War Moved Merz Toward Sanctity

Educator to Be Beatified This Weekend

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 19, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The man who will be beatified this weekend by John Paul II in Bosnia-Herzegovina had taken an unusual path to sanctity.

Ivan Merz’s spiritual journey was singular, especially the first phase of his formation. Without living in a family atmosphere, or going through a novitiate or seminary, and without even having a constant spiritual director, he discovered the road to sanctity.

For that reason, Merz, an intellectual and educator who died at age 32, has been described as «spiritually spontaneous.»

Merz was born in Banja Luka on Dec. 16, 1896. He studied in that city until 1915. After a brief period at the Military Academy of Wiener Neustadt, he enrolled in the University of Vienna, with the intention of dedicating his life to the education of Bosnian youth.

He followed the example of his teacher, professor Ljubomir Marakovic, to whom he was grateful for having helped him to discover the richness of the Catholic faith.

Merz was recruited by the army in March 1916 and sent to the Italian front, where he spent most of his time between 1917 and 1918.

The experience of the war contributed to his rapid spiritual development. Distressed by the horrors he saw, he dedicated himself to the pursuit of Christian perfection.

After the war, he returned to his studies in Vienna and subsequently went to Paris, where he wrote his doctoral thesis on «The Influence of the Liturgy on French Writers from Chateaubriand to Our Days.» He received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Zagreb.

For the rest of his life he taught German and French language and literature.

Ivan Merz, a pioneer of Catholic Action, responded to Pope Pius XI’s directives to form an elite of apostles who would work for the «renewal of all things in Christ.» He was also a pioneer of the Croatian Liturgical Movement, undertaking initiatives that anticipated the guidelines set decades later by the Second Vatican Council.

He died in Zagreb on May 10, 1928. His mortal remains are preserved in Zagreb’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart, where he attended Mass during the last six years of his life.

His process of beatification began in Zagreb in 1958. Last Dec. 20 the decree of recognition of a miracle attributed to his intercession was promulgated, opening the doors to the beatification.

The miracle attributed to Merz’s intercession was experienced by Anica Ercegovic. Ercegovic, then 29, was instantly cured of pulmonary tuberculosis in July 1930, while praying at Merz’s tomb.

The beatification is planned Sunday in Banja Luka.

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