Jelena Vasilj Interview
about relationships, marriage and spiritual life
Date: September 20, 2007 , Originally published September, 2002
Author: Sr. Emmanuel
Category: Visionaries , Jelena Vasilj , Interviews , Spiritual Life
On August 24, 2002, Jelena Vasilj got married to Massimiliano Valente in St James Church, Medjugorje. It was indeed a very prayerful and joyful wedding! Visionary, Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti, was Jelena's Maid of Honor. Rarely do we see such beautiful and striking newly weds! A week before the wedding, they visited our home and shared at length about their values as a christian couple. Let's remember that Jelena had been taught by Our Lady herself for many years, through inner locutions, under the wings of Fr. Tomislav Vlasic, and she was chosen by Our Lady to lead a prayer group until she started her studies in the US in 1991. I'll start reporting here some of Jelena's answers to my questions.
Sr. Emmanuel: Jelena, I know that you were totally open to the will of God in your life. How did you discern that your way was marriage rather than another way?
Jelena: I still see the beauty of both lives. I remain somewhat attracted to religious life. Religious life is a very beautiful life, and I can say it in all freedom in front of Massimiliano. I must say also that I do feel a little sad that I won’t be living the ideal of the religious life! But I see that through communion with another human being, I am growing. Massimiliano is helping me to be more of what I am to become as a human person. Perhaps before I had been given the opportunity to grow spiritually, but this relationship is helping me very much to grow as a human person and to develop other virtues. It is helping me to have my faith become more concrete. Before, I was often enraptured by mystical experiences and lived some sort of spiritual delight. Now I see that through the communion with another human being, I'm called back into the cross and I see that my life is more mature.
Sr. Em. What do you mean with 'called back into the cross'?
Jelena. A certain sort of dying needs to take place when you are married, otherwise you are very selfish when you are seeking the other. Then you can be very disappointed, especially if you are hoping that the other can take away your fears or resolve your problems. I think in the beginning that I approached the other as some kind of refuge. But fortunately, Massimiliano never wanted to be that refuge for me, where I could hide. I think for women our inner self is very emotional and we look for a guy who will somehow feed our emotions. But if that continues we always stay little girls and never grow up.
Sr. Emmanuel: How did you choose Massimiliano?
Jelena: We met three years ago. We were both studying Church History in Rome. Having a relationship with him was very challenging. I felt I was really growing. He can be very dedicated and constant in his way. He has always been very real and serious about his decisions whereas I can get easily carried away. Massimiliano has beautiful virtues! I was especially attracted to him because the virtue of chastity was so dear to him. So much respect grew in me for him, and I saw him preferring the good things in me so many times. I think for a woman, to have respect from a man can also be a very healing experience since in the world a woman is usually watched as an object.
Sr. Emmanuel: What attitude would you recommend to young people who are in love and think of marriage?
Jelena: The relationship starts by some sort of attraction and that's not to be ignored. But it must go further. If there's no death to one's self, then this physical or chemical energy goes away very easily. There's nothing left after that. It's good if that moment goes by very fast. Infatuation blocks you from seeing the beauty of the other. It does attract you in that moment. Probably, if God didn't give us that gift, men and women wouldn't marry! So in a way it's providential. I think chastity is the gift that helps the couple to learn how to really love each other. Because their being chaste extends to all areas of the couple's life. If you don't learn how to respect the other, then the relationship falls apart. When we consecrate ourselves in the Sacrament of Marriage, we say, "I will love and honor you". Honor should never be detached from love.
Sr. Emmanuel: Did Our Lady teach you anything about marriage?
Jelena: I was a child and so I don't remember many things that she told us. She did speak a lot about family and family prayer. This is probably the greatest gift that I was given, family prayer. It is a gift which I am still experiencing now so many years after my locutions are over, coming together as a family and praying together.
Sr. Emmanuel: How did you experience family prayer when you were a child?
Jelena: This was really the moment that united our family. We were a normal family with normal difficulties but our prayer was always the light in our family.
Sr. Emmanuel: Who was the leader?
Jelena: My father.
Sr. Emmanuel: How did he convince you to come and pray?
Jelena: He did not convince me, he simply made me get up! It was very early in the morning. And he still persists after so many years, even though I am 30 years old! He says that he has a responsibility before God so it is not his own choice. Sometimes I see that it is difficult for him to be so insistent but he is aware of his role as a parent.
We always started with the Angelus, then we would pray for the dead. We would then read from the Gospel and say the Rosary. At the end we would say a prayer to the Holy Spirit. In the evening we could go to the evening program at the parish, and those who stayed home said a decade of the Rosary together.
Sr. Emmanuel: How will you incorporate family prayer into your own marriage and family, and who will be the main motivator?
Jelena: Well, it's interesting! I'm probably the one that is more fanatical, but Massimiliano is more constant. If he has a job to do, he will do it. If he decides that we will pray every morning then we will. I can decide that we will pray in the morning, and then sometimes sleep through but he won't. I see that the Holy Spirit inspires me, but uses him as the executer. You see, I remember bringing home the messages from Our Lady to our family: "Oh, Our Lady wants us to pray at 6:05 in the morning." But then I was the last one sleeping in the morning. They would knock on my door and say, "Hey! You said that we had to wake up, so wake up!"
Sr. Emmanuel: Jelena, when did you stop having inner-locutions?
Jelena: In 1992 I left Medjugorje to study in America. At that time the locutions became irregular. And they stopped in 1994.
Now, I feel Our Lady is guiding me. I don't feel that she is absent, but I just don't have those clear words from Her that I used to hear.
Sr. Emmanuel: Do you remember the exercises that Our Lady gave you for your prayer group? Didn't she teach you how to love one another?
Jelena: Oh, yes! Fr. Slavko liked those exercises. I remember that Our Lady asked us to pray together with the person we like the least. Not to create natural sympathies in the prayer group, but to base our relationships on supernatural love. I think that the Holy Spirit can truly do this. I knew people who were very annoying and disturbing but when the Holy Spirit was within us we could love even those hard to get along with. There are very few people who disturb me but some have, because I am human too. But they only disturb me if I don't pray which means that I'm not keeping my own peace. They should never be able to take your peace away! If they can take your peace away that's usually a sign that your under the level of your prayer, your batteries are very low.
We had a prayer meeting three times a week for one and a half hours after school or work. It was really a time of grace because I don't know how we did it. We spent many days and nights on the mountain praying and in the morning we went to school. After school we worked. If nothing else, I would fall down and sleep when they went ahead of me in the tobacco fields!
Sr. Emmanuel: Did you have spontaneous prayer during the meetings?
Jelena: Yes, Our Lady told us to listen to each other when we were praying spontaneously because we had to pray together as a community, not just arbitrarily about things that came to our mind.
Sr. Emmanuel: I was fascinated by the insistence of Our Lady that her greatest joy was the unity of your hearts praying together to Jesus.
What are your best memories as a child or a teenager during that time in the group?
Jelena: I remember once that Fr. Slavko said: "I knew that Our Lady was guiding you because of the love I saw among members in the prayer group." It was true. Our prayers were sometimes very personal. I've never heard one person make any type of comment about the prayers that were said among us. There was so much respect and so much love because everything was based on supernatural love. This was when we were young and this is why Our Lady wants young people: they are so open to grace! They hold no reservations. When we become older we start calculating things. You can see it in our neighborhood-- The grownups are always looking at each other and wondering; "Will you greet me, and will you say hi? How are you treating me, how should I treat you?" But you have children just running from one house to the other.
Sr. Emmanuel: How do you get supernatural love?
Jelena: Well, you have to be a little crazy for the Gospel. You simply have to allow the Holy Spirit to transform you. Usually when there's no love there's fear. There's fear of the other, there's fear that someone will hurt you, someone will take advantage of you. You think: "How will they receive me? What do they think about me? Will they accept me?" Lots of young people have all sorts of difficulties because of this. They need to be loved but they are seeking human love and they're often disappointed and lonely. But we were so fortunate that our friendships were based on supernatural love. The Holy Spirit gives you so much consolation that you never need chocolate. As young people we need this consolation because we are so fragile. And unless we have the Holy Spirit that is consoling us we can feel very lonely and this can be a great source of difficulties and sin.
Sr. Emmanuel: Do you think Our Lady has realized and fulfilled her plan with your prayer group?
Jelena: That is a very difficult question! I don't think that things are over. It just doesn't make sense that she would guide us for so many years, and not complete her plan. But I see her plan at work in personal lives. I still see the people who were in the prayer group and they are quite different from those who were not part of it. They are still going to Krizevac, to Apparition Hill and they are still personally committed to Our Lady's plan. I think there will come a time when lay people will be needed more in spiritual instruction. We need to learn how to live the role of a lay person in the church, receiving spiritual gifts and sharing our faith. We have people who are truly living the messages, but now it is important that they work in the area where they live, to share their faith. I think I would also like to see them working in the world because the world needs so much.