Father Roman Braga was born in 1922 in a small village in central Moldova. His mother was a devout Orthodox Christian, and she raised him in a religious environment centered around the monastery of Condrita.
During World War II, Roman attended seminary in Bucharest, Romania, and graduated the top of his class. He began a doctorate in Theology, but was arrested by the Communist government authorities. He was imprisoned for three years at Jilava and Pitesti, kept in solitary confinement and suffering brainwashing experiments. He was then sent to the Danube Delta labor camp for two years, until his release in 1953. Roman entered the monastic life in 1954 and became a deacon.
He was arrested again in 1959, after discussing the Jesus Prayer with his theological students. False charges were brought against him, and he was sentenced to 18 years' hard labor. He spent time in several concentration camps, until all the political prisoners in Romania were freed in 1964. He was ordained a priest, and was sent to Brazil as a missionary not long afterwards for his own protection.
In 1972, Father Roman was transferred to the United States. He served in several parishes, developing children's programs and translating liturgical texts into English. In 1983 he became the resident priest of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, where he served for five years. He then retired to the Monastery of the Dormition in Rives Junction, Michigan.
Until the last two years of his life, Father Roman rose daily at 2:00 am for his morning prayers, and attended every monastic service. He suffered a cancer diagnosis, but continued his rigorous schedule until weakness overtook him. Yet he never missed the Divine Liturgy, even to the end of his life. He continued to see his many spiritual children until the end of his life. He reposed in peace on April 28, 2015, at the age of 93.
Father Roman's holiness was evident to many who encountered him. Even in the worst prison conditions, he blessed his captors and manifested the love of Christ to everyone around him to the end of his life, bearing all his troubles with patience. He was widely regarded as a living saint, even during his lifetime. He is privately venerated by many, and there is little doubt that he will one day be glorified by the Orthodox Church.
Having just visited Fr. Roman's grave this last weekend, this icon reminds me of the man who changed the atmosphere in a room just by entering it. He brought the presence of God to the Liturgy. He definitely should be remembered as a Confessor during his life in Romania. May his memory be eternal.
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