Interviews

Jan Graubner: I found a beautiful spiritual family in the church

Published: 21. 4. 2021
Author: Šárka Jansová
Photo: Photo archives of Jan Graubner
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Jan Bosco Graubner, 14th Archbishop of Olomouc and Metropolitan of Moravia, chose “Quod dixerit vobis, facite” as his episcopal motto, i.e. “Whatever He tells you, that you shall do.”

Archbishop, there’s been Easter recently. How did you use spend it in Strážnice as a boy?

I would serve at Holy Masses in the church. Easter has many ceremonial exceptions and peculiarities, so it was necessary to practice everything. After the ceremonies of Maundy Thursday until the resurrection on Saturday evening, the bells didn’t ring, so we walked around the city with knockers and growlers. After the ceremonies on Good Friday and the whole White Saturday, we kept watch at God's tomb. There I experienced a very special moment once, discovering prayer as a personal conversation with the Lord Jesus. That unforgettable moment affected my life. And, of course, Easter Monday is about whipping, for which you have to knit your ‘vein’ whip, as they say in Strážnice.

Today you celebrate Easter as a servant of God. What do the greatest Christian holidays of hope mean to you? What is the message?

The Easter message is very deep and few people understand it, otherwise it would show in their lives. God cares about each of us so much that he became human for our salvation and died a humiliating death on the cross so that we could gain eternal life and happiness. With his resurrection, he showed that he had power and his words were true. So we can be sure that we, too, will rise from the dead, as he promised. He demonstrated that even suffering can make sense, that God will not leave anyone, even though it may seem like it at times. God didn’t answer even Jesus when he was crying out to him on the cross. Nevertheless, he surrendered his spirit to him. And God resurrected him.

Let's go back in time. What profession did you dream of as a boy?

It was the priesthood. As a teenager, I had some doubts, but I didn't plan anything else. When I applied for medicine, it was only because the priests warned me not to enrol in the seminary before A-levels, because the “comrades” might not let me do the A levels at all. Today's young people would never believe it. But it's good that it's now a thing of the past.

They say love is God and God is love. And it’s natural to fall in love. How have you dealt with the fact that you can't have a wife, a family?

That was the very reason I hesitated for a bit in high school, but then I decided and it was done and dusted. I found a beautiful spiritual family in the church, and I was lucky to work in a vibrant parish with many children and young people around me to live for.

Since 1992, you have been the 14th Archbishop of Olomouc and the Metropolitan of Moravia. What and who falls within your competence?

Above all, I am a priest like everyone else. Unlike most priests, as a bishop, I can ordain a priest and administer the sacrament of confirmation. The office makes me responsible for running the diocese of 420 parishes and over 1,000 churches and chapels, for which I have the responsibility of the founder, along with some church schools and charities. I oversee 18 schools, and there are 2,000 employees in the charities of our diocese (ČBK is the founder of Caritas CR - editor's note ). This includes financial and personnel issues, including the formation and care of catechists and hospital chaplains and the like. Of course, I don't do everything myself - I have co-workers who do most of the work.

At the National St. Wenceslas Pilgrimage in Stará Boleslav, you, as the preacher, declared last year: “We celebrate St. Wenceslas, the eternal prince of the Czech lands, who at the beginning of our history advocated for the Christian European orientation of our nation. He showed the wisdom drawn from God's word and was able to be a ruler open to building relationships.” Does Christianity have enough power in our country, and therefore in Europe?

Let me distinguish. Christianity as such has that power, but it is worse with us Christians. We are part of society and, unfortunately, we allow ourselves to be lured into a superficial life by abundance and comfort. Christian culture exists only where the gospel lives. Otherwise, it dies. Atheism has no inner strength, which makes it lack long-term perspective. If Europe is not Christian, it will probably be Muslim. Fear and closing ourselves off to strangers will not help us. We need to find a zest for life and make the necessary sacrifices, not being afraid of children and of service. The future of Europe depends on us. It is high time we woke up and returned to our roots.

You also quoted the words of Pope Francis, saying that the duty of believers to the Creator and nature is part of the faith. Do we treat nature and each other with enough consideration? How do relationships need to be improved?

There is too much to improve. Let us mention at least how we can look at people, who according to the Bible, are created in the image of God. If each of us saw others that way, starting with those closest to us, we would respect the human dignity of men and women, the right to life even before birth and until natural death. If we stopped playing god, we would begin to serve others more, listen to them, and look through their eyes. This would give us more stable families and the right of children to the safety and stability of the family, to the faithful love of father and mother, would be respected. And we would treat nature in a similar way – not as owners, but only administrators, who will one day hold accounts of the stewardship. We would know that we can only consume what we need to survive, but we have no right to more, because it belongs to future generations. It's not just about reducing emissions or waste and planting trees. It is also about stopping the indebtedness of future generations.

In Nesvačilka in southern Moravia, a gem of a building is growing from the fundraiser of believers - the Chapel of the Virgin Mary, which is under the auspices of the parish priest René Václav Strouhal. The "earthly part" of the temple consists of naturally walled stone followed by raw wooden beams, which point to a circular opening in the ceiling, leading "to God". What do you make of this award-winning building?

I haven't seen it yet, but I consider it very valuable that people build something together, that they participate in the work with their own hands. In addition, this work will have practical use to specific people and it also has a spiritual dimension. The more one does for God's glory, the more one's own heart is filled with God's glory. And what more could you want?

What message has this Easter had for all of us?

To understand the Easter tidings that I previously spoke of. I myself had a strong experience with serious COVID. The prospect of eternal life diminished my fear of death, and my friendship with Christ brought me peace. In the light of the resurrection, everything has a different meaning. May the joy of Easter be your strength and the Easter faith your source of peace.


CV BOX

Jan Bosco Graubner (born on 29th August 1948 in Brno) is the 14th Archbishop of Olomouc and the Metropolitan of Moravia and chairman of the Czech Bishops' Conference.

He graduated from the Secondary School of General Education and Theology at the University of Olomouc.

From 1973 to 1982 he was a chaplain in Zlín and Valašské Klobouky, then (until 1990) he worked as a pastor in Vizovice and an excurrendo administrator in Provodov and Horní Lhota .

On 17th March 1990, he was appointed titular bishop of Tagari and auxiliary bishop of Olomouc, and on 7th April he was consecrated by Archbishop Vaňák and Bishop Otčenášek and the Church.

Since 1992 he’s been the 14th Archbishop of Olomouc and Moravian Metropolitan.  From 2000–2010 he was the chairman of the Czech Bishops' Conference, in 2020 he got the title again. 

Since 1999, he has been the chairman of the board of directors of Palacký University in Olomouc, where he, by virtue of his archbishop's office, serves as Grand Chancellor at the Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology.

In 2002 he was awarded the Alois Mock award, and as the founder of the Three Kings fundraiser project he got the Anděl Award in 2008 in the category of the APH President's Award for the most important charitable deed.

In 2008, the then President Václav Klaus granted him the Order of Tomáš Garrique Masaryk Second Class, for merit in the development of democracy, humanity and human rights.

Archbishop and Easter

At Easter, all the ceremonies take place in the cathedral. "I have to prepare the sermons to be convincing. It cannot be read from books, it must be experienced. It needs to be about ordinary working days and interpersonal relationships," he says. His Easter delight is a pilgrimage to God's tomb. He no longer works on White Saturday, but rests in silence. He likes to get in the car and visit ten different churches. They are all open that day. There is silence everywhere and someone prays in them. He likes to join the prayer for a while.

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