Shepherd of Souls

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At Sihastria Monastery in the mountains of northern Romania, Fr. Cleopa tended the sheep for many years, spending his days in prayer and spiritual contemplation. Then, at the age of twenty-nine, he was unexpectedly chosen to be the new Superior of the monastery.

   Now that he was a shepherd of souls, Elder Cleopa quickly revealed his skill in directing people in the spiritual life. He instructed both monastics and lay people in the practice of the Jesus Prayer, and in the cultivation of hesychia (interior silence).

   After being arrested and threatened by the communist secret police, Elder Cleopa departed to the wilderness, where he spent a total of ten years in unceasing prayer. Eventually he returned for good to Sihastria Monastery.

   “After he finished Confession, Fr. Cleopa would withdraw to stillness, especially at night, to the edge of the forest or to the cemetery, where he would pray alone. Then he would quietly say the Jesus Prayer, which had become part of his heart after so many years. Stillness would give rest to his soul and fill him with spiritual peace. And when God would visit him with the gift of tears, he would also withdraw to a secret place until God calmed down his soul.”

   “After he had tasted of the joy of stillness in the years of his exile, Fr. Cleopa longed to remain continually in the life of solitude, since stillness is the mother of prayer, tears, and spiritual joy. But the commandment of obedience would induce him to again return to his community.”