God has always sent providential people where the need was most dire. Such a man was the Holy Metropolitan Andrei Șaguna, a founder of faith and of culture, a man of prayer and an unparalleled fighter for the dignity of the Romanians in Transylvania. In an age full of pain for the Orthodox Romanians in Transylvania, Saint Andrei Șaguna was the burning candle that reignited the vigil lamp of faith and hope in the heart of all oppressed Romanians.
Saint Andrei Șaguna’s name, celebrated by the Romanian Eastern-Orthodox Church on the 30th of November, means so many things that it is not an easy task to outline a succinct biography.
His activity as a hierarch was outstanding, the greatest of his achievements being the re-establishment of the Metropolitan See of Transylvania. As a man of culture, he printed numerous religious books and became actively engaged in facilitating all Romanians’ access to knowledge. At the same time, he was a supporter of philanthropic activities, urging parish priests to raise money for the poor, establishing schools for the orphans, or donating the little money he himself had.
He was born in 1808, in Miskolc, (in today’s Hungary), he studied philosophy and law at the University of Pest, and, then, theology in Vârșeţ. He entered monastic life at Hopovo, the Serbian monastery, and then he carried out many administrative functions within the Serbian Eastern-Orthodox Church.
In 1846, after Vasile Moga, the Romanian bishop in Sibiu, had died, the Serbian Orthodox Metropolitan in Karlowitz, Joseph Rajacic, appointed Archimandrite Andrei Șaguna vicar of the vacant Diocese of Sibiu. He was ordained a bishop in the Orthodox Cathedral in Karlowitz, his covenant being then to bring all Romanians in Transylvania closer to all that is good and uplifting.
The Romanian Orthodox Schooling, a priority in Metropolitan Andrei Șaguna’s agenda
Andrei Șaguna was completely involved in the revolutionary movement of the Romanians in Transylvania. He co-chaired the Romanian National Assembly in Blaj, on May 3/15, where a programme, containing 16 national-political claims, was drafted. Then, the Assembly appointed him to lead a group of Romanian intellectuals who went to Vienna to submit the document to the Imperial Court. Șaguna himself presented the program to the Emperor, who reassured him the requests were to be addressed. Another important project on the Transylvanian Hierarch’s agenda was the organization of the Romanian Orthodox Education in Transylvania at all levels.
Metropolitan Șaguna provided guidance for the entire Romanian educational system, asking the teachers to write textbooks. Under his guidance, almost 800 schools were founded in the Archdiocese of Sibiu, an extraordinary accomplishment considering that, at the time, there were only 900 parishes. These schools were not coordinated by the Hungarian authorities, but by the Eastern-Orthodox Church. A proof of his exceptional involvement in the development of the educational system is found in his pastoral letters, in which insisted on the importance of erecting buildings that were to be used as confessional schools.
Moreover, he created several foundations under the aegis of the Metropolitan See, through which hardworking students received grants. Following his advice, a successful Macedo-Romanian lawyer in Budapest, Emanoil Gojdu, eastabslihed a foundation through which students and workers would receive grants. Over 5000 grants had been given before the Great Union in 1918.
He founded a diocesan typography where he printed over 200 books, and also the “Romanian Telegraph “(“Telegraful Român”), a newspaper which is still in print today, as well as the Ecclesiastical Guide, a calendar in book form.
A man of prayer
Although his administrative activities took up most of his time, he always obeyed the rules of monastic life, according to the testimonies of his contemporaries.
He attended the worship service throughout the day, not only the Liturgy, but also the Matins and the Vespers. He used to correct the mistakes students were making during the service in order to teach them and to prevent them from making the same mistake again.
In an interview, His Eminence Laurenţiu, Metropolitan of Transylvania, spoke about the Saint Andrei Șaguna’s rigorous approach to prayer. He used to pray every morning from 5 to 7 and no one was allowed to disturb him. He led a simple life and that is how he wanted to leave this world. He wished to be buried in the churchyard in Rășinari, where he had performed the divine service so many times, “without grandeur, without music and without a sermon”, by one priest only, namely hieromonk Gherman Bogdan, his confessor. His wish was carried out. The metropolitan died on 16/28 June 1873, donating his belongings to the Archdiocese of Sibiu. However, Romanians from all over Transylvania came to the funeral, to say farewell to the one who had taken care of his spiritual sons like a true father.
Metropolitan Andrei Șaguna was very grateful to his mother for what she had given him: “I owe to my mother all my love for God and my Orthodox belief, the path I took in my life (priesthood) and my spirit of sacrifice which has always been my guiding light in everything I have done so far”.
Shortly after his death, the peasants in Transylvania started to worship Metropolitan Andrei Șaguna as a saint, according to writer Ioan Slavici, his portrait being hung next to the icons in their homes. For being a model to follow, for his entire activity, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church decided, during the meeting held on 20 July 2012, to canonize Metropolitan Andrei Șaguna and thus to add his name to the long list of saints of the Orthodox Church. The official proclamation of Metropolitan Andrei Șaguna’s canonization took place on 28 October 2011 in Sibiu, and it was decided to commemorate him on 30 November, along with Saint Andrew the Apostle, the one who brought the Christian teaching on Romanian land.