A Humble Man of God

In memory of Elder Teofil (Badoiu)

Archimandrite Teofil (Badoiu). Photo: Crestinortodox.ro Archimandrite Teofil (Badoiu). Photo: Crestinortodox.ro Elder Teofil was born on September 11, 1925, in the village of Vlădești, Argeș county. Orphaned at an early age, he had to hire himself out as a laborer in someone else’s house. Meek and pious, he prayed often, but he did not even know about the existence of monasteries. When he was advised to become a monk, he read the akathist to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker for forty nights, after which he went to a monastery to see what it was like. It turned out that it was Slănic Monastery, where he stayed forever.

It was February 20, 1944, and three years later, on March 30, 1947, Novice Titu Badoiu was tonsured with the name Teofil. On July 14 of the same year, he was ordained hierodeacon, and he didn’t become a hieromonk until twenty-one years later, because the Communists came to power in the country, an anti-religious campaign began, and all able-bodied monks were expelled from monasteries to engage in “socially useful work” in the world. So in 1961 Fr. Teofil ended up in the village of Corbi, Argeș county, where he worked for five years, furtively running to the monastery to visit his Elder Vitimion (Neţoiu). He had to walk over six miles at night—in the dark, through the forest and mountains.

Fr. Teofil won the general love of local peasants, and when the police came to arrest him, the local people revolted, and risking their lives, stormed the police station—after which he was released. Still, Fr. Teofil had to change his place of residence and move to Dintr-un Lemn Monastery in Valcea county in order to work as a caretaker and a laborer.

In 1968, Patriarch Justinian of Romania visited the monastery and announced that the expelled monks were allowed to return to their monasteries. So Fr. Teofil returned to Slănic Monastery. Ten years later Elder Vitimion fell ill, and Fr. Teofil had to take on the burden of abbacy. Despite the authorities who tried to obstruct him, he managed not only to renovate the monastery, but also to train a whole galaxy of great warriors for Christ, including three bishops who are still alive. These were: Metropolitan Teophan of Moldavia and Bukovina, Archbishop Varsanufie of Ramnic and Bishop Galaction of Alexandria and Teleorman.

Fr. Teofil reposed at a venerable old age on July 17, 2010. He came to the monastery at the age of eighteen and departed to Christ at eighty-four. He was buried at Slănic Monastery next to Elder Vitimion (Neţoiu).


January 2009. A severe, frosty and snowy winter. With difficulty I am climbing the steep slope of a hill, on top of which I can see a church dome with the monastery walls. Flocks of black crows are hovering over them. However, the reward for my efforts was a real blessing: after the single combat with the hill, a warm and quiet haven awaited me—a humble monastic cell filled with books, icons and photographs on the walls. This is the cell of Elder Teofil, the famous father-confessor of Slănic Monastery.

Firewood is humming and spluttering in a small stove. Now and then the flame gives out sheaves of sparks, and Fr. Teofil illuminates the room with such a smile that the winter and the cold flee from it. A smile full of kindness and joy that is rarely seen. It was the soul of a child that has absorbed the profound wisdom of an old and experienced man.

No sooner had I opened my mouth than the elder thanked me, putting his hand to his chest. He thanked me for travelling all the way in that cold weather to interview him. His words made me freeze. Monks usually avoid being interviewed, and it takes much effort to get a few words out of them. Fr. Cleopa, for example, used to say: “Get that snake out of here,” pointing to the microphone cord. But Fr. Teofil thanked me for climbing up this icy hillside to find him!

Făgăraș Mountains. Photo: Muntii-fagaras.ro Făgăraș Mountains. Photo: Muntii-fagaras.ro     

He is the most beloved and sought-after father-confessor on the southern slopes of Făgăraș Mountains. Just as on their other slopes, facing north, another beloved elder stands guard, also Teofil, from Sâmbăta de Sus Monastery.

Fr. Teofil (Badoiu) is the most sublime embodiment of humility. Humility which I had hardly ever seen. Monks often try to humble themselves. But it is visible and felt. But Fr. Teofil was a humble one of God. Just humble. For this he made no effort. All spiritual labors and efforts had remained in the past. And now his heart contained only love and joy—the joy of speaking about Christ at any time and with anyone.

“I have become closer to God,” he told me when I asked what he had managed to acquire over many years at the monastery (he lived sixty-six out of eighty-four years as a monk). “I feel joy and peace in my soul, which no one but Him can give. As the Savior said to the apostles: Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you (Jn. 14:27). Now I feel it too. Both peace and great joy.”

These are the gifts from God that Fr. Teofil would tirelessly pass on to others, giving this humble love to everyone he communicated with. And therefore, he possessed a colossal power to convert people to God by his mere presence. It was enough to come to him, to see him, to be nourished by his inner joy, and you no longer wanted to leave him.

This is what happened to the current abbot of Slănic Monastery, Fr. Clement (Păunescu), whom I ask to share his memories of the great spiritual father of Slănic Monastery.

Archimandrite Teofil (Badoiu) Archimandrite Teofil (Badoiu)     


You’ve brought me a warrior!”

Father Clement, do you remember your first meeting with Father Teofil?

—Yes, very well. I came to Slănic Monastery with two of my friends who knew him. We went to receive unction and met Fr. Teofil. It was in 1993. I admired his appearance and his infinitely natural demeanor with people. I read somewhere that calling someone a “kind man” means underestimating the word “man” because God created us as human beings. But Fr. Teofil was not such a “kind man.” He was simply human and tried to convey this property to everyone—to be human in the true sense of the word.

It was clear that the Holy Spirit worked through him. I am sure that he prayed unceasingly, and God in every situation gave him the right words to say.

Then, at the first meeting in 1993, after the service he invited us to his cell. He did this with all the faithful, and would give each guest either an icon or a small bottle of myrrh. Then he said to my friends: “You’ve brought me a warrior!” That is, a future monk. And they answered that I was married and could not become a monk. When the elder said this, I felt that if I didn’t have a family, I would have remained close to him my entire life. But then it seemed impossible: I was married and had a child.

He was a great man of prayer”

And from that day on you were his disciple, weren’t you?

The new church of Slănic Monastery The new church of Slănic Monastery —Yes, after that first meeting I began to travel to Slănic Monastery regularly, at least once a month. And what made the strongest impression on me was the elder’s sermon at the end of each service. There was something absolutely extraordinary about him, such a spirit emanated from him that captivated your soul. And it doesn’t matter in what state you were going to the monastery: you would leave it with peace of mind.

Over time, I learned that, devoting himself to Christ from a young age, he realized that the only infinite love that we can taste is the love of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Most Holy Theotokos. And Fr. Teofil devoted his life to the Savior and the Most Pure Virgin, tasted this love in full and could pass on this Divine love to others. But perhaps he didn’t do it consciously. I don’t think he knew that he embodied the ideal of a loving person. And it won me over.

Two years after this meeting my son, whom I often took to Fr. Teofil, confessed to me that he wanted to join a monastery, so I went to the elder and asked him if he would accept both of us, a father and a son, as future novices. So, the words that he had said at the first meeting: “You’ve brought me a warrior,” came true.

Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God of Dintr-un Lemn Monastery in Valcea county, sixteenth century. Photo: ro.wikipedia.org Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God of Dintr-un Lemn Monastery in Valcea county, sixteenth century. Photo: ro.wikipedia.org     

Looking back years later, and having become the abbot instead of the elder, I understand that the love and trust that he showed me were amazing. He was so humble… Even though he was the abbot, and I was a simple novice, whenever our opinions differed and if he became convinced that the truth was on my side, he would come to me and apologize!

He always had the desire to rest his soul a little, listening to someone’s opinion and learning something new. And although he was old, his soul always remained young.

For a long time, I regarded him as a father figure, but after several years of my novitiate I realized that in fact he had been like a grandfather to me all this time rather than a father. After all, only a grandfather can have so much lenience and readiness to sacrifice himself as he had for me!

Once, he seriously wanted to give up his abbacy in my favor... He even confessed to us that it was hard for him to command. We were free, but our freedom was covered by his prayer as by a shield. We were always preserved by his prayer, we could feel it.

And he was a great man of prayer. Our services begin at three in the morning, and every time I got up early and went out, the light was seen through the window of his cell, and I could see the elder’s shadow making prostrations. He would spend the whole night this way.

He also used to say that the holy altar is fire, and he couldn’t sit there. And although he was old, he always stood in the altar and never sat down on the abbot’s chair in the altar.

I was transferred to Aninoasa Monastery for some time. He did not agree with that (neither did I), but we obeyed the bishop. And the elder would visit me there, and each time he left an emptiness was immediately felt in the monastery.

The last priceless gift he gave me was at Aninoasa Monastery. He came right on my birthday, and since he was without a gift, he gave me his abbot’s staff, with which he had come. And his gift was prophetic.

Shortly before his repose, they called me to urgently go to Slănic Monastery, because Fr. Teofil was feeling very poorly. When I arrived, they were already carrying him into the ambulance. When he saw me, he said: “Finally!” “Will you come back healthy, abba?” I asked him. “I won’t come back alive”, he replied. He wrung my hand and left. And so it happened, just as he said.

We buried him at the monastery, which he had restored with such difficulty. And when he died, I used this staff for its intended purpose, instead of him, since I was chosen the next abbot of Slănic Monastery and his successor.

From Elder Teofil’s instructions

On prayer

Prayer is food for the soul. Stand in prayer, don’t go away! Pray with your thoughts turned to God—then it is real prayer. If your thoughts fly away, don’t be so upset, but persevere.

Let me tell you a spiritual story about this. A monk struggled at one monastery—all the time he was sad that God did not accept his prayer, as he did not pray properly, for his thoughts always ran away. And he said to his spiritual father:

“Abba, I grieve because I cannot pray properly and I cannot focus on prayer.”

And then his father-confessor told him to fill a vessel with water from a puddle, then wait for some time and come to him with the vessel. And when he came back, the elder said to him:

“Look, son, the water was cloudy at first, but over time it settled. All the mud sank to the bottom. So it is prayer. Let your soul not worry, even when your mind is distracted during prayer. Gradually, if we have patience, it becomes transparent.”

​Slănic Monastery ​Slănic Monastery     

Know that the enemy is the greatest opponent of prayer. He wants God to never accept a Christian’s prayer when he prays. And so he sends all sorts of thoughts to our mind. Just as an angel sends us good thoughts, so the devil sends us evil ones. The aim of our struggle is to overcome the enemy and to stand in prayer with a pure mind.

Let’s pray the Jesus Prayer as often as possible. If you perform it with faith, then you may experience great joy, and this joy means that God has accepted your prayer. The Jesus Prayer is the work of monastics, but it is very good for those who live in the world as well. Laymen can perform it both while working and going somewhere: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

You pronounce it all the time until you get used to it and until it penetrates into your heart, and if it penetrates into your heart, then your heart will pray by itself.

He who performs the prayer of the heart has peace in his soul, ineffable peace! If the Lord Jesus Christ dwells in your heart, then what else can you possibly need? And he who has acquired this great gift from God does not grieve for a single minute, for he has nothing to grieve about. After all, his heart is always cheerful, and it conveys this to his face, and his face is always cheerful and shining!

If you have acquired the prayer of the heart, you no longer commit many sins. Now Christ is in your heart, and you can no longer commit many sins.

And to have the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart you need much fasting, prayer and faith. Say: “Lord, I want to have Thee in my heart, but I am weak. And yet I want Thee to be in my heart!” And if your desire is sincere, and if you strive as much as you can, then you will feel the Lord in your heart; and when you feel Him in your heart, you are happy, and you do not need anything else. To have Christ in your heart is the greatest joy, as the Holy Fathers teach.”

For married laymen

Know that a wife is not a slave to her husband, but his companion in life! When couples are married in church, the priest puts crowns on their heads and says, “So let the husband love his wife, just as Christ loves the Church.”

I kept telling them, “Listen, Christian women! If your husband comes home drunk, don’t tell him he’s drunk, but tell him he’s tired.” I have many cases when women come and complain to me, “Abba, what should I do with my husband? He comes home drunk and swears, curses, and smokes!” I tell them: “Speak to him gracefully, because if you pour water on the fire, the fire will go out. And if you throw fire on fire, it will flare up even worse. Talk to him nicely and calm him down.”

The wisdom of the world and the wisdom of saints

Cells in Slănic Monastery Cells in Slănic Monastery     

One day a king summoned his learned men and ordered them to show him God:

“You are learned men. I want to see God! If you don’t show Him to me, then where your feet are, there will your heads be.”

“But Your Majesty, how can we show you God?”

“You have much knowledge and learning, so you know how to do it!”

Archimandrite Teofil (Badoiu). Photo: Fericiticeiprigoniti.net Archimandrite Teofil (Badoiu). Photo: Fericiticeiprigoniti.net The time was approaching when they were supposed to give him an answer, but they didn’t have a single answer. And as they were walking up and down, they met a shepherd with his sheep, who told them that he could teach the king how to see God. So they put the shepherd in their carriage and took him to the king.

“Your Majesty, you will see God,” the shepherd told him. “Just do what I tell you.”

“I will do whatever you tell me, if only I could see God!”

The weather was hot, as it often the case in mid-summer, in July.

“Your Majesty! God is in the sun. His dwelling is there. Look at the sun, but be patient; do you think God shows Himself so quickly?”

And the king obeyed him. He kept looking, but saw nothing.

“Hey, shepherd, the sun is shining so hot that I can’t look at it anymore.”

“Well, Your Majesty! If you could not look at the sun, God’s creation, then how can you see God, Who created the sun?”

The king rejoiced at such an answer, and showered the wise shepherd with gold.

The graves of Elders Teofil (Badoiu) and Vitimion (Neţoiu). Photo: Corbiidepiatra.wordpress.com The graves of Elders Teofil (Badoiu) and Vitimion (Neţoiu). Photo: Corbiidepiatra.wordpress.com     

Cristian Curte
spoke with Protosinghel Clement (Păunescu)
Translation from the Russian version by Dmitry Lapa

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