Interview: Hubert Liebherr, Initiator of the “Peace March”
Other languages: English, Hrvatski
Date: July 27, 2005 , Originally published August 2, 2002
Content of the article
A Life for the Queen of Peace
Lidija Paris: When did you come to Medjugorje for the first time?
Hubert Liebherr: I came for the first time in 1987. I heard about Medjugorje for the first time when I was flying in my own plane for the first time to Fatima. My friend, Albrecht Count Brandenstein-Zeppelin, was with me, as well as two other friends. Hence, we went by private plane to Lisbon, and then by car to Fatima. Everything according to the rules of our social conditions (laughter…), like real pilgrims!!! At Fatima, I was impressed by the faith of people, by the procession with Our Lady’s statue… there was so much life and joy, as if Our Lady was personally present, and it was just a wooden statue! I thought: “I would like to have such an assurance in faith! But no wonder that they are like this – She appeared here in 1927, she was here! But now, in the 20th century in Germany, nobody is appearing. How regrettable…”
During the return flight, Albrecht told me all of a sudden: “Have you ever heard about Medjugorje?” I answered: “No, what is it? Such a funny word! Never heard about!” Then, Albrecht started to talk about Medjugorje, about the visionaries, about daily apparitions… At that moment, I felt a strong yearning for Medjugorje and I decided: “Hubert, you will go there! At the next occasion, you will go to Medjugorje!” Then and there, I wanted to fly directly to Medjugorje!
Six weeks later, the occasion presented itself. It was June 25th, 1987. I did not know that it was the anniversary of the apparitions. I did not know anything, except what I had found in a yellow book, which gave me a certain general idea. I came with a priest from Switzerland, from the parish where I then stayed. We came to Mostar by plane, my own plane. We stayed in Citluk, because Albrecht knew Milona von Habsburg, who lived at Citluk at that time. Every day, I walked to Medjugorje! I already have many kilometres under my feet! That first coming to Medjugorje was a big disappointment. I expected something else. I thought like this: “I am a young businessman, I come from Germany by my own plane, and I expect that God and Our Lady do for me a certain miracle – at least a small one. I merit at least a little apparition!” And what happened? Nothing! God cannot be impressed by a private plane!
I climbed the hills, I even had a rosary (because, several months before coming, I already prayed the rosary on Saturdays) but I did not carry it very much in my hands. There were many people, I was careful about not being seen by someone who knows me, to avoid that they talk in my country that I am walking on the street with a rosary. I was ashamed. I was hiding my rosary.
On the second or the third day, I came back from Cross Mountain and was sitting near the church, where priests used to hear confessions in the past. Today, this is the space between the confessionals and the church. At that time, it was still a meadow. I was sitting there, looking towards Cross Mountain, and all of a sudden, I felt unwell. It never happened to me before in my life, I did not know this feeling, neither in the car nor in the plane! I could not understand. At that moment something came to my mind, something I did when I was 18, something that was not good. I decided that I would go for confession as soon as I come back to Germany, in a big city, far away from home, where nobody knows me, where I can enter at the back door… It was out of question to go for confession here, in the open, in that meadow. My pride would not allow this. I could not even think of someone standing here and looking at me, someone who knows me… I would disappear under the earth! In the meantime, I felt worse and worse, and I stood up to run away, far away from people.
At that moment, a priest came towards me, stood in front of me, planted his chair, sat down and put up the signboard: “German”. It was surely the grace of God that pulled me down on my knees and made me cry… I felt that – for such a long time – I had neglected God, I had saddened Him… I was only crying and saying that, in my life, I did everything wrong! I thought that God could never forgive me, but as soon as the priest pronounced the words of absolution, everything was gone. I felt: “God has forgiven you and He loves you!” It was such a deep inner peace… From that moment onwards, I had no doubt that everything that was happening here was coming from God and was true. The next two days, I was in a deep peace. I felt like a newborn baby.
Some months later, in the autumn, I came again to Medjugorje. I felt homesick for Medjugorje like for my own home. Albrecht and Johannes Eltz, a priest, came with me. Again, we had three beautiful days. On our way home, we concluded that God wad doing wonderful things for us. What are we doing for Him? We decided to consecrate a part of our time to Him, to make Medjugorje known in Germany. We started to talk publicly about Our Lady’s apparitions in Lourdes, Fatima and, of course, Medjugorje. People often laughed at us, but others came to see us often and to talk to us personally. We were telling whatever we knew.
L.P.: At that time, you were still a businessman?
Hubert Liebherr: At that time, I was working in the company, which belonged to my father, the company that he created after the war and that still today belongs 100% to the family. The company has 20,000 employees and 80 branch-offices all over the world. In this company, I was responsible for different products, mainly industrial machines and airplane equipment. In my free time, I was living for Medjugorje. At that time, Albrecht and I were asked to give a lecture about Medjugorje in our town, Biberach, in the City Hall. I hesitated, I felt ill at ease, because I knew that my father would not really agree with that… Albrecht said that he had no problems and that he would do it. The lecture was announced in the newspapers. A day before, somebody felt suddenly very ill in Albrecht’s family, and he had to go. On Sunday evening, I had to give the lecture. At midday, my father came to me and told me not to do it. My father is a believer. In 1939, before being enrolled in the army, one of his aunts gave him a Miraculous medal and he believes that, without this medal, he would never come out of this war alive. Even after the war, he never went anywhere without this medal. So, as I said, my father came to me and told me not to do it. Privately, I could do whatever I wanted, but – as a businessman – I should not allow myself to be ridiculed by any of my collaborators or workers who would not believe. Except that, he said, “the Church has not recognised Medjugorje, it is an affair of priests and not yours, and it does not belong to the City Hall. Drop it!”
It was Sunday, at noon, it was too late to cancel the lecture, I had to do it. The whole afternoon, I felt torn apart: “Is it OK what I am doing? Can I go on like this? I gave a promise, but nevertheless, I have my obligations towards my father…” However, I gave the lecture, and – because Albrecht and myself are quite known – the audience was unexpectedly numerous, more than the City Hall could accommodate. They were on the street! After the lecture, I went to the chapel where I always liked to go. I prayed to God to show me how to continue, because I did not know what to do…
One day before going to Medjugorje with my first group of 100 pilgrims, in October 1988, I went for Mass with a priest who was coming with us. After Mass, we were praying the Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. At that moment, I felt in my heart that the time had come to give the answer to the question of how to continue. Can I match my job and the company with this Medjugorje- Apostolate? In the Prayer of Consecration, there was a Gospel passage saying: “Leave whatever you have and follow me.” I do no know what happened later, I lost my breath. “I can impossibly run away from everything!” I had thousand questions and not a single answer.
We flew to Medjugorje. I asked Our Lady to give me another sign, if this was really the will of God. Then, I would take my decision.
L.P.: How old were you at that time?
Hubert Liebherr: I was 38. During that pilgrimage, I was looking for signs in the sky and on Cross Mountain, but there was nothing. Absolutely nothing. I told myself: “Forget about it”, and so, the question was solved for me. The next day, during the German Mass, everything changed. I had such an inner experience, as if the whole Paradise was singing in the church, all the choirs of angels! I felt so small. During Holy Communion, it was so beautiful that I could hardly bear it. After that, I was completely sure. I had no answer to any question, but it was clear to me that I had to leave everything and follow Christ. At that time, I was not aware of what it would mean later.
Upon coming home, I went to my father and told him that, from now onwards, I would not work for him any more, but for Heaven! In the beginning, it was very hard for him, because it came so suddenly. I was sure about my decision and my father accepted it. He told me: “If you are sure that this is your way, then go!”
L.P.: Are you married?
Hubert Liebherr: Yes, I am married. My wife is a Protestant, and still today, it is difficult for her. We do not have children. If we had any, this would probably be impossible. Concerning my inheritance, I felt that it would not be just to keep a fifth of the property without doing anything for it. Without any hesitation, I could tell to my father that I wanted to give back to the family my part of the property. He was wondering what I intended to live on. I had no answer, but I knew that I would find something. My father said that this was out of question for me to live like a beggar, and he ordered that my wife and myself receive a monthly income until the end of our life. So we are materially secure and we have regular incomes.
After all of that, a difficult period came. The six months that followed were the most difficult period of my life. Nobody understood me – neither my acquaintances, nor my friends, nor my relatives. They just could not understand that someone could make such a step. Everybody was talking against my decision. They simply did not know what Medjugorje was. They tried to convince me that a man could be a businessman and do good, that he must not leave everything! It was difficult to explain them that this was my way. They were telling me that I should know clearly what I want and what I am involved in, what I want to achieve in two, four, six years… They were telling me that I should have a clear conception and a clear perspective. And I did not have any. God only told me to trust Him. I could not explain to anybody that such a decision was a fruit of an inner experience. I had no answer to no question. They thought that I went completely mad. Everybody knew better than me what I was supposed to do. My wife asked me to go and see a psychiatrist, to check if I was in good health.
My wife, a Protestant, is very educated on religious questions, she knows the whole Bible. I do not know it. She was telling me that I was wrong, because I did not even know the Bible. Once, she even threw the Bible on my head! I was sad. Really, I was wrestling with the Lord and telling Him: “Why have you chosen me? I can build bridges, but I have no idea about theology!” One night, I heard a man’s voice in my heart that told me clearly and loudly: “How will you witness your faith in front of others, if you can not do it in front of your friends?” It helped me. It gave me strength. “To give witness” and not “to convince”. Then, I accepted to go to the psychiatrist. My wife had chosen him, she arranged the appointment, and we went together… I had a feeling as if I was going to the slaughterhouse. “Will I come back, or they will pack me and put me in a sanatorium?” I said: “OK, dear God, I trust in You!” To my great surprise, the psychiatrist was a Catholic, and I never thought that this would happen. I told him everything. He had a great understanding and he calmed my wife. I was allowed to go back home! You cannot image how happy I was!
L.P.: So, the beginnings were painful?
Hubert Liebherr: Yes! From that time, I work as a volunteer in the Association “Medjugorje Deutschland”, and with others, we build churches.