John's life touches with Jesus' life

Thousands of people made pilgrimage to St. John

In one of the oldest and biggest pilgrimage and votive places in BiH – Podmilačje, on Friday June 24th was solemnly celebrated the patron of the parish and pilgrimage, St. John the Baptist.

In the early hours the pilgrims had an opportunity for confession, and Holy Masses were celebrated at 06:30 h, 07:00 h and at 08:30 h.

Central Holy Mass celebration with prayers for the sick started at 11:00, and it was led by OFM Zdravko Dadić, newly elected provincial of Franciscan Province of Bosna Srebrena. Concelebrating with him, next to the parish priest and the guardian of the pilgrimage place OFM Filip Karadža, there were about 20 more priests, while assistants at the altar were Franciscan deacons and seminarians

First parish priest Karadža addressed the present, mainly pilgrims, by greeting them: “Those happy and sad, and people who’s life burdens became heavier, those who everybody gave up on – I reccomend to the merciful intercession of St. John the Baptist.”

Similarities to Jesus

An extremely large number of believers were present at the Holy Mass celebration, among them numerous nuns, theologians, representatives of civil authorities as well as people of other religions.

Introducing to the Holy Mass celebration, OFM Zdravko said that the most beautiful possible greeting is precisely this “may the Lord be with us - his love and may the Holy Spirit accompany us”.

Before the biblical readings, the blessing of water and the sprinkling of the gathered people began.

In the appropriate homily, the Provincial first said that a community of believers had gathered here and wanted to glorify God with their prayer, singing and concentration. Then he recalled the legend of the Cherokee Indians about how there are two wolves in every man... “And we Christians who have sacramental grace are not without temptation that this other wolf, which carries restlessness, wins in our lives. And that is why today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist - along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Lord Jesus Christ - he is the only one whose earthly birthday we celebrate. The Church celebrates the birthdays for Heaven of those whom we have declared blessed and holy (...) All four Gospels speak about John. This is very important – he was obviously an important person of that time, who was associated with Jesus. John's life touches the life of Jesus; Likewise, John's birth is connected with Jesus' birth and Jesus' activities”, Provincial Dadić reminded.

“Half an hour for God”

Continuing, he referred to John’s humbleness in announcing Jesus: “I am not worthy to untie even the strap of his shoe.” “Why is it so with John? - Because John has space for prayer, and in that prayer God speaks to him. More and more today we can meet people who do not have time to pray. Some say they have a different way of expressing their connection to God. There is no Catholic, brothers and sisters, who does not set aside at least half an hour for prayer during the day to meet God. Then such a man can and must hear what God is telling him (...) A man really does not need to be great - he needs to be great if he is going to forgive another; if he will give the opportunity to another again and again; if he will receive another gently - then if necessary reprimand him; in the end, if he will be merciful”, OFM Zdravko said, among other things.

At the end of the Holy Mass, which was animated by harmonious singing by the choir under the direction of OFM Emanuel Josić, the parish priest of Karač read the parish notices and gave words of thanks.

Provincial Dadić also joined in, pointing out that Franciscan theologians have been in Podmilačje for two days, of which, as he said, there are not many, but they spent a lot of energy so that everything that happens there - around the altar and in this space – is as God commands. “There are also our deacons who will say Holy Mass in a few days (...) There is less and less of us (...) This is the moment when I want you - dear fathers and mothers - to put it on your heart to raise another child who will be able to live his life as a priest, monk, and even a Franciscan. It is important for the life of our community, here in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the Church, for our Croatian people”, said, among other things, the provincial OFM Zdravko Dadić.

Finally, let's mention how the sanctuary of St. John the Baptist in Podmilačje is today known as the largest non-Marian shrine of Catholics in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many believers pray for the intercession of the powerful patron St. John, and they also come to Podmilačje both on foot and barefoot. A certain number of them travel tens of kilometres - over roads and mountains - to get to the shrine, and this year was no different.

The Holy Mass celebration was broadcasted live by Radio televizija Herceg-Bosne and Radio Marija BiH.