Fr Ivan Matic is a priest who spent thirteen years doing missionary work around the world, helping those who needed it most. During his missions he visited many countries: Argentina, Kongo, India, China, Mozambique, … where he was especially affected by the events occurring in war-torn Ruanda.
Fr Ivan was born into a large Catholic family in the town of Janjevo in Kosovo. His life has always been filled with faith and prayer and perhaps it is for that reason he decided to attend vocational school with a focus on medicine upon completing eight years at elementary school. It is obvious that from an early age he had decided to help others. ''I played guitar in high school, wrote songs and had friends I performed with. It was pop-rock, but at the age of 21 I got the call, the one every future priest has to face. I got my call through reading the words of God, through the Gospels of the New Testament. In January, 1989, I had my meeting with Christ''.
Fr Ivan explains that he had already been ready for life as a priest, but his encounter with Christ was the confirmation he was waiting for. ''I was then aware in a very distinct way of the meaning of everything that surrounds us, aware of God's love''. Fr Ivan then left for Trsat (Rijeka) where the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary is located, and than he continued his schooling in Zagreb during a terrible war. Fr Ivan participated in the Franciscan Band Aid, writing music and inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi, preaching peace and love, offering comfort to those most in need and than he left to finishing his study in Assisi (Italy).
In 2000, he was invited by than general minister Fr Giacomo Bini in Rome (on the service to the Order). Thirteen years later he returned to Croatia and he went to Tabor (Samobor) where already, for quite some time, worked the well-known Fr Zvjezdan Linic, priest and spiritual healer. The House of encounters Tabor is situated alongside the Franciscan monastery in Samobor (approx 20km away from Zagreb). It is because of Fr Zvjezdan that the House becomes a refuge for all people seeking spiritual help, riddled with illness and other suffering. As director of the House, he published numerous spiritually themed books, while consistently conducting seminars focused on evangelical and spiritual renewal, so popular at the turn of the century they had to be organised in sports arenas in Croatia and around the world.
There are many cases where Fr Zvjezdan Linic helped many who were standing at the edge of a real life abyss that included alcohol, drugs and abuse. During prayer many had been cured from severe illness (including many from cancer that had metastasized), invalids had walked again, and addicts rid themselves of their vices. As a writer for WSI, I can personally relate the story of my own encounter with Fr Zvjezdan. I would often attend his Sunday masses and I will carry his blessings in my heart for a long time, which after all, materialised through the inspiration I received writing The Countdown Trilogy. The third book in the trilogy, The Message, takes place in the holy city of Jerusalem which I had the opportunity to visit. Praying at the Wailing Wall and at Christ's tomb was an experience I will remember my whole life.
After Fr Zvjezdan's death, Fr Ivan Matic continued the beloved priest's work, bringing Christ to the people. He gladly explains, ''I tell people: seek the Kingdom of God first. When you open your heart to Christ, inner peace will happen.'' With a warm spark in his eye and a smile on his face Fr Ivan adds, ''Let's have faith in God. Because everything is in God's hands, if we put God at the centre, in the same way we breathe but don't think about breathing, if in just that way we let God do his work, I truly believe that good awaits us all''. I found myself pondering while listening to this Catholic priest, of which faith I too belong, aware that all believers, no matter what religion they adhere to, have a responsibility toward each other, especially in terms of tolerance, no matter what our differences may be, including our religions.
Fr Ivan continues, ''Let us not harm one another. People can sometimes neglect the fact that it is all up to us and that the point of life is to live in the image of God. God impacts us all with his endless love and eternal strength. God appreciates our personalities and free will, that is why it is the greatest joy to accept His offering through which God gives us life''. I am certain that this cheerful priest, full of love and understanding which only a deep and unwavering faith can give, will have many joyful encounters with believers, especially during spiritual meetings, much like his predecessor the legendary Fr Zvjezdan Linic, proving that life filled with faith is an inextinguishable life. This is perhaps the message Fr Ivan Matic would like to emphasise: ''It is through the Holy Mary that one comes to Christ''.
God bless you all.