Walking alone – a school of life

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Jožef Ratković, a Croat from Austria, walked from Zürich to Medjugorje to fulfill a vow: to pray for healing of his wife who suffers from multiple sclerosis. In 42 days he walked 1,400 km. “I believe in God and I hope for his help. I also pray for peace with God and with people. For me, peace is when we reach out to another and great another. This is basic.”

Upon arriving in Medjugorje, he first went to the church to thank God. He says that he is not tired, in spite of his age – he is 69. “I was always practicing sport. With my bicycle, I crossed millions of kilometers. I went on bicycle all over Europe.”

He heard about Medjugorje some 15 years ago, while he was still working. “When I was retired, I first went on a pilgrimage to Spain, to Santiago de Compostela in 2002. I walked 82 days and crossed 2,500 km. Two years later, I walked to Mariazel, 1350 km in 43 days. And now – Medjugorje. I am a Croat, but never came either to Croatia, or here.”

His ancestors came to Stikapron from Gospić or Gračac 300 years ago. He lived the first years of his life in Stikapron (Steinbrunn) in the diocese Eisenstadt, Austria. He graduated in Mathematics in Vienna, and he lives in Zürich, Switzerland, where he worked in the computer technology.

He has two daughters and one son, and seven grandchildren. He says that he is a believer since his childhood; he loves to meditate and to pray. “Prayer is for me a dialogue with God who feeds the hungry and gives drink to the thirsty”. He loves good communication with people. Tolerance is important in his family, because his wife, his son and his daughter in law belong to other Christian denominations. “We reach to one another, this is important. God is one, we only approach him differently”.

He says that young people often seek fun, and do not seek God. “They live without God, but when something goes wrong, they do seek Him”.

He described his pilgrimage on foot with following words: “Walking alone is good for meditation. I seek answers to different questions: Why am I on earth? What are my intentions? What do I want? What do I have to do? When you live, you have to act. This is my life, and my life is important. This is my moment, and in this moment, I have to do what God is asking from me. He wants me to work for peace with Him and with people. Peace is possible if I accept other people as brothers and sisters. The people that I meet – I consider them brothers and sisters, I cannot do differently. For me, it is important to know that God is here, all around me.”

For Jožef, Medjugorje is an important Christian place. “I pray for my wife’s health, and whatever happens will be the will of God. I want to tell Mary that I am here and ask her what I have to do”. He will return to Zürich on bicycle. “It will take about two weeks, because I want to visit Gospić and Gračac to investigate the origins of the Ratković family”.

As a pilgrim who made the experience of many weeks of walking in silence, he says: “We need to walk alone, to be alone, this is when ideas and visions come. It is different when we drive a car. In this ways, we have time to think. It is great to be alone, to have time. It is a little school of life.”

Višnja Spajić


For God to live in your hearts, you must love.