May 3, 2019

Saint Irodion, Abbot of Lainici Monastery in Romania (+ 1900)

St. Irodion of Lainici (Feast Day - May 3)

Saint Irodion (Herodion) is one of the newest proclaimed saints of Romania, a monk who lived in the 19th century and was abbot of a monastery in the mountains, Lainici Monastery, near the border between the provinces Oltenia and Transylvania.

A file discovered in the National Archives (no. 335 from 1872), referring to all the monks in Gorj county, states that the monk Irodion Ionescu was born with the name John in Bucharest in 1821 – the year of a revolution against the Turks, when the dominance of the Greek nobles from the Constantinopolean quarter of the Phanar had finished. The same file offers some other information, that he was tonsured as a monk in Cernica Monastery, near Bucharest, in 1846 – that as, at the age of 25, and at that moment, in 1872, he was 51 years old and abbot of Lainici Monastery. He had a pleasant look, brown hair and green eyes.

At the beginning of the 19th century the abbot at Cernica Monastery was Saint Calinic who, afer being ordained as Bishop of Râmnic in 1850, took the young Irodion with him and sent him in 1851 to the hermitage built in Lainici, serving there as deacon since the summer of 1853. On 15 June 1854 a decree kept in the archive of the Diocese of Râmnic states that the bishop ordained him both priest and abbot in Lainici, being 33 years old, after the resignation of the former abbot, Hieromonk Cyril.

Irodion didn’t resist too much as abbot because of the protesters, who didn’t approve his rigorous asceticism, and resigned on 30 June 1855, being appointed the oikonomos of Dorotei instead, on 2 July. He resigned again after only a year and was reappointed abbot, at the will of the monks and of the lay donors of the hermitage, as a writing of Saint Calinic on a page of the Triodion, on 29 March 1857, suggests. Irodion helped at the construction of another hermitage, at Locurele. Appointed for a while as ecclesiarch of the Cathedral in Craiova, Irodion left once more his hermitage – being replaced between 8 June 1863 and 25 May 1865 by Hieromonk Ilarion.

In 1865 Irodion for the fourth time became abbot and tried again to organize the community. The turbulence persisted, so he asked in November 1869 for his resignation and also to move to another monastery. The next years in the hermitage were very difficult because of the lack of organization, but also because of a law issued by the prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza (1859-1866), which ordered for the secularization of the Church’s properties, which were very great at that time – about 1/4 of the total surface of the country, but from which a big part was administered by the monks from Athos, Palestine and Sinai monasteries.

For the fifth time Irodion was appointed abbot in Lainici in 1873, because there was no one to try to save it. This time he remained here until his death, which took place in 1900. After a while the spiritual life there increased as well as the number of the monks – from 15 to 30. Bishop Calinic used to call him every time he came in the monastery as “the morning star of Lainici”.

In 1877 the new prince Carol I (1866-1878, king between 1878-1914) allied with the Russian tsar Alexander II (1855-1881) and declared war against the Turks. During this war (in Romania known as the War for Independence) Irodion and twelve of his monks helped as nurses on the battlefield.

In 1889 Bishop Ghenadie of Râmnic appointed him also as abbot of the Locurele hermitage.

The local tradition of the monks states that Abbot Irodion used to celebrate daily the Divine Liturgy and had the spiritual gift of foresight, reading the thoughts of the people he met. Also he did exorcisms and prophesied about the future. He also foreknew his repose, saying also that the hermitage will be abandoned after some years.

Abbot Irodion died in 1900, being buried near the altar of the church of Lainici Monastery. In 1916 during World War I, the Germans occupied the hermitage and transformed the church into a stable for horses. Only in 1929 did Abbot Visarion Toia manage to restore the monastic life there.

In 1907 Hieromonk Julian Drăghicioiu opened the tomb of Saint Irodion and found his body to be incorrupt, so he decided to rebury him.

Later in 1929 Visarion Toia opened the tomb again but buried him in a deep place which was discovered only after the entire community of the monastery, headed by Archimandrite Joachim Pârvulescu, fasted and prayed for a week, and also Metropolitan Irineu of Oltenia prayed too. Finally he was discovered in 10 April 2009. His relics had the usual brown-orange color of holy relics and gave off a beautiful fragrance.

On 29 October 2010, the Synod held in Bucharest decided on the canonization of Saint Irodion of Lainici. Saint Irodion is celebrated on the 3rd of May. His relics are kept in the church of his monastery.