Face of a monk – Father Archimandrite Felix Dubneac

I got to know Fr. Felix Dubneac through his writings shortly after 1989. I met him physically in 1997, in Vatra, on the occasion of my ordination to the priesthood. I celebrated my first Holy Liturgy as a priest in the Monastery of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Rives Junction, Michigan, with my priestly associates, Fr. Anton Frunză and Archimandrite Felix Dubneac, while Archimandrite Roman Braga assisted at the altar. The gentle exhortations of Father Felix still echo in my mind: “So, Father, serve calmly, think that each Holy Liturgy is the first you are celebrating, don’t let routine get in the way…”.

I would meet Father Felix again two years later when my family moved to Michigan. The same wise, patient, seemingly unchanged Father. There was one change, however: he could no longer celebrate the Holy Liturgy alone.

On the few occasions when I served at the monastery, however, I would always find him before the start of the Holy Liturgy, at the vigil and at the altar. I later found out (although Father rarely talks about it) that he was part of the famous “Burning Bush” group at Antim Monastery, along with other great Romanian Orthodox theologians and teachers. For the crime of praying and participating in a movement of spiritual renewal, he spent six years in communist prisons. After almost twenty years as Eparchial Secretary of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese for America and Canada, he was reunited with one of his comrades from the “Burning Bush” and the communist prisons, Fr. Roman Braga, at the Assumption Monastery, where he retired in 1994. The archimandrite also distinguished himself as an iconographer. Many churches in the United States and Canada have been painted by His Beatitude. Perhaps his most notable painting achievement remains the large fresco of the history of Romania in the Romanian Room at Wayne State University in Detroit (1978). Last year, his paintings adorned the church of the Monastery of the Assumption in Detroit. Despite being at the age of the patriarchs, Fr. Felix has been blessed by God with a keen mind that has not diminished with the passing years; he still writes an article for Solia.

But I discovered Father Felix Dubneac two years ago when I was working as a secretary in the diocesan office. The archimandrite had written a letter to His Eminence asking for clarification of his transfer from the other Romanian archdiocese. He asked this after six years of waiting! Not because he was not interested, but because he did not want to bother the Vicar with his situation…

His Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel said at the time that he had rarely seen such a model of patience. Few people know that Archimandrite Felix is one of the most important donors to our diocese. But it is enough to leaf through the pages of the Solia to see Father Felix’s name in the ranks of those who prove their love for their neighbour through deeds. From his small monk’s pension he sets aside for charitable work. I was surprised when the treasurer of Annunciation Parish in Grand Rapids told me that one of the main donors at the laying of the cornerstone of the church where I am pastor was Father Felix Dubneac.

Recently, on the Saturday of the Congress itself, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Father Archimandrite Felix Dubneac reached the venerable age of 901. And since such a birthday celebration does not happen every day, he was honoured by the entire Congress plenary, which sang “Happy Birthday! . When the clerical brothers expressed their amazement at the longevity of the Archimandrite Fathers Felix Dubneac and Roman Braga, Father Roman replied with his characteristic humour: “God give us back the years we spent there”. He was referring to the years spent in the communist prisons.

And it is enough to see the people who come to confess to Fathers Felix and Roman to realise that they are in the presence of two of the great Romanian confessors.

Patience, kindness, generosity, obedience, self-control, poverty, a life of prayer and austerity make up the face of a monk. This is the face of Father Archimandrite Felix Dubneac.

(Pr. Anton Frunză – “Solia” Magazine, August 2002)

1. Father Felix Dubneac passed away in 2008, at the venerable age of 96.

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