Pope Beatifies Young Layman, a Pioneer of Catholic Action

Ivan Merz, Educator, Died in 1928

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BANJA LUKA, Bosnia, JUNE 22, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Returning for a second time to the Balkans in less than two weeks, John Paul II beatified Ivan Merz, an intellectual who dedicated his life to the education of young people.

At a beatification Mass today in Banja Luka, the Pope presented the figure of Merz as a “brilliant youth” who “had a very successful life.”

“What makes him one of the choir of the blessed is his success in God’s eyes,” the Holy Father told a gathering of more than 50,000 faithful. “In all his activities, Ivan Merz sought the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus and he allowed Christ to make him his own.”

Merz was born in Banja Luka in 1896, during the Austro-Hungarian occupation. He studied at the University of Vienna until 1916, when he was sent to the front during World War I.

At the end of the war he was in Banja Luka where he witnessed the birth of the Yugoslavian state. He returned to Vienna and then went to study in Paris and later in Zagreb, where he taught language and French and German literature.

As a layman, he became the promoter of the liturgical movement in Croatia and was a pioneer of Catholic Action.

“Taking part in Mass and drawing nourishment from the Body of Christ and the Word of God, he drew the inspiration to become an apostle of young people,” the Pope said. “It was not by chance that he chose as his motto ‘Sacrifice — Eucharist — Apostolate.'”

The new blessed held that the key means for the salvation of souls was suffering offered to God; he offered his own physical and moral sufferings to obtain blessings for his apostolic endeavors. He died in Zagreb in 1928, at age 32.

“The name of Ivan Merz has meant in the past a program of life and of activity for an entire generation of young Catholics. Today, too, it must do the same!” the Pope exclaimed.

Merz is the first layman of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to be beatified. John Paul II has now proclaimed 1,316 blessed and 473 saints.

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