An interview  with prof. Tomislav Ivančić, PhD
Interviewed by Željka Kolar

The spring days drew me out for a walk.  Observing the awakened nature, I was overwhelmed by the almost anxious impression that man’s blossoming is near but not happening and yet as if he were buried in some mud of profanity. In that mood, on the path by the stream prof. Ivančić found me. I shared with him not so sunny thoughts and he, as if looking into my heart, commented: In history, there have always been times in which man has fallen to the lowest level, and when he hit the rock bottom and saw that he was deceived and on the edge of hell, he started coming back. I believe that soon we will start coming back towards love. It is important that even now we have a vision of what actually makes happy two young people who are entering into a marriage, what makes happy husband and wife who are already about to retire and still love each other and can’t do without each other, and what love actually is.

Those words of his were just the beginning of a conversation during which all my thoughts experienced spring. I have shaped this conversation into letters on a paper to make humankind blossom as well.

What is love?

Love is when somebody sees in us that we are precious to him. We are not only dear to him because of our looks or something we have but he sees what is eternal inside us, indestructible and divine – our immortal soul, us as a person. And you can never know a person fully, you can only discover her and love her even more. When somebody loves us like that, then we know what love is, we feel completely loved and we are not afraid of life. And then we can only love. Then we feel that God is inside us because God is love. Only then can man live happily and that is what we have to understand and get to.

Is falling in love also love?

Simply said, falling in love is a piece of heaven which appeared on earth. It is like a piece of the spiritual greatness that has entered our material, physical reality. We can say that when we fall in love our soul comes out to encounter the soul of another person. It is like the people touch each other’s soul and feel like they can’t live without that other person, they can’t, and they don’t want to talk to anybody like they do with their loving one. As if those two beings suddenly, after a long search, found each other and found the meaning in one another. Falling in love encourages, gives man new and creative strength, it can make him happy and satisfied… Nonetheless, it is necessary to move from falling in love to action. In the beginning that can be hard because it is necessary to put an effort so that we can transform the experienced beauty into a form in the material world. That does not come easy. For example, if a person who is in love with art, does not have the strength to endure necessary education, he can stop and thus bury his talent. That counts for every falling in love. Falling in love should therefore turn into love. Love should become effective love, and it should be stepping forward towards ever greater perfection, ever deeper love, ever closer to a source that never dries up.

Can we separate love from sexuality?

Sexuality is a whole man, an expression of physical and spiritual love – to be for the other, to completely give yourself to the other, to disappear into the other. Every touch of sexuality is a touch of intimacy, the most profound part in a person, a touch of shyness and infinite inkling of life. The intimacy of sexuality and erotics is a hint of the infinite, the experience of the eternal love, gentleness, and warmth. Only in intimacy can love be experienced, the most sensitive and the finest sides of the human being can be understood and can grow. Physical sexuality is only a sign of discretion, a sign of God’s hiddenness, intimacy, beauty. Our sexuality is a manifestation of God’s gentleness and love.

You cannot separate man’s sexuality from himself, his conscience and marriage. These are not two realities but one. Sexuality, like everything in man, has its physical and spiritual component. Sexuality is not only a body but more a human soul. Sexuality should be an expression of love, and love comes from the spirit and by that sexuality is something divine. With man, there is not only sex, but it is always love. In sexual desire, there is something miraculous, what fascinates us.  Man is the gentlest and the liveliest in that area and so he needs shyness in there as a protection.  

Sexuality and physical sexuality cannot be separated because man is a whole, not a fragment.  

But Adam and Eve, as we know from the second chapter of the Book of Genesis, were created naked and weren’t ashamed. Why didn’t they need shyness?

They loved each other completely. In the beginning, all sex impulse was pure love and God wanted a new life to be born out of that love. Adam and Eve were not shy because they saw the beauty and charm of their body and sexuality with the purity with which God sees it.

From the beginning a man would leave his father and mother and be united to his wife (and not like it is the case today). That is why Adam went after his wife even when they had sinned. She was the first, and we can say, she gave the tone to everything. A woman is the heart of humanity, and a man craves for her, to settle down in her and find himself. But, sexuality, understood only physically, does not allow for this to happen. Sexuality, only as something physical and impulsive, can ruin the relationship between a man and a woman, a young woman and a young man, husband and wife. If we allow sexuality to be realized only because of bodily pleasure, we become torn, two-faced people, we have made filthy the source of life, the most beautiful thing, the most innocent, the gentlest thing inside us. Dependent sexual drive which has gotten out of control and which has turned into addiction, has destroyed the male- female relationship, has destroyed love and trust amongst young people, pre-marital and marital relationships and the creation of man. It has destroyed man’s dignity, ability for married life, family, and life itself. It has caused prostitution and rape and it does not bring pleasure but guilty conscience and woundedness. People can be addicted to food, alcohol, cigarettes and drugs…but no addiction is so delicate and dangerous, no addiction destroys man like an addiction to sex drive. Modern societies have capitulated in front of immoral sexuality. Everything is allowed, the entire public is contaminated by an obsession with and focus on sexual drive; it is like the media are blocking the existence of ideals, beauty, charm and true pleasure between a man and a woman. We are lacking femininity and manliness, the beauty of a mother and children, the beauty of life, innocence, goodness, love. And nobody fights for that. Do not let us be deceived by the trends of postmodernism which throw man into the mud and destroy what is most precious amongst us.

How to properly live your sexuality?

Parents do not know what to do, they are afraid to tell the children how to live. Teachers and professors, religious education teachers and priests do not dare to forbid things. The solution is not in forbidding things. Prohibition itself will not free somebody to become a master of himself. Everyone who is addicted doesn’t have the freedom and every prohibition will only bother him more. Something else is necessary – upbringing in love. When man experiences deeper love, something better, which transcends the instinct that torments and deceives him, then it is a cure, then the freedom comes. I always tell young people to try to love each other so much so that they know how to hug, have long talks, look into each other’s eyes, kiss, but to decide not to do anything that would destroy their sexuality. Then they will experience how their entire being burns for one another but because they love each other they will keep their sexuality and they won’t lie into bed together too soon. For if they sin, they are no longer sincere, they don’t love each other because a little pleasure is more important to them than their complete being. They will destroy their conscience and hurt each other. The decision that they won’t sin because they are precious to one another is the expression of deep love and trust. Besides they will show to everyone that they are free, that the urge in them isn’t stronger. Such people will not be afraid of marriage. I have often seen how that kind of pure love deeply heals young women and men.

When sexuality is lived according to the law of spirit, conscience, nature, God then man enjoys and transforms.

What about sexuality in marriage?

Many people are telling me that the fact that they did not have sexual intercourse before marriage brought them great joy in marriage. Their sexuality then became something supreme. It is as if sexuality itself has experienced how much it is respected in them in that premarital chastity and now in marriage in its beauty it comes to full expression.

A man, who is healthy in his sexuality is going to be proud to give his entire self to his wife in sexuality. And when a young woman grows healthy in her sexuality she is happy that she will be able to completely belong to her husband in marriage. There is the sacrament of marriage so that the strength of sexuality doesn’t destroy them but that it becomes holy. Between people who are married, especially in church, sexuality becomes something entirely different. Marital, sexual intercourse of husband and wife is a wife’s spiritually entrance into her husband and husband into his wife; they become one as if they are clothed in each other. Entering one another, they give themselves physically, they totally surrender to one another. A husband doesn’t feel that he is alone anymore, but that is in his wife, she preoccupies him, surrounds him all around. A wife experiences that her husband protects her and that she is not alone anymore, wherever she goes, she is with him everywhere. They sense that they are new people in marriage – a husband is in the spirit of his wife and a wife is in her husband’s spirit and that cannot be separated anymore. By their fidelity, their marriage is precious.

In their sexual life, they never do what animals do. Their sexual juices have spiritual significance as well, they represent the life of husband and wife who, permeated, give new life. We carry in ourselves, in our sexuality, the possibility of a new life, and therefore, in sexuality we have supreme dignity. Husband and wife do not enter into marriage just to physically enjoy sexuality, but to give themselves to each other through sexuality and erotics, through supreme love. The spirit is the one who gives life and makes sexuality supreme love. From this completeness of love, trust and unity, children will be born. The child that is born between them is like their resurrection, because they have, in a way, disappeared into each other, totally surrendered.

Nevertheless, adultery, infidelity in marriage, and fornication before marriage happen… 

This happens when man is not at the level of the spirit, at the authentically his, human level, but he has descended onto the level of an animal. When somebody is evil, we are all going to say that he is acting like an animal. When we look at pornography, we all feel that it is not man, that there is nothing human about it, that, on the contrary, it is disgusting. What prostitutes do doesn’t give them pleasure, otherwise they would be the happiest women. And we know that is not the case, we know that their dignity and femininity have been violated. On the other hand, when we look at mothers and fathers, their love, trust, their giving birth, we see the dignity of their sexuality.

People are being deceived and are lying to each other if they think that they can enjoy being in sin, that they can destroy marriage and enjoy, that they can be unfaithful in marriage and enjoy, that they can kill a child and enjoy. I have not met people who would masturbate, have premarital relationships, and be unfaithful in or out of marriage without feeling that it was their sin. However, I have met a number of atheists and the like who have said that they themselves do not understand, that although no one has taught them about sin, they feel deeply when they have erred in sexuality. Sin promises a lot, gives almost nothing, and takes everything. A terrible frustration and emptiness come after that, you feel pathetic and guilty. All those who masturbate have a guilty conscience, they feel that they are not masters of themselves and that it bothers them. They admit that they don’t experience that the Church forbids them something or that God is bothering   them but they sense that masturbation is taking away their dignity and the beauty of sexuality.  They feel that they are destroying the laws of sexuality. 

Are people, especially young people, happy when they live together and when it is available to them to destroy their sexuality and the sexuality of another person every day and they don’t get married at all? Man has forgotten what love and gentleness are, what the birth of man is and it is not surprising that every year entire cities are disappearing because there are fewer and fewer people and births. Wounded and dead people in the realm of sexuality cannot give birth to virtuous and moral people.

How does hagiotherapy view these phenomena?

In hagiotherapy, we discover how wounded sexuality hurts. If we ask ourselves why don’t all these young men and women enter into marriage, the answer is in their destroyed sexuality. Because they heard, saw and experienced some of these things too early. Maybe even as children they were raped, they cannot be free from that scandal, torment and wound. They are running from everybody and from themselves, they aren’t capable of falling in love, of getting married, of living a life and all because their sexuality didn’t develop healthily from the beginning but it was abused or they used it too early. It is like tearing off a plant that has just started to grow and it can’t mature and bloom any further. We have endless problems like these and I would say that these are the deepest sufferings of the spirit, the body and the psyche. Unfortunately, we cannot help them in the psychic area. There are more and more young people, but also old ones, who come to us with a deep wound because they were abused as children or raped and they can’t forgive and help themselves.

What does hagiotherapeutic help consist of?

First and the most important step is to connect people with the being, that is, unconditional love. Those who have been raped regularly feel guilty about it – they think they could have defended themselves or that they may have agreed or given a reason for somebody to act towards them in that way. They are consumed with guilt, and they are ashamed to tell anyone about it and they carry that horror and fear within themselves.  When they finally succeed in saying it, they feel freer. Except for the guilty conscience, they also suffer from a feeling that their dignity has been destroyed, that they are not feminine women or masculine men any longer. Their dignity is restored by mediating to them the acknowledgement that there is somebody who knows them, who loves them and protects them. That somebody felt sad for their suffering, their wounds and wants to help them. That somebody is their true Father and He will never judge them, but he will judge all those that did wrong to them. That Father takes them into His arms and wants to rehabilitate and heal them completely. 

Such people, like all sufferers, need to be accepted with the love, respect, tenderness and compassion that deeply heal. These are the first steps of hagiotherapy help.

How to return to innocence, original love and purity?

There is a way.  We are lucky that God exists, that He has revealed Himself to us and that He wants to heal us. It is interesting that despite the trampled sexuality and the disturbed male-female relationship we have so many songs about love. It shows how much we have fallen away and how much we crave for the other. We long to return. We do not want to be abandoned ever, but eternally together. We do not long for physical sexual pleasure but for love. 

You need to start loving yourself. Ask yourself, “Who am I?” And realize that we only have ourselves. If we destroy ourselves or allow some evil from the outside to destroy us, then we lose ourselves and we can have nothing. As long as we ourselves and spiritually healthy, we can have everything. When we start to love ourselves, when we realize that we are the precious value that we must not lose, that we are a spiritual dimension and have immense opportunities for development, the whole of nature will become close and friendly to us.

When we learn to love ourselves, then we will love every man. I love another person if I value him so much and if he is so precious to me that I could never sin with him; then I am eternal, alive and nothing can destroy me.

If we become people of the spirit, if we start doing good, no one will be able to stop us. The spirit is actually our only chance because the spirit is life, the Spirit gives life and that is where we should return.  

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Tomislav Ivančić (EJ)
He was born in Davor in 1938. After studying philosophy and theology in Zagreb and Rome, he was ordained a priest of the Zagreb Archdiocese in 1966. After achieving a master's degree in philosophy and a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, he returned to Zagreb in 1971, where he became a professor at the Catholic Faculty of Theology, University of Zagreb. He is the head of the Chair of Fundamental Theology, and was one of the editors of the Theological Review. Areas of his scientific work are philosophy, theology and literature. He explores the relationship between philosophy and theology, faith and science, atheism and religiosity, revelation and faith, the Church and ecclesial communities, Christianity and religion, the phenomenon of sects and issues of theological epistemology. His special field of interest is the study of man's existential-spiritual dimension, where he discovers the way of modern evangelization and the necessity of the development of spiritual medicine, which, along with somatic and psychological, is indispensable in the complete healing of man, especially in the healing of spiritual diseases and addictions. For this purpose, he developed the method of hagiotherapy and founded in 1990 in Zagreb the Center for Spiritual Help, of which he is the head. From 1971, in addition to working at the faculty, he was a student religious teacher in Zagreb, the initiator of the prayer movement within the Church of the Croats, the founder of a religious society called the Prayer and Word Community(MiR), and the leader of numerous seminars for spiritual renewal and evangelization at home and abroad. After completing his studies and scientific doctorate in fundamental theology at ... (Read more at