On Thursday, November 24, 2005, the parishioners and the pilgrims commemorated the fifth anniversary of Fr. Slavko Barbaric's death in Medjugorje. In the afternoon, they prayed the Way of the Cross on Cross Mountain, and in the evening, there was Holy Mass and Adoration in the Parish church, after which, in the large parish hall, Fr. Marinko Sakota’s book “Living with the heart” was presented.
On Cross Mountain, on which Fr. Slavko died on November 24, 2000, Fr. Ljubo Kurtovic led the Way of the Cross in the presence of numerous parishioners and pilgrims. The evening Mass, which was concelebrated by 25 local and foreign priests, was presided over by Fr. Svetozar Kraljevic. Fr. Boze Milic led the Eucharistic adoration.
Fr. Svetozar Kraljevic: Homily for the fifth anniversary of Fr. Slavko Barbaric's death, 24.11.2005
What can one say today, on the fifth anniversary of Fr. Slavko’s death? It is not easy to face Fr. Slavko. He is so challenging.
One thing is sure: Fr. Slavko does not want to be a pearl to be carried on the ear, or a pendant around the neck, or a person that gives us a feeling of pride because he was one of our own, or because we were his friends.
He does not want to be a decorative pearl - neither for us Franciscans, nor for his family, nor for his friends, nor for those who say that they revere him, nor for those who bear his name, nor for those who celebrate him. He does not want to be a souvenir – he does not want to be a dead souvenir buried somewhere among the shelves of our memories.
Fr. Slavko is like a noble vine plant in the hands of the diligent dresser, planted in the vineyard. The dresser of the vineyard watches over it day and night, inspecting it regularly, and in return, the vine produces its fruit.
Today, five years after his death, we perceive him as the seed about which Jesus speaks: only when it is planted, does it yield new fruits, again and again.
He broke off from our human reality, and he does not belong to anyone in an exclusive way. Only to the extent to which we follow his example, in the measure in which we persevere on his way, in the measure in which we participate in his work, in the measure in which we have given him to others – that much are we in communion with him.
Today, we do not try to see in him as an abstract, distant, perfect saint. We do not put him in front of us as a light to dazzle our eyes or the eyes of others. With travellers - he is a traveller, with pilgrims - he is a pilgrim, with the hungry - he is hungry, with the lonely - he is lonely, with the exiled - he is an exile himself.
When people were in his company, they felt good. They were without fear, although they knew that they were not as intelligent as he was, as holy as he was, as great as he was.
With equal attentiveness, he received people whether modest and poor sufferers or of royal blood. I have to acknowledge here, that his real weakness was for those who were addicted, and the prisoners of the snares of sin.
Observing him up close, how he was thinking and reacting, how he was working and taking decisions, how he organised his daily life, I conclude that he was a man who was every day ready for a new and beneficial adventure. He was afraid of nothing when trying to do good. Neither did he shrink from personal suffering while doing good.
Now, as I recall these years with him, I see clearly that he was in a hurry. He wanted to go as often as possible to Cross Mountain, to spend as much time as possible on the Apparition Hill, to write as much as possible, to be as much as possible in adoration, to meet as many people as possible and to help them as much as possible. It was as if he felt the nearness of death, and wanted to snatch as much as possible of what death was going to take from him.
He was not unprepared, waiting for the future with empty hands. He was working so much that it seemed that he wanted to conquer the whole world, as long as time was given to him. In an amazing way, he was wrestling with time.
Every day, he armed himself spiritually in order to be ready to welcome the hardships of the days ahead.
He received the pilgrims with a rich offering of spiritual gifts that he was preparing on Jesus and Our Lady’s table in Medjugorje.
For his opponents, he was a hard adversary, because he knew no compromise in matters in which he believed. He was strong because he was drinking from the source of God’s grace in the Holy Sacraments and in prayer, and he was full of an inexpressible fervour for the work in God’s field.
One of the important characteristics of Fr. Slavko’s work was, that everything that he had initiated remained a work in progress. The non-completion of his work is the natural state for every committed person.
His work calls for continuity. This non-accomplishment was necessary, because he wanted to touch all the areas of human needs and sufferings, and to heal at least some human wounds. He was intensely involved with the problems of young people, especially students and the addicted. He was involved in solving problems concerning children, adults' problems, and those of numerous families and of the poor. He was involved in matters of a material nature as well as things that were deeply spiritual and mystical. In practical terms, he wanted to say: in every area, each person can do something! So, do whatever is good and whatever you can do!
The non-completion of his projects is neither deficiency, nor shortage, nor due to his own personal neglect. It is a human state that all heroes, all champions, all saints have to face. Only those who have nothing to do and those who have started nothing will leave nothing unaccomplished. Those who are interested in nothing have accomplished everything, because for them, everything was finished long ago. For them, death of every vision set in long ago.
How many unaccomplished things St. Francis left to his brothers who continued with his work!
And, above all, how many things did Christ start and leave unaccomplished to his followers? Humanly speaking, Christ has gone and has left everything unaccomplished. He left everything in the hands of the apostles, in the hands of his Mother Mary, and in the hands of the Church. He left everything, and they continued everything. Precisely like Christ and like St. Francis, Fr. Slavko and every good man is doing whatever he can – and leaving to his followers that which has been started. This is why, today, it is not easy to stand in front of Fr. Slavko’s person. The work of Christ, the work of Mary, the work of St. Francis, the work of Fr. Slavko will be accomplished and completely fulfilled beyond time, when we are united to God in the fullness of time. As long as we are in time, the challenge confronts us.
The great encounter between our bishop, Mons. Ratko Peric, here at the outside altar, when he, our bishop, accompanied Fr. Slavko’s earthly remains to the cemetery, is an especially strong witness in favour of Fr. Slavko as a man of the Church. Our bishop has recognised this, and this is why he wanted to accompany him personally. While Father Bishop presided over the Eucharistic celebration, a pilgrim priest recalled Fr. Slavko’s childhood in Cerin, his time in the seminary, his studies of theology, his priestly service in Capljina and Mostar, numerous retreats and conferences that he gave for so many people. How many souls did he snatch from the snares of evil and put into the hands of the Lord? In him, Church was alive and active.
Fr. Slavko confirmed his belonging to the Church in a special way through his immeasurable love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. The foundation of his fidelity to the Church was his life deeply united with Eucharistic Jesus.
In the book “Pray with the heart”, Fr. Slavko left his spiritual testament to the Medjugorje pilgrims. This is what he says:
“Dear pilgrim, seeker of God! When you come to Medjugorje, you are invited to pray in the Church, to go to Mass, to go to confession, to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, and to pray on Cross Mountain and on the Apparition Hill.
And then, you have to return home, to your own Jerusalem, to your own daily life! Forget the community of Medjugorje and go back to your own community. Take with you the places and the events from Medjugorje. At home, you have your own Cross Mountain, your own cross, and your own suffering. You left them at home, and at home they are waiting for you, but do not be afraid. In addition to your cross and your Cross Mountain, build in your home a little hill, an Apparition Hill, and your Mount Tabor.
And then, next to the Apparition Hill, the Cross Mountain will receive a new colour; it will be sheltered by a new peace and a new hope.
Build the Apparition Hill in a corner of your apartment or of your house. Let there be a little cross, a candle, a Bible, a rosary, and a kneeler. There, you will understand your own Cross Mountain, your route and your destination. Next to the Apparition Hill, Cross Mountain becomes a place of resurrection, because Cross Mountain is not there to destroy you, but to help you to attain salvation.
Remember well! Our Lady took seriously the words of Jesus. She is walking also with you, to your Cross Mountain and your Calvary, as she went with her Son.”
This is how to speak about and give witness to our Father Slavko.