Balkan Reflections

This blog has been set up to assist in communicating with friends and family while we are in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Location: Ontario, Canada

Striving to a better day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

What a nice Sunday we had! Life is full of little surprises!

Last week, dh offered to take us to Sunday Mass at the Cathedral in B-L, which we had not yet seen inside.

We set off bright and early, as Mass there is at 9pm and we were taking the bus.

We walked in and, hoping to genuflect, I looked for the Tabernacle…dh points over to this golden globe up against a wall…with no Sanctuary light that I ever found…we then found a pew.

The Cathedral in B-L was built in the 1970’s I believe. The earlier Cathedral was destroyed in an earthquake in 1969. I won’t go into details here, but as one with an interest in liturgy and ‘worship spaces’ I would say this building demonstrated more than a few of the ‘thou shalt nots’ of liturgical ‘reform’, at least as some of us see it now.

After Mass, we were looking around the building, and the Bishop, who had celebrated Mass, came back in to pray. He saw us and came over to find out who we were…and to be yet another person making eyes at our little son! He speaks a little English, and we a little Croatian, so we shared a little. We did introductions and he got rather excited that our eldest in situ daughter would be having her name Saint day very soon.. He invited us for coffee.

As his Excellency herded us into his lovely home. The Sister who had played the organ and led the choir was also there. We went up into a parlour, and another Sister brought in a tray with coffee, tea for the girls and cookies. Dh and I were, of course, served rakija. One wonders at the possible connection between rakija and Purgatory!

As we talked, or attempted to talk, with our collective deficiencies of language, we started asking questions and the Bishop started telling us a bit about the area and the troubles its been through. He left us for a few moments and came back with a couple of books and some prayer cards. One book was on the visit by Pope John Paul II to the diocese in 1994. The other book was written by the Bishop himself and translated to English. Dh started looking through the book and reading out some of it. Dh later told me that he’d recognized the Bishop’s name as soon as he started looking through the book, which is a collection of the letters written or co-written by him during the Balkan Wars, from 1991 to 1995 to many and various people requesting help, and giving support to his flock.

The Bishop is Bishop Franjo Komarica and the book is In Defense of the Rightless. The Bishop worked tirelessly, and often facing death threats and personal danger to try to achieve a secure existence for Catholics and other non-Serbians in his diocese of Banja Luka.

Sister, as it turns out, was a great help in the conversation, as she speaks English fairly well. She reiterated what a bad time it has been for Catholics in the area. Many who left during the conflicts will never return, although the Bishop wishes them to return.

(a note here…there is still some pressure upon Catholics to leave the area. A Croatian of our acquaintance has a friend who has had HALF his house confiscated by the city for a ‘green space’. One wonders which half. Dh adds to this that given how slowly things work here, the man could be retired before any action is actually taken!).

The Bishop tells us that this is the last copy of his book, of which only 2000 were printed. We eagerly spend a few minutes looking through it. The book has, if I understood correctly, been distributed to Bishops of the world and to agencies interested in human rights

At some point, Dh is sent off to have a look at Sister’s website (for English bits, click on the British flag). They seem to fully expect his input at a future point! As DH returns to the parlour, he tells me that the Bishop’s book is online…

The Bishop asked a number of questions about our parish and its location. He has traveled extensively in Canada, visiting Croatian communities now in Canada. He has met with the Canadian Bishops, too it seemed. He seemed quite familiar with our own Bishop, as well as the Archbishop of Ottawa.

We passed a lovely time. The Bishop asked me to try out the grand piano which was in the room. It turned out to be dreadfully out of tune. He told me it had been moved from Visoko. As my piano playing is rather minimal, that it was out of tune provided me an ‘out’! I didn’t have to play. It wasn't until later that I learned that the Bishop is very interested in music!

The Bishop and Sister were both interested in dh’s computer abilities. I think Sister may want help with her website!

As we prepared to leave, the Bishop presented us with gifts. To myself and our youngest daughter, there were saint medals. To the baby, was a brightly coloured finger rosary from World Youth Day. To our ‘Saint Day’ daughter was a medal, and a little napkin holder with cows on it! She was thrilled. And to Dh was the copy of the Bishop’s book!

We reluctantly left the Chancery. In a funny note, as we walked through the gate onto the main street, dh stopped behind me and said to the girls "Help your mother out". The girls looked at my back half and burst out laughing. It seemed that the good Bishop's piano bench, which was covered with cowhide, had left cowhair all over my rather lint-collecting black pants!

After we return home, I sat down with the book. It makes very real the troubles experienced by the local Catholic population. It also dispels some myths we have been fed about the source of the persecution (it would seem that the Serbian Orthodox Church had no official policy against the Catholics. In fact several joint statements were issued by the local leaders of the Orthodox, the Catholic and the Muslim faiths).

A friend of ours who served in this area with the Canadian Military had told me that in the conflict "...there were no good guys".

I'm pretty sure we just drank rakija with a "good guy".

This book, and the situation it represents, bears a great deal more study.

What an unexpected treat!


Blogger WICatholic said...

Wow, Jaye! What a wonderful experience! What a blessing!

I am going to look for the book online, too.

9:08 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you were treated like a Princess by the Bishop and Sister. That is really cool about the Book and the other gifts. Is not amazing how people can comunicate without all of you speaking the same language?
K and C from CR

12:38 pm  

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