Ivan Merz
Born 16 December 1896, Banja Luka
Died 10 May 1928
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 23 June 2003, Banja Luka by John-Paul II
Major shrine Zagreb, Croatia
Feast 10 May
Patronage Croatian youth, youth as a whole, World Youth Day celebrations

Ivan Merz (1896-1928 in Zagreb) was a Bosnian-Croatian lay academic, beatified by Pope John-Paul II on a visit at Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina on June 23, 2003. Ivan Merz promoted the liturgical movement in Croatia and together with Ivo Protulipac created a movement for the young people, “The Croatian union of the Eagles” (“Hrvatski orlovski savez)”, inspired by the “Eucharistic Crusade,” which he had encountered in France.


Life as a Layman

Ivan Merz[1] is a young layman from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who lived in a turbulent age.

He was born on December 16, 1896 in Banja Luka from a liberal family, when Bosnia was occupied by Austria-Hungary. He attended school in the multi-ethnic and multi-religious environment of his native town and graduated when Crown prince Franz Ferdinand was murdered (June 28, 1914).


Blessed Ivan Merz.

He joined the military Academy in Wiener Neustadt at his parents' request but, disgusted by the corruption of this environment, he left after three months. In 1915, he started his university studies in Vienna but was called up shortly thereafter to serve in the army during World War I. After that, he returned to Banja Luka, where he experienced the radical political change and the birth of the new Yugoslav State. In 1919 until 1920 he was in Vienna, studying at the Faculty of Philosophy. In October 1920 he set off for Paris, where he attended some lessons at the Sorbonne University and in the “Institute Catholique”, preparing in the meantime his doctoral dissertation

He won his doctorate at the Faculty of Philosophy on the University of Zagreb in 1923 through his thesis, “The influence of liturgy on the French writers.” He was professor at the archiepiscopal gymnasium in Zagreb till his death (May 10, 1928).

Little known outside his native country, Ivan Merz fascinates those who approach him as to a Catholic student and soldier, then an intellectual layman with a wide culture who employed all his own energies serving other people and educating the Croatian youth. Without a family or spiritual guidance, he found his way to sanctity, so that he was defined as a “Spontaneous spiril fruit”, where the presence of the Grace is experimentally proved.

Merz came out of the war as a mature Christian and as such, he resumed his studies in Vienna and continued them in France, devoting himself more and more to the Croatian Catholic movement.

Once back in Zagreb, he gave a new direction to the youth’s movement of the “Eagles” (“Hrvatski orlovi”), according to the Catholic Action’s principles. As a mature man he modeled the “catholic man” par excellence, "whose heart was beating together with the heart of the Church that has no national or political frontiers; the Church that is the Mystical Body of Christ, gathered around the real Christ in Eucharist, represented by his vicar on earth, the Pope." The Church, the Eucharist and the Pope: three loves, or rather one only love, according to Merz, who was trying with all his might to instill it in the Croatian youth.

He promoted the liturgical movement in Croatia and, according to Pius XI’s instructions, in order to put together an “elite” of apostles to work for the “renewal of everything in Christ”. He worked for five years to establish the Kingdom of God in his country.

As a layman consecrated to God, he devoted himself for six years to the apostolic work of bringing up Catholic youth in Croatia. He promoted the liturgical revival and the Catholic Action of the Pope Pius XI. Completely devoted to the Church and the Pope in Rome, Ivan lived a holy life imbued with the worship of the Eucharist. Although he was a layman he is called “the pillar of the Church” in Croatia.

Beatification and Process of Canonization

In 1928, Merz died, leaving an example of how a man can live, fight and suffer for God’s cause. Merz tried hard to give his life the “full meaning”, heading for sanctity, and all his pedagogical task was devoted to the formation of apostles of sanctity. He died on May 10, 1928 with a reputation of a saint. His shrine is located in the Basilica of the Heart of Jesus in Zagreb, Croatia. The canonization cause started in 1958.

Pope John Paul II beatified him in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on June 22, 2003, and put him as an example of Christian life to the young and lay believers. The Postulator of the Cause is Fr. Bozidar Nagy, SJ.

In the Philippines

The Cause for the Canonization of Blessed Ivan Merz is officially promoted by the Confraternity of Catholic Saints in the Philippines. [2] The Director of the Confraternity, Dave Ceasar Dela Cruz was elected as the Vice Postulator of the Cause[3] on 19 March 2008 by the Vatican through the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.[4]


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