Two days ago, I saw various reports online that Fr. Roman Braga is ill. He was the definitive influence on my life as a teen, and my confessor for many years. So, I went to YouTube to hear his voice again. There’s one documentary about his suffering for 11 years in Communist prisons, along with many other priests, intellectuals, and artists. Immediately, I perked up at the sound of his voice. At least for me, there is none other like it on this earth — no more perfect example of pure joy.
There are two kinds of spirituality in the Church, in my experience. Fr. Roman’s sister, Mother Benedicta, represented the first, and Fr. Roman the second. The first, the most common, is about struggle, warfare, asceticism. The second about love and joy — even in suffering.
Mother Benedicta used to pull me aside after Vespers, as we were walking in the nettle patch looking for good leaves to harvest. “We are fighting the demons here,” she would say, rubbing her hands and crinkling her nose. “It is easy, because Jesus has already won. The demons come here, looking around, and I grab them, and STOMP them like this,” she would exclaim, as she drove her black shoe into the wet dirt.
Fr. Roman, however, would simply exude joy. When he was in prison, someone smuggled in a New Testament. The prisoners divided it amongst themselves, each taking one book, so that they could memorize the text and then recite it to the group. Fr. Roman had been given the Gospel of St. John, the evangelist of love. Later in life, when I knew him, he would quote from that Gospel regularly, especially the discourse in John 15 about the vine and branches. He would also always quote from Galatians 2. For him, life was to be in Christ, and that was joy, pure joy, even in the Cross.
You can see some of that joy in the video embedded above, which features a documentary about the infamous prison of Pitești. It includes an extended interview with Fr. Roman.
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