Father Proclus, Carpathian Hermit

“Age eighty-four, the respected Romanian elder, Fr. Proclus (Niceu) is a hermit on the outskirts of a remote Carpathian village, where mobile phones do not work. He receives people in a small shed, in which there are two long benches, a table to match them, a hefty barrel containing treats for guests, and a wall completely covered with icons. Appearing most often amongst them is the image of St. Seraphim of Sarov, and those who know and love the elder often compare him to that saint. He really is that joyful and loving, and the cap that kept sliding over his forehead is very similar to the one you’ll see in Diveyevo amongst the personal items of a saint so dear to every Orthodox Christian. Fr. Proclus is happy to see every soul who comes to visit him. He can speak with them for hours, and the love that he emanates makes you forget within ten minutes about the minus 12 degree centigrade temperature in the cell (it was just as cold outside).
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Under the communists, when Romania was ruled by Ceausescu’s predecessor, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, Fr. Proclus was called to military service. At the recruitment office, he was told that if he joins the army he would be given 1,000 lei up front, and a high paying job after service. They asked him how many years he had been in the monastery. Fr. Proclus answered, seven. Then they had him stand on the table, called in the other recruits, and asked him to tell them that there is no God. Fr. Proclus addressed those gathered around him with the words, “I was asked to tell you that there is no God. But that is not so: there is a God!” He had barely managed to say it when he found himself lying on the floor; he was severely beaten for his confession.
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When they began to expel monks from their monasteries in Romania, the communists came to Slatina and passed out forms to the brothers for them to fill out. One line stated, “I want to leave the monastery.” They tried to force Fr. Proclus to sign this form, but he answered that he was scandalized over these leaders; he thought that only simple people of the baser sort are capable of deceiving, but now it turns out that people in higher positions can, also. Then they ordered his beard shorn. The communists tried to cheer Fr. Proclus, saying that he should not grieve, but rather rejoice that he lost his beard and not his head. The communists advised Fr. Proclus to “keep a lock on his mouth, so that it would not send him to another place.” To make this insult more sensitive, they obligated the beardless Fr. Proclus to leave the monastery everyday over the following two weeks to check in at the police station in the city.
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One day, three men came to Fr. Proclus. He understood right away that they were educated men, and since he considered himself uneducated, he was not the first to begin a conversation. Wishing to test him with questions, the men waited to see how he would greet them. Thus, the elder and his inquirers looked at each other in silence. After what turned out to be a long time had passed, Fr. Proclus spoke first. “When I die, the demon will take me to hell, because if a man does not like how he lives, then neither will God.” Then one of the visitors said, “If the demon will take you to hell, then what can be said of us?!” In reply, Fr. Proclus advised them to find a spiritual father, and gave them instructions on spiritual life.

One day, Fr. Proclus left Slatina Monastery for the hills of Neamts, in order to live there as an anchorite. This was his first attempt to depart into stillness. None of the brothers knew whether he had a blessing for this from his spiritual father. Fr. Cleopa said that perhaps there was such a blessing, but if not, then Fr. Proclus will quickly return. That is just what happened. After three days, Fr. Proclus returned and related how he had only just built himself a hut on the edge of one forest meadow when a herd of fierce wild boar ran up to him. Out of his youth and inexperience, Fr. Proclus did not immediately perceive that demons were hiding under the appearance of boars. He grabbed a stick in order to beat them off as he ran. Then eight boars surrounded him, and, understanding that they were demons because of their vile appearance, Fr. Proclus began to scream at them out of fear. The boar-demons began to scream at him, and Fr. Proclus could not pray—he just stood with his mouth hanging open in surprise. Then one she-boar leapt at him and bit off his finger. Fr. Proclus could only think to himself that if the Lord saves him from these boars, then he will return to the monastery without fail. No sooner had he thought it than the boars left him, and Fr. Proclus heard a voice that asked him why he didn’t want to endure this attack and be torn to pieces by the demon, why didn’t he have obedience, and why did he leave the monastery? When he returned to the monastery, he showed everyone the bitten off finger, and told them what a lesson he had received.

One day, a certain monk came to Fr. Proclus and asked for a word of instruction for the abbot of his monastery. Fr. Proclus said, “If I preserve my mind, then they will call me Monk Proclus, but if not, they will call me pork.”

One day in Bucharest, Fr. Proclus was walking to church together with some of the faithful at whose home he had spent the previous night. The monk was dressed in secular clothing, and his friends even put a cap on his head. Their path took them through a crowded square, where there was a market. There they encountered a gypsy woman all smeared with pitch, from Yasi. She shouted at him, “Eh, you, bumpkin from Moldova! Why did you come to Bucharest? Why did you deck yourself up in a cap? Fall over right here!” The entire square gathered to watch this scandal.
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In Yasi, the Securitate was hunting down monks whom they had not managed to arrest after the closing of the monasteries. The special services were even able to infiltrate the clergy. They wanted to send Fr. Proclus to prison also. An elder of one of the monasteries, who they had not arrested due to his old age, protected the monk, saying to those who came for him, “Who do you want to imprison?! Proclus? When he sits in a train he doesn’t know what direction it will go!””

Igor Zybin http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/47107.htm


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