Interview - Fr. Leo Maasburg
“The Collaboration Between Mother Teresa and the Grace of Medjugorje is Visible”
Date: July 25, 2005 , Originally published November 18, 2002
During the International Youth Festival in August 2002, there were about 260 priests in Medjugorje. One of them was Fr. Leo Maasburg, a priest of the Diocese of Vienna, presently in Rome, the former collaborator of the “Radio Maria” on the international level, who was working this year on the case of beatification of Mother Teresa (as the only member of the team that is not a member of her Congregation).
After having studied law, political sciences and theology, he began to work on the evangelisation of Eastern European Countries. In 1982, when Pope John Paul II consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Fr. Leo, together with a bishop, secretly celebrated Holy Mass in the Kremlin in Moscow and made the same consecration in the heart of the Soviet Union. For many years, he accompanied Mother Teresa on her travels and also was with her while she was opening her houses on the different continents. Fr. Leo has given retreats to Mother Teresa’s sisters all over the world. In 1988, when Mother Teresa opened her first houses in Moscow and Armenia, Fr. Leo was their spiritual father for many months and therefore the first “official” catholic priest in the Soviet Union.
Fr. Mario Knezovic spoke with him.
Fr. Mario Knezovic: Fr. Leo, would you be so kind as to tell us something about yourself and your life?
Fr. Leo Maasburg: I am an Austrian, a priest of the Diocese of Vienna. I am a priest for about twenty years now. I have been working for only a few years in a parish in Vienna, and after this, I have almost always been like a Gypsy! Firstly, Fr. Werenfried van Straaten, who led the organisation “Church in Need”, sent me all over the world at the service of different Church projects, like for example, education of seminarians and similar. After this, I have been working for seven years on “Radio Maria”. In these seven years, we opened Radio stations in thirty countries, so that I was again like a Gypsy: I spent at home a day or two per month. After that, I was travelling with Mother Teresa for about seven years, giving retreats for sisters, what took me all over the world. I believe that the expression “Gypsy” describes me best! Now, they have “calmed me down” in Rome and I work for the Congregation for the causes of the saints.
What are your impressions about the work in a media that announces Christ and Our Lady?
The experience on radio taught me a very important thing: by nature, generally, the mass media have a role of education. If men are responsible for their destiny, then radio is one of the pillars of this responsibility. It seems, unfortunately, that at our time the mass media, instead of being an instrument of education, are becoming an instrument of seduction. This is why the Catholic mass media have a great responsibility. I think that radio has a privileged place among the Catholic mass media. We live in a time of consumerism, and radio distinguishes itself from television mostly by the following: television produces image that is outside of us and we “swallow” it, and radio produces image inside the person, inside her imagination. This is why, probably, when Jesus speaks about evangelisation, he speaks about the WORD that has to be brought. It does not mean that Jesus does not speak about vision: when he speaks about the glory of the Father, he says that we will see it.
Does the Church of today know how to make use of the media and are we sufficiently open for such a way of transmitting the Good News?
I think that Jesus was very courageous when he confided his mission to men! As always, some are faithful and some less faithful. I believe that the same happens to the Church in the matter of using the media. If we believe that there is really question of struggle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, and that we are all involved in this struggle, then we understand that mass media, power, money and publicity today are the weapons in that struggle. We are all submitted to these temptations. Some fall, some win. It is important that the Church seeks victory, that it makes no compromises with the world. I will give you a simple example: today, radio stations and televisions are being financed almost exclusively either by publicity or by political support, and precisely these are two temptations! If the Church abandons itself into the hands of the publicity or the political power, the evangelisation will evaporate. You cannot touch the heart with the Word of God and at the same time sell stockings! Media are certainly a gift of God for the evangelisation and let us hope that the Church will make a good use of them!
You are working actually on the preparation for the beatification of Mother Teresa. Can you tell us something about it?
As you know, the Holy Father has exempted this case from the time of waiting which takes regularly five years. The diocesan process was immediately opened in India, and then transferred to Rome. At the end of last summer, all the documents of the diocesan process were transferred from India to Rome. In the week after Easter this year, the collaborators of the Congregation for the causes of saints finished to treat the 83,000 pages of witnesses and gave the document called “Positio” to the Congregation for the causes of saints. This document is very abundant and contains about 5,400 pages. It contains all the elements of the life of this Servant of God. Her life, her virtues… now, we wait for the recognition of the miracle. A group of theologians who are in charge of examining this document have already examined and accepted the “Positio”, and the team of doctors who have to examine the miracle has already recognised it. The recognition of the results is now in the hands of the College of Cardinals and the Pope who, after this, can fix the date of the beatification. (NB: On October 1st, 2002, the Church recognised the miracle and Mother Teresa may be beatified in spring 2003.)
Father Leo, you come often to Medjugorje. Which is your attitude towards Medjugorje and the devotion being developed here?
I came to Medjugorje for the first time in 1983. I believe that I have been here about seven or eight times. Each visit is always a great grace. I have heard hundreds of witnesses of people who have found conversion and faith in Medjugorje. As a priest, what impresses me most is that, here, you have no problem with the confessionals not being used! In Vienna, in some parishes, we have one or two confession per month, and here, a priest has to be careful not to begin hearing confessions too early in the morning, because he will not be able to get out of the confessional until the evening! The Grace is tangible and visible even for the blind.
What is your personal attitude towards the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary here in Medjugorje? Do you think that we can say today: “Our Lady is present here”?
I have not seen Our Lady, but I have felt here a really exceptional concentration of grace. I know two visionaries and I can say that I have the best impression about them, concerning their normality and their serious desire for holiness.
One can feel the fruits in Medjugorje. How much can these fruits can be useful for the universal Church and the Christianity?
I am convinced that every grace that God gives is always new. The collaboration between Mother Teresa and the grace of Medjugorje is visible. Many sisters of Mother Teresa have received their vocation in Medjugorje. Priests who are touched by Medjugorje or received their vocation in Medjugorje are close to the spirituality of the sisters of Mother Teresa.
You took part in the International Youth Meeting here in Medjugorje. Our Lady calls us to Christ, and the Pope does this unceasingly. Are the priests working sufficiently to bring the Christ closer to young people who are thirsty for the real truth?
No, I believe that we do not do enough, because you can never do enough! I hope that we will grow in all that on what love urges us! I believe that, one day, we will see all the possibilities that God has offered to us through different sources of grace, and I believe that our sadness, or in other words our purgatory, will be in the fact that we will see all that we could have done and we have not done!
When you come to Medjugorje, you probably have your expectations and when you go back, you carry with you the fruits. When you go back to your service, what remains after a pilgrimage to Medjugorje?
I don’t know about the experience of other priests, of other pilgrims, but I come to Medjugorje just as I used to go back home once or twice a year, hoping that mum would wash my clothes and mend my stockings. She always did it. Often it happened that, when I was already far away, on a journey, I find in my luggage a packet of peanuts or a chocolate. I believe that Medjugorje means that to me today. Although here we may not have felt anything, later on we discover gifts. Our Lady is similar to all other mothers.
You can feel Medjugorje from near. What would you advice to pilgrims who come here?
I have learned one thing from Mother Teresa: it is not important what we expect and what we desire. The only important is to confide oneself to the guidance of Jesus and of Mary. There are surely people who come with some big problem, but the biggest problem is always lack of holiness! We surely bring with us people who entrust themselves into our prayer, but we should not limit the Lord and Our Lady to the gifts they give us. This is maybe precisely one of the characteristics of Medjugorje, because, when one goes to Lourdes, he hopes for a physical or spiritual healing, and when you come to Medjugorje, you hope that Our Lady will bring you closer to her Son. I like to compare Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje: it is, in fact, Our Lady’s pedagogy. In Lourdes, the symbol is water, which means purification and baptism, which signifies the Immaculate. In Fatima, the mission is oriented towards others: to pray, to believe, to sacrifice oneself for others. In Medjugorje, everything is concentrated around the Eucharist and the Holy Confession as preparation for the Eucharist. I believe that this is Our Lady’s pedagogy.
Thank you, Father Leo!