MY LONG LASTING WISH WAS FULFILLED
(to become novice in the monastery. I was overjoyed and happy – says archimandrite Gabriel,
Abbot of the monastery Lepavina, who recalls his departure to the monastery and days of his childhood)
My uncle Dragan thought me about faith and life in God, but motivation and role model to me was my second uncle Seraphim, in monastic, monk Pachomius. Both of them were brothers of my mother.
Later example to me was my aunt, nun Ephrosinia. My mother’s family was faithful; to say, they were practical believers. They kept all fasts, Wednesday and Friday, and regularly went to church on Sundays and holidays. If all of us could not go, at least one from the house would go to church every Sunday. Everyone would confess and take communion. That was in my mother’s family. My father’s family was ceremonial believers. So, we celebrated our Patron feasts St. Mother Paraskevi and St. Archangel Michael, we received the priest in the house for Easter consecration of the water as well as for the patron Saint’s day,” say archimandrite Gabriel for the radio “Slovo Ljubve,” and adds that his birth was expected with concern.
“I said that patron Saint of our house was St. Mother Paraskevi, but something strange happened, even though not without will of God and His providence.
My father’s family is not a native in the village of Duboka, where I was born, but they bought house and land and moved from the village Doljasnica, which is 50 kilometers away to village Duboka. People from whom my family bought the house were celebrating patron saint day St. Archangel Michael. My family was used to life in the new environment: my great-grandfather Janko, my great grandmother Rumenka, grandfather Stanoje, grandmother Mirjana and father Dusan. At that time, my father was mature enough and as a young man, he got married. With his first wife he was not long in marriage; they had one child, who died.
Father Dusan and mother Dusanka
Then, he married my mother. They got daughter Mirjana, but she died shortly after birth. Later, they got son Krsta, but he also died. My father and mother were very worried because their children were dying; they worried if they will have offspring. Then, again, mother remained in blessed condition, she was carrying me. They feared if I will stay alive when I get born.
“It happened that the day before holiday of St. Archangel Michael my great grandfather Janko and great grandmother Rumenka prepared oxen and oxcart for the path to go and visit someone from the family for the patron saint day of St. Archangel Michael in Doljasnica, from where they moved to village Duboka. In the evening, they fed the oxen because they had to start the trip early in the morning. They planned to get the same day to the house for the patron saint’s day. Great grandfather went to sleep so he would be able to wake up early for the trip. Beautiful young man appeared in his dreams and he told him not to go to patron Saint’s day, but to stay at home, to prepare cake and candle, and to celebrate St. Archangel Michael as a Parton Saint’s day, so children of my father, when they get born, will stay alive.
FotografijaMunicipal building in the village Duboka, father Gabriel was baptized there (because there was no church in the village at that time). Baptism was performed by priest Petar Jovanovic
My mother was then in a blessed condition (pregnant), I was supposed to be born. Great grandfather had listened that young man who appeared in his dreams and from that day another patron Saint was celebrated in our home. I was born and I am still alive; I have 67 years. My mother died young, and my father married for a third time, and the third wife had two children, a daughter and a son, who are both alive and healthy.
Nenad Badovinac, stepmother Dušanka, stepbrother Ljubisav and his wife
My father died in 1958, but stepmother is still alive and healthy. She is 80 years old. She was good with me when I was little; I remember only good things about her. She is living now with my stepbrother Ljubisav, who is married and who lives in the house where my stepsister, he and I were born. This story was told to me by my grandmother and my aunt, the wife of my uncle, mother’s brother, many times,” father Gabriel shares interesting story with his listeners.
Uncle educated us
“Even as a child, when I went to visit my mother’s family, uncle Dragan taught other children and me a small catechesis, the best he knew. He constantly was reading the Holy Gospel and spiritual texts, mostly from the “Missionary”, issued by the Christian community in Kragujevac and from the book “Lives of the Saints’ girls.” This book, which was in the format of small pad, he read also to us, children, and then, I would read it alone.
To my childish soul uncle’s stories about second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Final judgment was the most striking. He said that when this happen, it will be the end of the world, which will disappear through fire, as it happened at the time of righteous Noah, when the world was destroyed in the great flood. God has allowed a flood because people sinned a lot, but Noah was righteous and because of that God has left him to live. He was saved because he obeyed God, who told him to make a huge ark, to enter it with his family, and to bring inside all kind of animals – male and female – and then to close the ark, so it does not have opening through which water would enter. The second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ will happen suddenly, without warning. He will be accompanied with many Angels. The Lord will carry the banner with the Cross on it. That will be on Sunday. The Lord will come early in the morning, in the sunrise, to make judgment on the living and the dead. Those who died before us will come to life, so that human kind will be judged together. Those who are righteous will go to Heaven, in eternal blessing, where Angels sing, and sinners will go to eternal torment, to be with the devils in eternal fire.
My uncle thought us to be good and obedient, not to perform sins, to keep away from all that is wrong, not to lie and steal, not to smoke and curse. And he said that we should never mention the name of the devil. I remembered those lessons and I tried to act according to them.
Members of the Christian Prayer Movement from Neresnica: brother Dobroslav, brother Zdravko, brother Georgije and brother Dragan (uncle Dragan)
Uncle was tough with me, being careful that I do not violate anything he thought us. This rigor was because he was a little suspicious about me; he thought that I may learn to smoke cigarettes, because my father smoked and was drinking a little. Therefore, he preordered sanctions, and that was that I should not come to play with his children. My uncle had two sons and daughter, the older son was the same age as I, he is reposed now, and the other son is two years younger than me and he is priest now in his native village. The daughter was the youngest, but she passed away. Uncle disciplined them, cared about them and we, children, tried our best to be good, obedient, because he was a person with authority for us. So, my uncle Dragan was a teacher,” recalls Archimandrite Gabriel the memory of his closest relatives, talks about faith and his childhood dreams.
Reflection on monasticism
“When thinking about monasticism, my second uncle Seraphim was a role model to me. When he was tonsured, he received a new name Pachomius. I did not know him, he reposed when he was young, and I was still little to remember him. My cousins told me that he went to monastery. Without knowledge of my grandfather, still young, he went in monastery Tuman, and he did not go alone. He went together with his neighbor, good friend, whose name was Philip.
Those two went together with a desire to become novices. They were received in the monastery, but they did not stay for a long time, because my grandfather, when he found out where they were, immediately went to the monastery and returned them home. Uncles stayed at home for a while and then again return to the monastery, this time without his companion Philip, and again my grandfather came to take him back home. Just at that time, my uncle got a call to the army. He left, but even there, he did not stay for a long time. At one military practice, at night, during rain, he was all wet and he got cold. He got a fever and became sick from tuberculosis. When disease progressed, and doctors saw that he could not be cured, they called my grandfather to come, to pick him up, and to take him home. My grandfather took him, he was so ill, and when they saw that he would not live for a long time, my grandfather went to the monastery Tuman, to the Abbot and brotherhood and he said to them what happened. He said that my uncle is on his deathbed. Now, I am not sure if it was the uncle’s desire to be tonsured before death or Abbot proposed it; I assume it was uncle’s wish. Abbot of the monastery, father Petar, along with several other monks came to the house, where my uncle was tonsured and where he got his monastic name Pachomius. After that, my uncle lived for another seven days and he reposed. Burial was in our cemetery, not at the monastery, probably because then it was not possible, there was no means of transportation at that time as today. Later, his bones were taken to the manstery Tuman.
Nun Ephrosinia with father Gabriel and priest Aleksa Simeunovic ( seminarian at that time) in the monastery Decani in 1967.
When a year passed from his death, my aunt Petrija, without the knowledge of my grandfather, went to the monastery to become novice. Later, in monasticism, she got the name Ephrosinia. She was in a nunnery for a long time, and later, due to health reason, she transferred to monastery Tuman. She passed away three year ago, and was buried in the same monastic graveyard where my uncle was buried.
Grave of nun Ephrosinija at the monastery Tuman
As an eleven year old boy, while I listened those stories about my uncle, monk Pachomius, I felt that I want to become monk as well. But I strictly kept that desire in me; I did not revealed it to anyone until I left to the monastery,” said archimandrite Gabriel.
“At the end of April 1961, it was a Wednesday morning. A secret that I strictly kept in me, desire to go to the monastery, was revealed. Several days before Great Lent, I left the house in which I was born, I left my stepmother, stepbrother and stepsister and I went to the house of my mother’s family. I went to the house of my cousins with whom I spent my childhood.
It was somewhere around noon when I left my home and my stepmother was walking after me, with intention to return me home. But I was faster than her. She got a bit tired and with tears in her eyes she returned home. She thought she did something to me when I left them so suddenly, but she did not know that it was my path without return for this world, for wife and children, for family and home.
Lord has guided me to another path, to the path of obedience, poverty and celibacy, to the monastic path of soul salvation. I wanted, with God’s help, to fulfill at least a bit of what I have read countless times in the “Lives of Saints’ girls”, and to follow the example of my uncle , monk Pachomius, and my aunt, nun Ephrosina, who have been my role models in determination to go to the monastery.
I arrived at the house of my grandfather. As I often visited them they thought I would stay with them as usual, a little bit, and then I would return home. Few days passed, they did not ask me anything, nor I said to them anything. We were speechless. I have started to cooperate in their daily life and so it had been for almost a month. Uncle’s wife begun to complain quietly, but they did not tell me to return home. Since I was not 18 years old, they did not dare to keep me in the family, but they decided that grandfather would take me under his guardianship. He took me to Kucevo, in one office, and there, they told me that he would be my guardian until I become 18. However, I was only interested to stay a little bit longer with my cousins, uncle’s sons, because we always got along beautifully. I know that the goodbye will be the end of our friendship forever.
Once, early in the morning, about 4 AM, my grandmother and aunt woke up and sat next to oil lamp to spin the wool. At the village we all slept in one room at that time, and since I woke up early I was laying in the bed and I was listening to their conversation. My grandma was silent and was spinning the wool, but my aunt was talking restlessly how it would be the best for me to get married as soon as possible and leave them. She was frightened that I may gain the right to inheritance, which I had after the death of my mother, so because of it, my status in the house had to be resolved as soon as possible. That was on Friday, and already on Sunday morning a woman, dressed formally, came in the house. I could see, they were sitting and talking, and my family prepared everything as they were welcoming important guests. When they were finished, they called me to tell me something. I was standing in front of their small Sunday assembly and was waiting to see what they want to tell me, but I already knew that it was “surprise.” Some of them told me nicely and cuddly, but with the touch of pity: “See, this woman came because she heard for you and your situation; she heard that you are good and quiet. She has a daughter who is same age as you are, and she is willing to merry you for her only daughter and that you go and live with them. She came to see you, so if you agree, we will go the next week to their house so you may meet the girl and she meets you. If we agree, then you shall stay at their house.” I just kept silent, and when they told me what they had to say, I just turned and left. I did not say anything, and woman return home without her son in low”, says Archimandrite Gabriel about most important events in his life, which took him to the monastery, his new home.
The day for which I waited a long time
I stayed in my grandfather’s house for few more days, and on Saturday I took my purse and left with things I had on me. I did not tell them where I planed to go. I went to my cousins, to devoted believers, mother and daughter, who will later become nuns. I spent few days with them, and I did not tell them anything about my intentions. On Sunday, I went to the church in Kucevo, to the Holy Liturgy, and returned again to their house, to stay with them until Wednesday. During that time, I read holy Gospel and spiritual books they had. When Wednesday came - the day I would always remember. During breakfast, I told my cousin that I am going forever to a monastery and that I plan to go to monastery Tuman. It was surprise and astonishment for her, but for me it was the joy because the day for which I waited so long, finally came. My cousin name was Dusanka and her daughter was Slavka, and later, when I was in the monastery almost 10 years, both went to monastery Manasija, where they were tonsured. Dušanka got the new monastic name Mary and she is reposed. Slavka was named Irina, and still lives in the monastery Manasija.
After breakfast, they prepared me something for the trip, a little lean food, which I put into my bag and I headed for the monastery Tuman. It was around 10 AM, I had to walk through hills and valleys. It was a long path; it took me almost all day. I walked slowly step by step. At the evening, I arrived in the monastery Tuman.
In the twilight, I sew father Simeon, who was taking care of the pigs. I greeted him and I took his blessing; he was hieromonk. I asked him where is father Michael, the Abbot of the monastery. He answered me that he is doing something in the mill. I went to father Michael to say that I came and to take his blessing. He asked me where I am coming from and who I am. I said that I am grandson of brother Marinko, from Neresnica, who is my grandfather. Father Michael knew my grandfather, since he was coming to the monastery when members of the Christian Prayer Movement were gathering together, but he could not recall him immediately. At the first time, I said that I came to sleep over, but on my way to the monastery I told him that I came to become novice. Close to us was father Simeon who said: “It has been long time, we waited for you.”
The old mill
The vigil was over, and after dinner I got a cell. I was overjoyed and happy; my long lasting wish, to become novice in the monastery Tuman, where my uncle Seraphim, later monk Pachomius, came, was fulfilled . There were bed, table and one chair in the cell, and on the wall above the bed was the icon of St Sava , as a young monk, which was printed on the paper in the black and white technique. It was a reproduction of the artist Uros Predic- That night I almost did not sleep because I was overjoyed. It is said that monk, whenever he has temptation, should remember the joy he felt the first night he spent in the monastery, and temptation will disappear.
At 4 AM the klepalo was calling to Matins. After breakfast, everyone worked on his obediance. At that time, monastery Tuman was a male monastery. There were hieromonk, Abbot Michael , hieromonk Seraphim, monk Andrej, Great Schima nun Evgenija, and nun Seraphima, who was Abbes of the monastery, said archimandrite Gabriel, Abbot of the monastery Lepavina, who spoke about his entrance into monastery during our program “Little Church” for radio “Slovo Ljubve.”
Ljiljana Sindjelic Nikolic
Translated from Serbian by prof Bojana Popovic