Interview - Fr. Roman Grüter, a priest from Switzerland: “I Never Felt So Intensely As a Priest As In the Confessional in Medjugorje”
Other languages: English, Hrvatski
Date: July 26, 2005 , Originally published May 22, 2003
Fr. Roman Grüter, a priest from Switzerland, is pastor in Kriens, diocese Basel. He was ordained in 1991, at the age of 36, after seven years of service to the Church as a lay theologian. For three years now, he is the spiritual director of the association “Gebetsaktion Medjugorje Schweiz”. Since 1998, he comes once a year on pilgrimage to Medjugorje with a large group of pilgrims. He gives his testimony about the grace of Medjugorje for his priestly life and the life of the faithful.
He gave an interview to Fr. Mario Knezovic for Radio “Mir” Medjugorje.
Fr. Mario Knezovic: Fr. Grüter, would you be so kind as to tell us something about yourself?
Fr. Roman Grüter: My name is Roman Grüter, I am pastor of a large parish with 7.000 Catholics in Kriens, Switzerland, diocese of Basel. I came to know Medjugorje in 1998, by chance. A bus driver who got married in my church spoke to me with much enthusiasm about his conversion in Medjugorje. I was fascinated, and in 1998 I decided to come and see.
What was your first experience of Medjugorje?
Fr. Roman Grüter: When I arrived, it was cold; there was nothing special. What impressed me were confessions. On the very first day, I was asked to hear confessions, because there were very few German-speaking priests. After the German Mass, I sat down in the confessional and remained there for seven hours! These seven hours in the confessional were for me so special and unique that I was amazed. I saw so many conversions, people who changed their lives and abandoned them to God. I was so deeply impressed that I said: this is a very extraordinary place! I was deeply moved, and remained the whole week under this impression, not outwardly but inwardly; these conversions, these changes, all that happens in people… I said: here, heaven and earth meet; otherwise, this would not be possible!
You live in Switzerland. How do you see your country from the perspective of Medjugorje as a place of conversion and of practice of the sacraments?
Fr. Roman Grüter: In Switzerland, very few people go for confession. For 30 years now, we have the so-called penitential celebrations and – since then – personal confession is almost lost. It was like that in my parish also; people were not going for confession. When, in 1998, I came back from Medjugorje, I promised to Our Lady that – in my parish church - I would organize adoration once a week and, for the First Friday, a special Mass and occasion for confession. Since then, more and more people are coming for a personal confession.
How is the response of the faithful to these gatherings?
Fr. Roman Grüter: Their reaction was very positive. Though not all come, most nonetheless feel that this is important for them and for the Church. For me, as a priest, this was also a deep experience: to see how people find again a way to personal conversion and confession.
You edit a magazine in your country. Can you tell us more about this?
Fr. Roman Grüter: The association “Gebetsaktion Medjugorje Schweiz” exists since 1985, it keeps on growing, and today, we have 10.000 addresses to which we send our monthly magazine. The association regularly organizes prayer afternoons. Recently, we had a large meeting with our bishop Kurt Koch. For us, it was a very special event, we felt that our bishop supports us and that he has a positive attitude towards our activities.
Did your bishop say anything about Medjugorje, has he the intention to come here?
Fr. Roman Grüter: The bishop is reserved towards Medjugorje itself, he submits himself to the judgment of the Church, he does not want to rush. From my personal encounters with him, I know that he is very open and benevolent towards Medjugorje. During the prayer afternoon with him, he spoke about confession, personal confession, which is the great intention of Medjugorje and also his intention. He expressed his joy to see that personal confession is coming back.
In Medjugorje, Our Lady has been appearing for 22 years now. How do you see Our lady’s apparitions, do you believe that Our Lady is present in Medjugorje in a very special way?
Fr. Roman Grüter: I am personally completely convinced. If I were not convinced, I would not take part in this association as a spiritual guide, I would not diffuse her messages. I am convinced, because the messages are so simple and so clear, and this is precisely what people need today, it is like a heavenly pedagogy. Heaven shows us the way back to the source, to renewal; these messages really can touch people’s hearts, and this is what we need in our times.
You mentioned the messages. You read them, you know them, you publish them in your magazine. According to you, what is most important in these messages? What is the message for the Church, for our times?
Fr. Roman Grüter: According to me, the essential in the messages is that they touch the heart. Faith becomes again something that touches the heart and not only the understanding. We can meet God from within again, we become open for God’s presence in our heart and in the world. Since 1998, I come every year to Medjugorje with a large group of pilgrims from Switzerland. What I experience here with them, I have not experienced anywhere else. Almost all of them go for a personal confession, almost all of them have a deep personal experience, which – for most of them – has an impact on their lives; it changes their lives and their professional and personal surroundings.
In Medjugorje, all the pilgrims have their intentions, their plans, their openness to God. According to you, what is the most important to seek in Medjugorje from God through Mary?
Fr. Roman Grüter: I noticed that many people who come to Medjugorje seek healing of the body, of the soul, of the spirit. This is similar in all places of pilgrimages, but here it is especially strong. People seek to be transformed, renewed, healed in the deepest sense of the word; this is very important for people. I think that we should encourage them and help them in this process, and we need to give them good spiritual guides and help on this way.
We hear that the Church is in crisis today – there are less and less vocations. On the other hand, many priests come to Medjugorje. Can we say that they leave Medjugorje very enthusiastic and witness more forcefully in favor of the Church?
Fr. Roman Grüter: After my first coming to Medjugorje, I told to my bishop that I never felt so intensely as a priest as in the confessional in Medjugorje. A priest can feel the power of his vocation when he experiences how tangible can be the grace and the power of the sacraments, when he sees how much people need them, that sacraments really transform people, that – through the sacraments – they really can deeply and truly encounter God.
Thank you, Fr. Roman!