A non-religious version of Valentine’s Day, Dragobete is a festive Romanian holiday, observed on the 24th of February, that is associated with love and the arrival of spring. Dragobete is an observance and not a national public holiday in Romania.
According to myth, Dragobete was the son of Baba Dochia (“baba” means old lady in Romanian), a woman who marks the return of spring. The day is also known as “the time when birds are betrothed” because during this time of year, birds generally build their nests and mate.
In the countryside there is an old tradition with girls and boys going into the woods to pick flowers. When they return home, the traditions says that boys were running after girls to kiss them. If the girl liked the boy she lets him kiss her. There is a saying in Romania that makes a lot of sense regarding this: “Dragobete kisses the girls” (“Dragobete pupă fete”).
Learn more about Dragobete by visiting the sites linked below:
On December the 1st 2019, Romania celebrates its National Day, marking 101 years since the Great Union.
In 1859, the southern region of Wallachia and the eastern region of Moldavia banded together as the Kingdom of Romania, and declared independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1877. The Resolution of the National Assembly joined Transylvania, Banat, Crişana, and Maramureş, with the Kingdom of Romania, further expanding the size of the nation.
In 1918, an accord making the union official passed without objection, having been ratified in the historic city of Alba Iulia, in the presence of over 100,000 people. The accord contained clauses that protected religious freedom, codified universal suffrage, and freedom of the press, it stood as a testament to the path Romania hoped to pursue.
Find out more about Romanian’s National Day and about the festivities that took place, by clicking the following links:
While I’m not really into Halloween, I found it interesting and share-worthy to see that Bing celebrates this holiday today by having a video of the Romanian Corvin castle (also known as the Hunedoara Castle), one of the 7 wonders of Romania. Count Dracula can be seen on the castle roof after the lights turn off, and, after he transforms into a bat, a bunch of bats fly out towards the camera.
Also, if you click on the “Protect your neck” text in the lower-right corner of the page and then on the “Play today’s quiz” in box that pops up, you can play the daily Bing quiz, which, especially for Halloween, is vampire-related.
I know that this article is late, and I apologize for posting it now, but I just recently came across a video of the celebration of Saint Stephen The Great’s feast day on YouTube and wanted to inform my readers about this very interesting Romanian ruler who was glorified by the Orthodox Church.
Eleven days ago, on the 2nd of July, was the feast day of a rather controversial Orthodox saint — Saint Stephen The Great of Moldova. Stephen (“Ştefan” in his native language, Romanian) was one of the most important rulers of Moldova (a large region of modern-day Romania).
He ruled from 1457 to 1504 and gained his fame due to his great statesmanship. A remarkable military tactician, as well as a devout Orthodox Christian, he was responsible for defending Moldova against the Ottoman invasion, and went down in history not only for his victories, but also for having built a church or monastery in thanks to God after each victory.
As he continues efforts to bolster ties between Orthodox Christians and Catholics in Eastern Europe, Pope Francis arrived in Bucharest on Friday, the 31st of May 2019. It is the start of a three-day pilgrimage to majority-Orthodox Romania — the first papal visit since John Paul II in 1999.
After having been welcomed at Otopeni Airport by the country’s president, Klaus Iohannis, the Pope was driven through the capital where crowds lined the streets to see his motorcade.
During his trip, Pope Francis will celebrate mass at country’s most famous Marian shrine, Sumuleu Ciuc, in Eastern Transylvania and is scheduled to beatify seven Greek-Catholic bishops who were martyred during communist rule, when Catholics were brutally persecuted.
He will also meet the patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church in the latest of his foreign trips to Christian countries where Catholics are a minority.
“I’m coming to you to walk together,” Francis said in a video message released on the eve of his visit.
Fr. Proclu Nicău was born on the 13th of November 1928. The hermit died on the 28th of January 2017, at the age of 88. Fr. Proclu Nicău, one of Romania’s most significant Orthodox Elders, lived in a humble monastic cell near the forest, in the Mitocul Bălan village, in the Crăcăoani township, in the Neamţ county. The blue-eyed priest, short, but with an ascending mind, spoke holy words that he had been granted through ceaseless prayers, not taken from books or studies.
He was a hieromonk from the age of 13, when he entered the Sihăstria monastery. He had obedient, humble and loving from the beginning. His birth (layman) name was Gheorghe Nicău.
Thus, while he was a brother at the monastery, young Gheorghe Nicău’s mustache used to grow longer (bushier) than his beard and because of this, some of the monks used to make fun of him. He went and complained about this issue to Fr. Macarie, an Elder who lived in asceticism alongside Fr. Cleopa. Then he received the following piece of advice: “If the brothers laugh at you, do the same. Laugh together with them, at your own expense, but don’t laugh at them because if you do, you will lose.” By doing so, he made the brothers humble themselves and the temptation disappeared.
The humble brother Gheorghe Nicău was part of the group of young monks that had been sent by the Patriarch at the Slatina monastery with the purpose of reinvigorating the monastic life in the old monastery. Here, he grew under the guidance of Fr. Cleopa Ilie. In the community of the Slatina monastery, brother Gheorghe Nicău lived for eight years and here he received his monastic tonsure receiving the name Proclu.
When he was dragged out of the monastery by representatives of the Communist Party, Fr. Proclu was sent to work the land (n.a. to work the land of the country was something that the Communists often forced persecuted members of the clergy to do). When he heard the reason for which he had been forced to leave of the monastery, the monk boldly asked: “Why don’t you stop the abortions, so that there may be people to work the land?”. As punishment, the Communists shaved off his beard and hit him over the head.
Later, the Holy Father from the Sihăstria monastery called them back into the community, but the 410 Decree would prevent him from returning. Together with him, many monks were forced to return into the world. For this reason, Fr. Proclu Nicău headed for the Mitocu Bălan village from the Crăcăoani township, where his parental heritage was.
Once arrived at his birthplace, Fr. Proclu withdrew himself in a poor cell, as humble as it was quiet, not far away from the woodside. The priest’s eremitic cell, a wooden room built by himself, resided on a wooden hill, at the feet of the Neamţ mountains. His sister, Georgeta, lived slightly to the north. When he was 82 years old, Fr. Proclu had lived in the cell for almost 50 years.
However, the more he tried to isolate himself from the world, the more the world sought him. Thus, even if the road to his cell is a toilsome one, even though it branches off from the main road that connects the cities of Piatra Neamţ and Târgu Neamţ, it had been walked by many believers, some eager to receive a blessing, others seeking advice, and others perhaps only out of curiosity.
On the locked door of the cell it said: “Please, don’t knock. I’m old and ill.” Nevertheless, the priest almost always used to soften up when he heard the persistent requests of some of the believers who sought spiritual solace and blessing.
When asked why he had chosen to live an eremitic life, far away from society, Fr. Proclu humbly answered: “‘Cause I’m stupid, I have a small mind. ‘Cause if I had a bigger mind, I should stay among people! Truth to say, someone has an animal and they keep it locked up. And someone else asks them why they keep it locked up. «Cause it’s intractable. It bucks.», they’d say. My trick is that I have observed the Holy Fathers and even Christ.”
Fr. Proclu Nicău testified about himself: “I’m with one foot in the grave and with one on the shore. This is all I need: to keep my mouth shut and pray for everyone. Many people come to me. Some leave complacently, it’s a pleasure to talk to them, it’s as if they were filled with the grace of God. With others, it’s more difficult. I don’t give advices. Want to know why? There are plenty of people out there who can give advices: The Church, the spiritual directors, the Holy Ones. I don’t take notice to the fact that the person might have been a member of any particular political party, that they might have belonged to another religion. This is the way I pray for everyone: «God, help them get to Paradise, for if I pray for everyone The Good Lord will receive me too.» I ask those who come to see me to add me to the diptych, to the Holy Liturgies and to the Eucharist.”
Father Protosyncellus Gherontie Puiu was one of the most representative Romanian Orthodox priests of the past half a century. The founder of the Caraiman monastery, which is situated at the feet of the Caraiman mountain, in the Buşteni resort, near the river Prahova, Fr. Gherontie spent his later years in a humble cell within the monastery.
Fr. Gherontie Puiu was born in 1933, in Todireşti, not far away from Paşcani. His mother died at birth in the hospital of Ruginoasa, his father had abandoned his family some time before his birth, and the midwife who helped deliver him, thinking that the baby would not survive, abandoned him in a washing bowl among the trash piles on the shore of a nearby river. A woman from the village, who was passing by, having discovered the child, felt compassion and decided to take him home. He was adopted by the woman and her husband (Puiu Petrache), named “Gheorghe” and raised with love as if he was their own child.
When World War II started, Ilie Petrache, the family’s eldest son, was drafted. Around this time, the child (Gheorghe) had a dream. A young woman appeared to him in the dream, dressed in shining monastic clothes (later identified as the Holy Blessed Virgin Mary) and told him that he would be protected and that his father would return home after a a long period spent in captivity. The child didn’t understand this word, but he took it to heart. After almost twelve years, time during which he had been a war prisoner in Russia, brother Ilie returned home. After having married, Ilie adopted Gheorghe when the latter was almost 20 years old. It was also around that age that Gheorghe was baptized.
The priest recalled said moment in later interviews and writings: “When I put on the fiery clothes of the Baptism, I felt like another person. I was overwhelmed by an immeasurable joy, one which I was attempting to understand. While exiting the holy place, on the porch steps, I saw that wonderful being once again. She was standing near the gate and looking me straight in the eyes. No one but me could see her! This time it wasn’t a dream, but a real apparition. She spoke to me, with a heavenly voice: Have faith and go to the monastery. I will guide you. You are chosen for a mission. The ageless Reverend Mother (nun) had the most beautiful face I had ever gazed upon. Starting from that moment I understood that it was the Holy Mother Of God.”
Straight away, young Gheorghe embraced the monastic life, becoming an apprentice of Father Pâslaru, the Reverend Father from the Neamţ Monastery. Until the year 1959, the young man was a mere monk, as the Communist regime prohibited monastic tonsures. After 1959, when many monks were taken out of monasteries, brother Gherontie (a.n.: he had changed his name from Gheorghe to Gherontie, a common practice in Orthodox monasticism) had managed to flee by using the window as an escape route. Later, having been caught by the Communist secret police officers, he was sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor in the concentration camp in Periprava.
From the Periprava camp, Fr. Gherontie escaped once more, with the help of a brigadier, who sent him to Tulcea, so that he may find it easier to get away. The Father recalled that moment as follows: “While I was on a pretty crowded street, I thought I saw the Holy Mother Of God on the other sidewalk. I heard her voice very clearly: Start walking right this moment, cross the street and get inside the truck. Truly, a large car stopped, without me having hailed or anything. He got off the car in Timişul de Sus, from where he hiked towards the Bucegi mountains’ upland. There, he spent ten years in self-imposed austerity, taking refuge in a cave, praying and fasting.
While living as a hermit, looking up at the cross at the top of the Caraiman peak, the Father made a promise to the Mother Of God – that he would build a monastery in her honor. The Father recalls this: “I swore to the Holy Mother Of God that, if I were to return into the world safely, I would build a monastery dedicated to the Ascension Of The Holy Cross; from its yard people will be able to see the cross at the top of the Caraiman mountain peak.”
In 1970, after ten years of living as a hermit, Fr. Gherontie returned home. Meanwhile, having assumed that he had died, his (adoptive) mother had made a grave in his memory and had prepared the traditional Orthodox memorial services for him.
After 1989, Fr. Gherontie returned to the Neamţ monastery, where he received his monastic tonsure and entered the Seminary of Theology despite the fact that his previous education consisted of only elementary school. Then, in 1992, after having served as a deacon for a week, he was ordained a priest. He served the required forty Holy Liturgies in the Neamţ monastery, after which he was sent to serve in the Baiceni skit, where he was promoted to Reverend Father (abbot).
In 1995, while he was sitting in the confessional, at the Cetăţuia monastery in Iaşi, Fr. Gherontie suffered a stroke, falling down due to temporary paralysis. After being taken to the Tătăraşi hospital, the priest often heard the Holy Mother’s voice telling him: You have one more toll-house. After three months, the priest was sent to a sanatorium in Sinaia. According to the tests and investigations they performed on him, the medical team concluded that he would need several years to make a full recovery.
However, the priest stayed only one day in the Sinaia sanatorium. The Holy Mother Of God appeared to Him and told him: I’ve brought you here with a mission! Remember that! Rise, for you are not sick! After she said those words three times, The Holy Mother added: You will find a fir with six branches near a stream, on a land from where the great Cross, at which you made the oath, can be seen. That’s where you have to build the monastery! The next day, getting out of bed, the priest could move freely, without any sign of paralysis.
After much research, the mayor of Buşteni told the priest that he can offer him some space in the Palanca glade. A fir with six branches was in the middle of the glade and the Cross at the top of the Caraiman peak could be seen from there in all its beauty. The Holy Mother Of God showed the priest that that was indeed the correct spot and that he should build the promised monastery there.
In 1996, the priest first build a wooden house in the glade, then a small church. With God’s mercy and the Holy Mother’s intercession, Fr. Gherontie Puiu built a great, beautiful monastery there. The priest used to teach everyone who came seeking his advice to say the following prayer:
Lord, bring all my enemies back to goodness and prayer! Amen.
This prayer was revealed to him on a piece of paper in a night. The story of how it was revealed to him is told in the following video, which I have translated in English below:
“One night, I woke up with a small piece of paper in my hand. I never found out who wrote it and how I came into its possession. It was written on a regular piece of paper, but the writing was not very legible. I could hardly understand what it said, as if it had been written with Chinese characters. After I managed to decipher it, I realized that it contained a prayer. This one: God, bring all my enemies back to goodness and prayer! Amen. It also said that it should be said in faith 30 times a day, for 40 days, and that it would grant any wish to the person who does so. Please, all of you who have any kind of troubles, say this prayer 30 times a day for 40 days, and the Holy Mother Of God will accomplish miracles.”
This is a short Christian prayer that I have found on a Romanian website and decided to translate into English because I particularly liked it. May it help bring those who read it closer to God and grant them His great mercy.
Lord, forgive me. Do not judge me according to my weakness and wickedness, but rather according to Your kindness. I have sinned like a human. Forgive me like the God that You are.
( translated from Romanian into English by Lucian Hodoboc )
This is a prayer written by Romanian Orthodox monk, theologian and artist Arsenie Boca. It was received from Gheorghe Moraru and Mother Eftimia Ciungan from the Hurezu Monastery. The current version was partially translated into English by Lucian Hodoboc.
Lord Jesus Christ, help me deny myself today, all throughout the day, for who knows what trifles will cause me to create great dissension, and thus, tending to myself, I might lose You.
Lord Jesus Christ, help me so that the the prayer of Your Most Holy name might work within my mind more than the lightning in the sky, so that not even the shadow of evil thoughts might obfuscate me, for here I am, sinning all the time.
Lord, You Who among people come in secret, have mercy on us, for we walk stumbling through the darkness. The passions have covered the eyes of the mind with ooze, forgetfulness has solidified itself inside of us like a wall, hardening our hearts inside of us, and all of these have built the prison in which we keep You sick, hungry and without clothes, thus wasting away our days, in gloom and bowed down to the dust.
Lord, You who come among people in secret, have mercy on us and put fire to the prison, ignite the love in our hearts and shine light within our souls. Lord, You who come in secret among people, have mercy on us, come dwell within us, together with the Father and Your Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit prays for us with unspoken sighs when our words and our minds remain powerless.
Lord, You who come in secret, have mercy on us, for we do not realize how unaccomplished we are and how close You are to our souls and how much we distance ourselves through our sins.
Do shine Your light over us so that we may see the light through Your eyes, so that we may live forever through Your life. Our Light and our Joy, praise Thee! Amen.