On Christmas Day, while I was the guest of TARCEA Nicolae and Nastasia of Cluj, parents of Raluca, our Plymouth State MBA student (and a frequent house-guest in Campton), I was shown a newspaper article about an American monk named Father Sava who was living at a monastery called Oaşa (pronounced "Wah'-sha"), in Judeţ Alba (Alba County).
On Sunday, 2 January, 2011, I paid him a visit.
I had no way of knowing whether Father Sava would be there that day, but since it was a reasonable distance (under 200 KM) from Cluj, I decided to drive down there into the Southern Carpathians to see if I could find him. Surely he would have a story to tell, and I wanted to hear it. And, Oaşa is in a part of Romania I had yet to visit, high in the mountains some 70 Km south of the city of Sebeş, which is on the road between Alba Iulia and Sibiu. Two third-year FSEGA students, SUTEU Valer Olimpiu of Satu Mare and IMAKOR Simo of Casablanca, expressed their wishes to join me on this Sunday drive. Hence, at 9:00 Sunday morning, we three jumped into Klaus, and headed south.
There was no traffic on the road south. We were in Alba Iulia by 10:15, and Sebeş by 10:30. This drive could have taken well over two hours under normal conditions. Then, the final 70 Km into the mountains took another hour-and-a-half. Oaşa is in the wild, 1450 meters above sea level, and in territory reachable only by a broken-up road built to allow maintenance of the three Ceaşescu-era hydroelectric dams to which it led.
The region is heavenly. Tall trees and steep canyon walls border much of the road, and each dam has a lake behind it, making for many idyllic views. Probably these beauties explain the choice of this location for the Oaşa monastery, which was founded only about 1982.
Oaşa is not a village on the map, so the GPS could not get us past Şugag, 30 Km south from Sebeş, and still 40 Km from the monastery. There were a number of alternate roads, so we had to stop and ask directions a few times. Fortunately, Valer is Romanian, so we never doubted that we understood the directions, and were on the right path. Still, it was remarkable when the GPS took it upon itself to find the road to Oaşa, and start indicating upcoming turns to us, even though it was still programmed for Şugag. Valer told me, "Be sure to tell about that (minor miracle?) in your blog!"
At noon, we parked in front of the monastery's wall. A monk and another man were in the road, so I rolled down the window and asked in English, "Do you have a monk here named Father Sava?" The monk departed down the road, and the other gentleman guided us into the grounds, up a flight of stairs leading to the biserica. There, he introduced me to Father Sava, and when I said, "I had hoped to meet you today," he did a "take," and said, "You are American?" "Yes." "Wow! We don't see many Americans here!"
As the Sunday morning service was just ending, Father Sava had duty in the dining hall, where all the church's attendees, thirty or forty local people all dressed up in their traditional Sunday best, were invited for lunch. The Father apologized for not being able to invite us to eat, but said he would be available to talk in about half-an-hour. So, we waited. There were no stores or restaurants within many miles, so lunch would have to wait. Being diabetic and feeling the need, I ate a Snickers from Klaus's glove box, but my companions declined my offer to share.
|Gathered around the Abbot, after the lunch|
We walked and talked for two hours. The man kept me spellbound. He had, indeed, a story to tell. I will post it soon.