[photo] Ivo and Zdenka
On June 15, 2012, my Medjugorje pilgrimage group visited the home of Ivo Juricic to hear his powerful testimony.
I had heard Ivo’s story years before, and this was like a dream come true to be in the presence of this holy man who radiates joy from his face, just like his sister-in-law, visionary Vicka. Since Ivo seemed to know only a few English words, our guide, Ana Sego, translated for him.
Ivo began, “I'd like to share with you what happened in my life – many things, bad and good.” He remarked that all of our lives are like that, and then added, “But when God is with us, it is easier to carry the cross.” Ivo said that when he was 19 years old, he was good at basketball and his dream was to become a professional basketball player. But one morning he felt a strong pain in his left leg, below the knee. His doctor in Mostar sent him to a hospital in Zagreb, six hours away. The doctors there said they would need to do a biopsy to test for cancer of the bone, and if so, they would need to amputate. Ivo said, “After a few hours, I woke up. I was looking for my leg, and my leg was not there. All my world fell down and collapsed. There is no more normal life, nor more basketball.” Six months later, Ivo got a prosthesis, and went back home, but life was difficult. All his old friends were playing basketball, which he could not do, and he fell in with the wrong people, who were drinking and gambling to excess. Ivo’s lifestyle made his mother cry, but she never gave up praying for him. Six months later, he parted company with the bad crowd.
In the meantime, Our Lady began appearing in Medjugorje. Ivo’s mother kept telling him to go to Medjugorje (which was 5 km. away) and talk to Vicka. Ivo said, "I could not watch the tears of my mother anymore, and I ran to see Vicka.” Vicka invited him to stay for the apparition that night. Ivo accepted the invitation, but only to be polite. His mind was with his friends. He did not see or feel anything at the apparition. Afterwards, Ivo offered to drive Vicka over to the church for Mass, since he was one of the few to have a car at the time. From that night on, he began driving the visionaries over to the church for Mass.
A year and a half after his surgery, Ivo had to have some follow-up testing. The doctor called him and said he had to return to the hospital right away. The cancer had spread all over his body – metastasized, even into his lungs. The doctors did not give him much hope, even with chemotherapy. Since the doctors told him he would only have one year to live, Ivo went to Vicka and requested that she ask Our Lady what he should do. He was waiting for a concrete response, but after the apparition, Vicka said to him, "Our Lady said you are free to choose to go to the hospital or not." Ivo said that he was very angry, sad, and disappointed because Our Lady did not give him a concrete answer. He could not sleep all night.
The next morning, Ivo’s parents were going to take him to the hospital, but he said, "I'm not going anywhere. Why go? It would be torture there – chemotherapy.” His mother began to cry and told him to go see Vicka. Ivo replied, "Mother, why should I go to Vicka? Our Lady did not give me any answer.” Then Ivo said he had an inner battle. He left the house and drove around for two hours in his car. Soon he found himself in front of Vicka’s house. He could not leave because Vicka and her friends saw him. He ended up staying for the apparition. He begged Our Lady, "Dear Lady, why don't You help me? Tell Vicka something – give me a message through Vicka. Help me, Our Lady." After the apparition, Vicka turned around and said, "Ivo, wait. I have a message for you." When all the people left, Vicka said, "Ivo, Our Lady said that you made a good decision.” Ivo thought, “Our Lady, thank you, but why didn't you tell me this last night?” Ivo reflected about that night, “Our Lady decides, not me. God, Our Lady gives us freedom.” Ivo went home very happy. and could not sleep the whole night because he was really excited. His mother said, "See, I told you to go to Medjugorje!"
Soon Ivo went again to see Vicka. After her apparition Vicka said, "Our Lady said, ‘Ivo is my beloved son. He will be completely healed and he will be my living sign on Earth.’" After the next apparition, Vicka said, "Ivo, I saw you in a vision with Our Lady; She was holding you in Her arms like a baby." Vicka saw them in a blue color – a blue color was coming out of them. Our guide, Ana interjected here, "I was listening to one Italian priest. He was speaking about colors, and he said blue color is the color of grace."
Another time, Vicka saw Ivo with Our Lady; he was on Our Lady's left side, and this side was the one with his prosthesis. Vicka saw Our Lady take off Ivo’s prosthesis, and then Vicka saw his real leg. Our Lady said that when She leaves the sign on Apparition Hill, Ivo will have a real leg! Our lady said, "Nothing is impossible for God."
For the next two months after that, Ivo began receiving messages from Our Lady through Vicka. He said the messages were not really any different, mostly about prayer and fasting. After two years he did not need to see a doctor anymore because Our Lady said he would be completely healed. Ivo said, “I was also healed inside. I became another person, because Our Lady entered into my life. Our Lady showed me how to carry my cross.” Ivo continued, “I was not interested in a physical healing, and from that time, Our Lady taught me how to pray, and then prayer became my life. So through prayer I saw my direction. Whatever I asked Our Lady was realized.”
The first thing Ivo prayed for was a job. He prayed, "Please, Our Lady, help me to find a job. I cannot rely on the help of others, my parents, and you know best what I can do." Ivo said that at that time it was a communist regime, and if you were going to church, there was no job for you. Ivo was promised a job at a bank, but a communist heard about that, and they called him to their office and told him he could work at the bank, as long as did not go to church anymore or drive the visionaries. Ivo said, "I have another direction. It's Medjugorje, Our Lady, Holy Mass." Ivo went back home and kept praying. One month later, a friend from Belgium brought him a bag of rosary beads. He said, "Ivo, you can make rosary beads and this can be your job." Ivo learned how to make rosaries, and for the past 29 years, that is how he has made his living. Ivo quipped, “So what can you do when you make rosary beads? Pray!”
Now that he had a job, Ivo began praying for a wife. “Dear Lady, please find me a wife that will understand me and go with me through life and to help me to carry my cross.” Ivo said he did not have to pray long for that intention. “She brought me to Vicka's house. All my rays were going to Vicka's house, and I met her older sister Zdenka. We fell in love and got married.” Ivo continued, smiling ear to ear, “But I did not ask Our Lady to give me Vicka's sister. Thanks for that gift. I only asked for a wife…She gave me the best wife!”
Ivo said that one year later he and Zdenka had a daughter, and they named her – of course – Marija. She is 28 years old, married and has two children, a boy and a girl. “When I got metastasis, I could not imagine that one day I would be a grandfather! Everything is possible to God. We have to open up our hearts, pick up the rosary and pray, and then God and love come into our life through prayer –-only through prayer.”
Ivo continued, “I was blessed because my mother prayed for me and her prayer reached Our Lady’s heart. You can see the faith of my mother. It is what Our Lady requests of us – to have a strong faith. She believed that Our Lady would help me. And then it depends on me – how much I will open my heart. After I opened my heart, God entered into my life. Then I thanked God for my cross, because if I did not have this cross, I would not know God’s love.” Ana added, “Who knows what would have happened to him with a career as a basketball player; maybe he could have been lost.” Then Ivo said, “When we put God in the first place, all other things are not important. Put God in the first place, then take Rosary beads, and through God, you will find direction because God will lead us….Where there is God, there is joy.”
Ana said there was one part of the story that Ivo did not share because he is humble. She said that Ivo got to touch Our Lady one time. Ivo agreed to share the story: “In the period when Our Lady said I would be healed completely – in the period when I was receiving the messages from Our Lady – during one apparition, Vicka turned around and asked me, ‘Would you like to touch Our Lady?’ I was scared. Who am I to touch Our Lady?… A little time before, people were touching Our Lady – Our Lady permitted them to touch Her – and they left black stains on Her dress – these are sins. Our Lady said, “Go to Confession every month.” It crossed my mind what will remain after me when I touch Her? Vicka took my hand and said, ‘Here’s Our Lady’s hand, arm.’ Vicka did not tell me I left stains, but it was the moment when I was healed inside.” As an afterthought, he said, “I felt electricity when touching Our Lady.”
In a question and answer session following Ivo’s talk, Ivo shared that he and Zdenka are members of visionary Ivan’s prayer group. Ivo said that when the prayer group prays on Apparition Hill, he prays on his balcony at the same time, but when the prayer group meets in Ivan’s chapel, he is able to join them. He said that Our Lady has asked Ivan’s prayer group to pray for three groups of people who are under attack by Satan: priests, families, and the youth. Someone asked if their daughter Marija was also a member of the prayer group. Ivo said that he and Zdenka were part of the prayer group since they were married, so Marija was part of the prayer group even before she was born! He said that Marija lives in Zagreb now, and cannot join them physically in prayer, but does pray at the same time that the prayer group is praying.
After Ivo’s testimony, we were able to purchase rosaries that he made. I bought a beautiful ladder rosary. I feel so blessed to own a rosary made by the man who will be “The Living Sign” of Medjugorje.
The next day we had the opportunity to hear visionary Ivan speak. At the end Ivan said that by living Our Lady’s messages, we can become a “living sign.” Imagine that!
[photo] Ivo's rosaries