Memory Eternal: Archimandrite Roman Braga
RIVES JUNCTION, MI [OCA] Archimandrite Roman [Braga], 93, of the Monastery of the Holy Dormition here fell asleep in the Lord shortly before midnight on the evening of Tuesday, April 28, 2015.
Father Roman was born in Condrita, Bessarabia on April 2, 1922, the last of seven children born to Cosma and Maria Braga. Raised by a devout Orthodox mother and in close proximity to the Monastery of Condrita, he grew up in an Orthodox Christian environment. During his formative years, he had the living example of his mother, who imprinted on her children the virtues of Christian life. He often recalled how his mother attended lengthy services at the monastery in his childhood and how sleepy and tired he would become, yet he always was at her side. These formative years laid the foundation for the strict discipline of his entire life that served him to the very last day of his life.
At the age of seven, he entered grade school in his native village. Five years later, he was sent to the Caldarusani Monastery near Bucharest, Romania, from which he was sent to the Monastic Seminary of Cernica, also near the Romanian capital, where he formed life-long friendships with some of Romania’s greatest future spiritual fathers. It was there that he met Fathers Sofian Boghiu, Felix Dubneac, Benedict Ghius, Grigore Babus, and Gratian Radu. Later, he would spend time in prison with some of them, reuniting with them years later in the US.
In 1942, he returned to the Seminary of Chisinau, Bessarabia and began simultaneous studies at the Theological Institute, the School of Letters and Philosophy and the Pedagogic Institute in Bucharest. In 1947, he graduated Magna cum Laude from the Theological Institute, receiving the Certificate of Professor of the Romanian Language and Theology. The following year, he entered the Doctoral program at the Institute of Theology in Bucharest. However, he was unable to continue his studies as he was arrested in the summer of 1948 and spent the year under interrogation, being accused of belonging to an anti-Semitic movement. He was detained in Bucharest at the Jilava prison and then sent to Pitesti, notorious for conducting brainwashing experiments, where he was placed in solitary confinement. In 1951, he was sent to the labor camp in the Danube Delta, from which he was released under parole in the summer of 1953. He then relocated in Iasi, where his sister, Mother Benedicta, was a nun.
He was tonsured to monastic rank in January 1954 and ordained to the diaconate the following week at the Iasi Metropolia, where he was permitted to remain until 1959, although under surveillance by the Secrete Services. During this time he served daily at the Metropolia and sang in the choir. He also conducted theological sessions at the Medical School and other universities, discussing the practice of the Prayer of the Heart and interpreting the Philokalia for the students. This led to his second arrest and another year of interrogation in 1959. Unsure of what kind of accusations to bring against him, the regime accused him, along with 15 others, of participating in the “Burning Bush” movement. As a result, he was sentenced to 18 years of forced labor.
From 1959 until 1964, he spent time in various concentration camps in the Danube Delta. Under pressure from the West, he was released in 1964 after the Amnesty General decree freed all political prisoners in Romania. Later that year, he was ordained to the priesthood at the Episcopate of Oradea and, on January 1, 1965, installed as parish priest in a village in northern Romania, where he organized a 100-voice children’s choir, and a Sunday School. The authorities did not look favorably on his ministry, and two years later, he was transferred secretly to another parish. Being considered an “unwanted element” by the communist government, the Patriarchate subsequently sent him as a missionary to Brazil. In 1972, after four years of ministry in Sao Paulo, Brazil, he was invited by His Eminence, the late Archbishop Valerian [Trifa] of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America to relocate to the US, where for the next five years he translated Romanian liturgical music into English, pursued the development of religious education programs for children, and served on the committee that translated Romanian religious texts to English. He also served in many parishes across the US and Canada. On the Great Feast of the Annunciation in 2015, His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel, on behalf of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, presented the Order of Saint Romanos to Father Roman in recognition of his work in the field of liturgical music. [See related article].
In 1979, he was assigned parish priest at Holy Trinity Church, Youngstown, OH, and was reassigned to Saint George Cathedral, Southfield, MI in 1982. The following year, he was transferred to the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration, Ellwood City, PA, where he served as priest and spiritual father until 1988, at which time he retired to the Monastery of the Dormition of the Mother of God, Rives Junction, MI, where he remained for the remainder of his life. His years at Dormition Monastery were filled with the complete cycle of liturgical services, counseling, teaching and pastoral ministry. Up until the past two years of his life, he never missed a service, and he maintained his prayer rule intact—rising at 2:00 a.m., reading morning prayers, and preparing to be in church at 5:00 a.m. sharp every day. He maintained much of this schedule even after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, until he no longer had the strength to do so. However, he never missed a Divine Liturgy, for which he always prepared in advance, regardless of how tired he may have been. His spiritual children were—and are—many, and he never forgot any of them, even if he did not see them for many years.
Father Roman was confined to bed 10 days before his repose, yet he remained lucid and completely aware of his surroundings until the very end.
Father Roman will lie in state on Thursday, April 30, in the church at Dormition Monastery, where Vespers will be celebrated at 5:00 p.m., followed by the celebration of the Trisagion at 7:00 p.m., followed by Matins. The faithful are invited to offer their prayers and attend the services until the church is closed at the conclusion of Matins.
On Friday, May 1, visitation will begin at 6:00 a.m. The Divine Liturgy will be celebrated at 7:00 a.m., followed by the Funeral Service at 9:30 a.m. Interment will take place in the monastery cemetery, after which all are invited to partake of the mercy meal which, due to space limitations, will be held at the Rives Baptist Church, 2800 Barry Road, Rives Junction, MI. The monastery sisterhood has arranged for housing at the Hankered Inn, located five miles north of the monastery. Those desiring overnight accommodations will receive a reduced rate if they mention the monastery when calling 1-517-769-6153 when making reservations.
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May Father Roman’s memory be eternal!