In her book, Come, Follow Me, Mother Cassiana, now abbess of the Holy Protection Monastery in Lake George, Colorado, tells of her own spiritual journey that led her to Romania in 1984. Mother Cassiana spent a year living at Varatec women's monastery at a time when the country was still under communist rule and atheism was the only legal belief system. Varatec monastery, home to over 350 nuns of all ages, is nestled in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains, only a few miles away from Agapia monastery, where another 350 or so nuns live, work, and pray. Varatec monastery is similar to the typical rural village in Romania. There are three main churches in the small village and over 160 houses where most of the monastics live and maintain a daily rule of prayer. Other nuns live in the staretia (large main house), while a few live a more solitary life of work and prayer.
Mother Cassiana has divided the book into a series of excerpts from the journal that she kept during her stay. The words flow easily and the intimacy of the journal format gives the reader a genuine glimpse of monastic life in Romania. She is able to capture the rhythm of monastic life that seems at the same time timeless, yet purposeful. Although the Church was officially outlawed, many people flocked to the monastery for guidance, confession, and prayer. It was not unusual for an entire village to make a pilgrimage to the monastery to celebrate a patronal feast or to make a special supplication.
Romania has a long and rich monastic tradition that helped the Church to survive during times of attack, both from without and within. Mother Cassiana gives the reader an idea of some of that rich tradition through her descriptions of visits to such monasteries as Dragomirna, the spiritual home of Paisie Velichkovski; Voronets, one of the well-known "painted" churches; Sihastria, close to the home of the elder Father Cleopa; and Iasi, where the relics of Saint Parascheva lie.
Although the Romanian government at the time did not allow her to remain in the country, the experience clearly had a profound affect on her. She began her journey to Romania as a novice and rasaphore, but was professed during her stay.
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