Father and Doctor Erich shares his testimony in Vienna
Used with permission from Christian Stelzer
November 24, 2011
Dear Family of Mary!
"Dear children! Today when Heaven is near to you in a special way, I call you to prayer so that through prayer you place God in the first place. Little children, today I am near you and I bless each of you with my motherly blessing so that you have the strength and love for all the people you meet in your earthly life and that you can give God's love. I rejoice with you and I desire to tell you that your brother Slavko has been born into Heaven and intercedes for you. Thank you for having responded to my call." (November 25, 2000)
Today is the anniversary of the death of Fr. Slavko Barbaric, O.F.M. Fr. Slavko died on Mount Krizevac after completing the Way of the Cross. He remains with us all as an example and an intercessor. Thank you, Fr. Slavko.
Today I want to share this beautiful testimony given in Vienna at St. Stephens Cathedral, on November 17, 2011. Dr. (Rev.) Erich Cohen (I am not sure of the spelling of his name) shared of his journey from a family with no faith to the priesthood. His story is intertwined with Fr. Slavko in a special way. (The video of this testimony may be found at www.marytv.tv on the video entitled "Ivan's sharing" in the video player entitled Ivan & Cardinal Schoenborn in St. Stephens Cathedral.)
Witness of Dr. Erich Coehn at St. Stephens Cathedral, November 17, 2011:
Yes May Jesus Christ be praised! I am happy that so many people have come to give honor to the Mother of God. In a message she told us: "Be witnesses" and so I wish to give witness to the glory of God and to the Mother of God, who has done so much good in my life.
I come from a family in Tyrol in which faith played no role whatsoever. We were very far away from God, but there was a woman, my Grandmother. She was praying. She was praying for us. She has interceded for us and through her intercession much good has come. She became old, and forgetful. She even forgot to pray, we could say. But in me, God had listened to her, and he planted the seed of faith in my heart.
It began with a crisis. I was in love, and I was looking for the meaning in life. I was thinking about what is important and what is not important. And I found a passage from the Bible in my memory, and it said, "Do unto others what you would have done unto you." And so I thought, if this is in the Bible, I don't need to reflect much more. I will read the Bible, it will be quicker. So I started to spend a lot of time with the Bible, and take a lot of time to read it. I was about 20 years old. I was a student. People came to me, like the Jehovah's Witnesses or the sect of Moon, and they invited me to walk with them, and I actually walked with those sects for a time. It was not easy to get out of those sects. It was not easy.
But I had a very strong experience, and I felt the love of God. And that experience brought me to search for this God. Where does he live, this God? I was allowed to experience God while in the sect of Moon and the Jehovah's Witnesses. I woke up one day and I knew where my home was. I began to know who I was and whom I belonged to. I don't know why. I was living in Innsbruck, in the middle of the city. I went to the window, and the whole city was full of people. There were people on both sides if the street. And I said to them, "Why are you standing in the middle of the street?" And they said, "The Pope is coming to Innsbruck." And I said, "OK." I was standing on the road, and truly, the Pope came in the pope mobile. And he drove straight past the house I was living in and was so close to me. I have never been with him since then. He was 2 meters away, the road was a very narrow one and I was so close to him. And then I went to celebrate the Mass of the Pope, with everybody. It was a very deep experience.
In the spiritual battle [in my soul], the topic was, "Is Jesus really present in the Eucharist or is it just a piece of bread?" That was my spiritual battle. I decided that Jesus is present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. I decided He was there. And I was a member of the Catholic Church from then on. Every Sunday I went to Mass after that, and I was in love with God. I can say that as the Mass continued, when the Pope held up the Cross and he said, "Behold your mother, Behold your son," I didn't know what to do with Our Lady at the time. I didn't understand the Mother of God.
But I was busy with Hildegard of Bingen, and her medicine. And in one of her writings she spoke about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. And I read in a brochure of Fatima something about this [Heaven, Hell and Purgatory] as well. And when I looked it up, it matched [with what Hildegard had written]. And so I thought "How could the visionaries of Fatima know something of Hildegard of Bingen?" So what happened in Fatima must be true. And that is how I found the Mother of God.
I began to pray the Rosary. Praying the Rosary brought freedom in me, a deliverance in me. When I prayed it for the first time, there was truly dirt and dust around me, and I felt that the dirt and dust was around me and in my soul. I knew it. And I saw that the Rosary is the strongest prayer of protection because we take refuge under Our Lady's mantle. So how did I reach Medjugorje?
My sister did not have much faith and she was talking badly about Medjugorje and making jokes about it. And I said, "If my sister speaks badly about Medjugorje there must be something to it." So how would I get there? I asked and found out about a lady from Innsbruck who did trips to Medjugorje. And that lady didn't do trips in 1993 because there was a war. So she told me to go to Herbert Lebeirer and he told me a bus from the north of Germany, from Bingen, was going to Medjugorje. So I took that bus from Bingen. Just as Hildegard of Bingen was the one to show me the path to Our Lady first, I happened to take a bus from Bingen to go to Medjugorje for the first time - a little detail.
I had a good friend who is a Carthusian. At the time he was a Merciful Brother. He gave me a "Golden Book". He said that when the time has come, then read a bit in that Golden Book. Well without knowing it, I was beginning the Consecration. I didn't know that Medjugorje actually existed, but on the 30th day of that Consecration, I was in Medjugorje. And during the apparition time I made my Consecration to Mary. This is how I arrived in Medjugorje.
I became active in prayer groups, prayer circles. For me this was a very special time because the family of the prayer circle kept me in the faith, encouraged me and carried me. And so I can say that prayer groups, prayer circles are very important now.
Then I finished my studies. I became a medical doctor. After studies, after I began to work, I thought to open my own medical practice. [But first] I thought I would pray a bit, and so I went to the Community of the Beatitudes and lived for a while in Austria. I liked the group very much and I wanted to enter them, and to stay there. But I went to Medjugorje for one year and then things were done I thought. I was going to get married, perhaps stay in Medjugorje as a doctor. There were very few of them at the time. And I was happy with that plan, with what I thought would be my life.
But on one Friday we were doing the Way of the Cross, in November. It was the 24th of November. It was a day when it was raining. And I thought to myself, would I do the Way of the Cross on Krizevac or wouldn't I? It was wet, cold and slippery, and I didn't feel like going. So I had my little battle and I said, "Yes, I will join the Way of the Cross with the parish."
And when I reached the top, Fr. Slavko was before me, with the group of the parish. When I arrived at the 13th Station, I saw young people running, upset, and I thought they were completely crazy, because in the rain you don't run on that slippery earth, on Krizevac, it is very foolish. But I went up and I saw a priest sort of sitting between the rocks. I saw Fr. Slavko was dying. He was already dying. We prayed together and in that moment, it was a mystical moment I must say, the rain stopped, a little rainbow appeared over the church. We all saw it. The clouds had full sun on them. I knew Fr. Slavko had joined heaven.
Six of us carried him down. It was very difficult to carry him down. He was dead, but from the back he banged my back, knocked on my back with his arm. And I remembered that when I spoke with him for the first time that I perhaps had a vocation, he knocked my chest with his hand. First he knocked my heart in my chest, and this time he banged me on my back, saying, "Come on, get going!" And then I went down into the church and without a reason I started to cry for one or two hours in the church. And since that moment, Fr. Slavko has interceded for a great gift for me, a great grace. It is not to look at myself, but to trust in God and serve man. That was the beginning of my path to the priesthood. I then decided to be a priest.
I left the community. I went to Rome. I went to the seminary. I went to the diocese. I became a deacon, I was consecrated. And three years ago, I became a priest. And so I can say that the Mother of God has always been my companion, all my life. Until now she has guided me. She has protected me in very difficult situations. I want to encourage you to always accept this protection. She is here for us. She helps us. She is a great grace. And the vocation for many goes through Medjugorje these days. I want to thank the Mother of God for everything she has done for us and all she is doing for us through her presence. I want to thank Fr. Slavko for his graces and his help. And I want to thank Blessed John Paul II; I want to thank him, who gave birth to me into the Church. He bore me into the Church.
I wish you a beautiful evening full of blessings. And may the Mother of God live in your hearts together with Jesus! (Reverend and Doctor Erich Cohen, Vienna, 11/17/2011)
On this Thanksgiving Day in the USA, we all give thanks for Fr. Slavko Barbaric and his steadfast witness to Our Lady of Medjugorje. And we thank Our Lady for her steadfast love for each of us!
Have a blessed day in Jesus and Mary!