Modern missioner: father Gabriel Vuckovic
His first interview for “News” was 11 years ago. Archimandrite Gabriel Vuckovic, Abbot of the monastery Lepavina, came with the invitation of the Bishop Constantine to the church of St. John Vladimir in Munich, to confessed clergy of the Diocese of Central Europe during the Great Lent. The reason for this conversation was the growing number of testimonies of his healing prayers before the Miraculously Working Icon of the Holy Theotokos of Lepavina.
The most echoing was the testimony of one mother, whose son was officer of the peace keepers’ troops with the center in Zagreb at that time. He heard the stories about Miraculous Working Icon. When Western medicine could not find cure for his mother, she looked and found salvation in the monastery Lepavina. As gratitude, she sent donation for reconstruction of the monastery, with the testimony in the American press. So, the story about monastery Lepavina and Abbot, Archimandrite Gabriel, was heard on another continent.
This was known about father Gabriel at that time. This was known about someone who, as a young boy Bora, was born in a patriarchal family, in a village Duboka, near Kučevo, and who always wanted to become a monk. In 1961, when he was 16, he went to monastery. When he was 20, he took his monastic vow on Eastern Saturday, in monastery Rakovica. Before he came to monastery Lepavina, he lived in several monasteries in Serbia, from monastery Tuman to Decane, and also 13 years on the Mount Athos.
Radio Blagovesti reached India
Former hermit from Mount Athos today is the most famous Orthodox cyber cleric. Monk for whom is said to have a lot of spiritual children, scattered across the earth. This year, when he celebrates fifty years of his monastic life, father Gabriel communicates with 12,500 friends on Facebook and more than 1,000 friends on Skype program. First and second book named “Spiritual conversations” are written from those communications.
Majority of the people, with whom Archimandrite Gabriel speaks over the Internet, are young, between 25 and 34 years of age, mostly females.
They are calling from different parts of the world. No matter where they are, people are tormented by same or similar problems. All those who belong to father Gabriel’s virtual family now, searched for spiritual reliance and support. As he said, he offers advices, but he does not impose them, since everyone must act according to his/her own conscience.
I found the guide in words of spiritual fathers of our church, who advised monks to leave their hermitages and caves, to come out, to help and to guide people - those who are weak in faith not to give up, and those who are strong to be even stronger,” explains Archimandrite Gabriel his transformation from Athonite monk, who used to practice the silence, into well known cyber clergy. – Some have accepted me with approval and good wishes, some with astonishment, but some with ridicule. Serious people mostly showed surprise, and those who ridiculed, I think, were little envious.
Internet radio Blagovesti has been broadcasted on the website of monastery Lepavina every day; from 9PM to 10PM. Father Gabriel reads the Akathist to the Holy Theotokos, gives sermon and plays spiritual music. One, very unusual case, has shown that his achievements are huge.
Archimandrite Gabriel and Patriarch Irinei
“Our site does not have local boundaries. Our internet Radio Blagovesti can be heard in all parts of the world. Here is one interesting example. Everything which is broadcasted on the radio is saved in archive, and can be listened again at any time. We were contacted by a Hindu, from India. He wrote in English and said that one morning he went to his work and in his pocket he had some electronic device. I do not know what kind of device it was, but he found internet radio Blagovesti on it. At the beginning of the program, I read the Akathist to the Holy Theotokos. He listened and it had a beneficial effect on him. In that letter he said: “I did not understand a word, but within my heart and soul I felt something beautiful, something that brought some indescribable peace.” He wrote that when he came to the workplace, colleagues noticed a change in him. They felt calmness; he was not nervous because of the morning rush; during which everyone becomes tense because no one knows if they will arrive to work at time. He did not understand anything but he received a peace from the words of prayer he heard. Well, that’s an example of spiritual benefit through these modern technologies, primarily Internet,” testifies in his story Archimandrite Gabriel.
“Archimandrite Gabriel has been a Chilandariou monk for a long time, he was monk in Montenegro, and now, he lives in monastery Lepavina, in Croatia. This monastery is actually one prayerful gathering and many people, from all over the world, come for spiritual strengthening to the monastery Lepavina and seek spiritual advices from father Gabriel. It is interesting that he uses the Internet since it emerged and in that way he communicates with thousands of people from all over the world, and responds to spiritual matters and spiritual problems of many people,” said bishop Porphyrius.
Synod of Serbian Orthodox Church elected him to pull out the one of the three candidates from the envelope, one who will become the new Serbian Patriarch. “That words of public support, which Bishop Porphyrius as a commentator during the live broadcast of enthronement of Patriarch Irinei in the Cathedral Church pronounced, gave me even more will, and I think that it should be stimulus to other fathers, to embrace technological advances and to use them in spreading the Orthodox faith,” he would say later.
Abbot of the monastery Lepavina has 12,500 friends on the “Facebook”
“Father Gabriel is in the public quite unusual monk, because he is one of the first who exploited modern technology to missionary purposes. Thanks to the internet missionary work, he became Sheppard of a large flock, scattered across the entire planet. In regular communication with his spiritual children and believers around the world he offers consolations, encouragement, hope; he offers spiritual advices to everybody, he answers to everyday’s concerns, whether we are in Belgrade, London, Banja Luka, Skopje, Sremski Karlovci, Rome, Athens, or New York…he suggests solutions and helps in every situation, doing everything in order that we become better people and truly believing Christians”…this is written in one of his many congratulatory letters, on the monastery Lepavina website.
Commenting on his half century long monastic path, he is surprised. He never dreamed in his dreams that he would do what he is doing now, that in this way he would communicate with people around the world. At first, he little complained, fearing that that “box” may disturb his prayer rule. Blessing of His Eminance, Metropolitan John, who wisely saw the great possibilities of the Internet, was at the same time obedience, and the Abbot and the brotherhood began to learn, to the joy and spiritual benefit of those who are already friends and those who will become that on the Facebook and are members of the rapidly growing father Gabriel’s virtual family.
The life story
On the radio Slovo Ljubve, which belongs to the Archdiocese of Belgrad and Karlovci (107.3 MHz), on October 30th, at 7 PM, during the program “Little Church”, Archimandrite Gabriel Vuckovic will talk that he learned about the faith in the family, that as a child he dreamed to go to the monastery, and he went to monastery when he was 16; he would recall how he was welcomed in the monastery and what was his first obedience.
Autor: Miroslava Grujic-Pavlovic
Translated from Serbian by prof Bojana Popovic