work and provided them with support in their priestly life: “We are here today, amidst the challenges and crises facing the Church, to make each other stronger in our priestly vocation inspire each other to follow Christ faithfully in the community of the Church. Here with Blessed Alojzije, we have the powerful sense that the Lord needs people who are not attached to their own desires, fleeing from the world to safety, but instead needs those who are prepared to bear witness to Jesus where we have been sent by the Church. The Lord needs people in the fullness of their humanity who are not confined by vague religiosity or spirituality or out of contact with life’s realities, but instead those who are signs of faith and inner joy, which comes from freedom in Christ. God need people who do not allow themselves to be deadened by sins, wounds and failures, constantly looking backward, but instead needs people who know how to look forward toward the future, proclaiming and opening hearts to the Word that God wants to instill in people.”
The holiness of Blessed Alojzije is “a source of Jesus’ certainty in contemporary uncertainties, Jesus’ courage and clarity in times of lack of clarity, Jesus’ joy and hope before many issues that cause much anguish and anxiety.” “Here,” said the Archbishop of Zagreb, “we sense the steps of our brothers and sisters, especially the priests who came to see their archbishop, their enthusiasm, willingness to sacrifice and fidelity to the Church.” ” “Here we are in profound communion with the Holy Father. We particularly support him in his tireless efforts to renew the splendor of the face of the Church. Today we pray especially for his intentions and joyfully respond to his invitation to pray the Holy Rosary, particularly during the Marian month of October, placing ourselves under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and praying to St. Michael the Archangel to defend us from the snares of the Devil, who sows division, discord and distrust in the Church and the world. We should also mention that it was precisely this prayer that our beatus warmly recommended.”
In the conclusion of the homily, Cardinal Bozanić said: “The Krašić of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac remains a place of instruction for all who want a beautiful and noble Croatia, aware of the gifts received and the values that must be cultivated, a Croatia that stands for truth and freedom, for justice and honesty, which cannot be built by suppressing the voice of conscience, a Croatia that shows the value and meaning of life, a Croatia strengthened by suffering and enlightened, educated and ennobled by the cross to serve our neighbors, every person, especially those most in need.”
Thanking the Lord for so many priestly paragons in the distant and recent past and so much light generated through the efforts of priests in our present time, Cardinal Bozanić commended everyone to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of the Croats, and also exclaimed: “Blessed Alojzije, pray for us priests and help us to love the Church and our Croatian homeland with evangelical love.”