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ZORAN STOJANOVIC:
THE CRADLE OF MY NEW LIFE

Many of us are lost on sideways of life and wander away from God. In those wanderings we lose the meaning of life and than we ask Father to show us His mercy, light us with His glory and holiness, fill us with the Holy Spirit. Wounded from sins, inclined towards evil, we pray for salvation from the trappings of Evil. Sin made us weak, mortal creatures, and in spite of everything, Father raises us from our fall and helps us so our life would become a walk towards Him and the Heaven.
We talk to Zoran Stojanovic who was born in 1962 in Djakovo, on the holiday of Candlemas. His parents were teachers and were forbidden to practice religion, and they stuck to this rule. He was secretly baptized when he was four years old and that was his first and only contact with God. From 1966 to 1984 his life went godless. He celebrated neither Christmas nor Easter and he didn't listen to God's word. The Church and parental and religious upbringing were totally missing in his life.

A religious family with nine children lived in Zoran's neighborhood. He saw them going to church each Sunday and participating in many Christian festivities, but he never really understood what they were celebrating. Their happy faces made him a little bit jealous. He liked being with them while they were decorating the Christmas tree and singing Christmas carols. This way he was sharing the joy of Christmas he didn't believe in.
Before conversion he was a slave to many sins and great evil. He was aggressive, leaning towards alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. He was living immoral and obscene life. Many times he tried with all his strength to free himself from bad things, but he didn't have enough strength, he was helpless. He was assuring himself that he couldn't go this way any more, that there must be another way.
His whole difficult life, his efforts in conversion, Zoran put in his book "Your life is just starting". It took a lot of courage to put life experiences on paper, which were more ugly and sad than beautiful, but Zoran understood it as part of conversion, which Our Lady and Medjugorje offered to him.

* Zoran, what encouraged you to turn to God?
- Firstly, a strong thought which suddenly appeared in my life haunted me: "What if there is God?" Secondly, living faith of people I've met in Medjugorje and in my town. There were also some supernatural events.

* When did your first encounter with Medjugorje happen and how much did it change you?
- My first encounter with Medjugorje happened in 1992. This is where I got my initial desire for faith and experienced deep peace. This is where I got the call for basic convertion. My spiritual life began in Medjugorje. During my converted life I was often coming back to the cradle of my new conception. In that cradle I've met wonderful people and listened to inspirational preachings, I've learned how to pray, confess, sacrament and celebrate Eucharist. I was a real spiritual child who needed proper upbringing.
God's mercy, fast, personal prayer, sacral life, daily reading of Bible, praying community, Catholic seminars for evangelization of the Church and so on, led me through ups and downs and spiritual battles.

* God touched your heart, you recognized a God's sign, turned another page in your life. How do you look on it after all these years?
- Today when I look at complicated mosaic of my entire life, I see that God turned everything on a good side. Jesus gave meaning to my past and created my present day by day.

* Do you remember your first experiences from pilgrimage in Medjugorje?
- Going back to the past I remember my first Medjugorje pilgrimage after conversion. On that pilgrimage I went full of myself. Although I was in the process of conversion for just a couple of months I considered myself a saint. I've really had a very high opinion of myself. Spiritual baby just couple of month old was acting grown up Christian. Sobering came through talking with the priest. When I confided to fr. Tomislav Vlacic about my unusual experiences of spiritual life, I've received an unusual answer. He told me: "You son stepped on the first stair of a new life and that is a good beginning. But you have to know that on that path there are still a lot of stairs you must step on. Just keep on and persist."
I felt his answer as a cold shower over hot head. I was mumbling: "First step!" But I felt like I am in front of the door of Heaven. That Franciscan must have been wrong. It's a good beginning! But I felt like I am at the end of the path. I was sure he misjudged me. There are still a lot of steps! I was asking myself is there something more from what I've achieved. He had to be wrong. Continue and persist! I thought everything was over. Mumbling to myself I left disappointed in my first spiritual conversation from which I expected my canonization.
Second sobering came through preparation for sacrament of reconcile, in examination of conscience. Waiting in front of confessional I've asked my favorite saint, capuchin Bogdan Leopold Mandic to help me find at least one sin because I felt sinless. I didn't have to wait too long for his help. A terrible thought striked my whole being: "Pride!" I startled and realized that I was so arrogant that I couldn't even understand it and see it. A person with pride carries in himself germs of all other deadly sins. To be so arrogant and not realizing it means falling in trap of spiritual arrogance. So after a few months of fairly modest life, thanks to intervention of holy Leopold I succeeded to give a humble confession.

* Have confession and meditation helped you?
- To meditate in Medjugorje was also something special. One morning while I was getting into meditation of presbyterian Tomislav Ivancic from the book "Father, through my interior a breeze of God's love poured out", that love was so strong that I caressed even stones around me. I kissed the sky. I kissed the soil. I kissed myself and everybody around me with undescribable love, which is impossible to draw, describe or compare with any comprehensible love. God was in that breeze of heavenly love, which cured me and freed me.

* Have you experienced spiritual growth and maturation in Medjugorje?
- In Medjugorje, everybody is with God 24 hours a day. Intensive life of prayers and rich liturgy gives daily spiritual renewals to millions of pilgrims. I've experienced it in my pilgrimages. In the atmosphere of the prayer and the liturgy, a person simply changes. The change was so visible and tangible in my life. It could be seen on people faces, it could be touched in life of every pilgrim. These are the biggest miracles of Medjugorje - changed lives. Here I felt the strength of God who changes the face of earth and faces of humans through prayer, fast, bowing, God's word, sacraments and liturgy. I didn't see the Sun crying or the cross spinning. I saw something much deeper and stronger - alive God in Eucharist, merciful God in sacrament of reconcile, resurrected Christ in God's word and prayer, omnipresent and proactive God in and around us. That conquered me and encouraged to change and live life worthy of conversion. If I succeed even a little bit in it, then I must thank God, Church and Mary, the Queen of Peace.
I'm not making promotion for Medjugorje here, because it really isn't necessary. I just want to point out the importance of Medjugorje in my spiritual growth and development since conversion. Medjugorje was, is and will be the cradle of my new life. Everybody fondly remembers his or her cradle. I'm just a human.