Petrache Lupu – The Shepherd Who Saw God

petrache big            On Sunday, the 16th of June, 1935, in the town of Maglavit, a seventeen-year-old, poor shepherd with a speech impediment finally worked up enough courage to announce to his church a short message he claimed came directly from God the Father, whom he swore had visited him in the form of an old man while he was tending sheep.  His message, a stereotypical Old Testament “turn or burn” indictment of his people, was met with both obvious incredulity and a similarly expected enthusiasm.  Both those in favor and those against the happenings in Maglavit, and especially those hoping to profit from the events, spread the news far and wide.  Newspapers were full of stories of miracles, healings, and prophecies as excitement over the shepherd boy who had seen God spread.  In time, over two million people would take part in the spectacular events of Maglavit.  Today, much of the events that took place are shrouded in mystery.  Who was Petrache Lupu, the man who claimed to see God, and what can we learn from his life rife with visions, miracles, and extravagant stories reminiscent of Ezekiel or Isaiah?

The Setting

Europe in 1935 was a place of social and political turbulence.  World War II had not yet begun, but the nations of Europe, still reeling from the effects of the First World War, ended only seventeen years previously, were far from peaceful.  By this time, Russia had passed through a lengthy civil war as the Bolsheviks sought to consolidate their grip on power, which they finally accomplished in 1922, marking the beginning of the Soviet Union and a new decade of industrialization and collectivization.  In Germany, meanwhile, the Nazi regime had effectively taken control of the country; Adolf Hitler had only recently become Chancellor (1933), and the Nuremburg Laws would soon be passed (on the 15th of September 1935), denying basic rights to Jews and echoing the widespread anti-Semitism throughout Europe.  Italy, which had become a fascist dictatorship under Mussolini in 1922, would in only a few months test the European powers by invading Ethiopia and ignoring League of Nations sanctions.  Revolutions, dictatorships, growing racism, industrialization, social unrest…  Europe in the 1930s was a far from settled place.

Romania itself would soon be caught in the whirlwind of social/political change confronting Europe between the wars.  The nation, a union of Wallachia and Moldovia with Bessarabia and Transylvania, was a liberal constitutional monarchy led by Parliament and a king, with powers restricted by the Constitution of 1923.  This government faced growing threats from anti-Semitic, radical “Christian,” and nationalist political groups similar to those spreading within countries like Germany.  Political parties such as the National Christian Party ran under blatantly anti-Jewish slogans and even adopted the swastika as their emblem.  The Iron Guard—described as ultra-nationalist, anti-communist, anti-capitalist, extremely Orthodox, and anti-Semitic with a focus on martyrdom—was a growing and very real threat to political stability in Romania.  To counter the Guard’s influence especially on the youth of Romania, in 1935 King Carol II created the Sentinel of the Motherland, a paramilitary youth organization styled after Germany’s Hitler Youth with the purpose of protecting traditional Romania.  All children from seven to eighteen years old were required to join this group.  In this politically tumultuous atmosphere, in 1938 King Carol II would seize power and, to form the legal basis for his dictatorship, he would create a new constitution, using the National Christian Party as his political arm.  Mirroring what was currently happening in Germany, Jews would soon be denied citizenship and their businesses closed, bringing a tremendous economic loss to Romania as investors would flee the unstable environment.  Facing trouble without and turmoil within, Romania in 1935 was a nation in transition.

In 1935, the town of Maglavit, the home and birthplace of Petrache Lupu, experienced little of this turmoil.  In fact, the town was of little importance in Romania though it would soon be on the front page of newspapers throughout the nation.  Located in Dolj County approximately 300 kilometers west of Bucureşti, most of the population of Maglavit lived by subsistence farming and raising cattle; despite its small size and relative unimportance, the town had become a sort of center for the selling and processing of beef, this despite the fact that since 1930, the area had been experiencing one of its worst droughts in history.  By the time Petrache Lupu began to experience visions of God, the grass of the pasture grounds would have been quite brown, many crops would already have been lost, and the cattle industry itself would have been suffering greatly.  It is no wonder, in this seemingly apocalyptic setting, that many of Petrache’s messages consist of a strong threat of destruction.

Who was Petrache Lupu?

Petrache Lupu’s entire life is shrouded in overlapping layers of legends and fabrications that would naturally surround any character known for communicating with God, and his early life is especially mysterious.  It is hard to differentiate fact from fiction, but we know He was born in 1907 on the 14th of October to a mother who “hardly loved him[1]” and a father who disappeared shortly after his birth.  His stepfather is described as a hard and difficult man, but he did take it upon himself to teach Petrache the craft of farming, putting him to work plowing when he was older and later giving him the responsibility of watching over the sheep in the fields.  It seems he was a youth of an especially quiet and obedient demeanor, with a tender side more unusual in boys.  Like many poor villagers, he was not very well educated, and some sources even indicate he may actually have been mentally retarded, but it is more than possible that these claims were made erroneously.  As a boy, he suffered from chicken pox, which, depending on the source, left him either deaf and mute or with a stutter and slight lisp; we may never know for certain the exact extent of the speech impediment, but it is certain he had one.  As a young man, he was denied military service due to “mental weakness” and the previously-mentioned difficulties speaking, both things which the military medic claimed had come from the effects of hereditary syphilis.  A poor, uneducated shepherd from a family of farmers, he never knew his father, had a difficult speech impediment, and lived in a small community far from any metropolitan center; in other words, Petrache was a perfect candidate for the grace of the God who humbled himself to take on flesh.

A Seer is Born

It was Friday, the 31st of May 1935, at around six o’clock in the evening.  Petrache Lupu had left his home and was on his way to the sheepfold, where he would spend the night in the field watching over the village sheep.  At the place known as “the tree stumps,” he was standing beneath a weeping willow when an old man suddenly appeared before him, dressed completely in white and floating above the earth about the width of two hands.  “He had a beard going to his waste and a big mustache,” the shepherd described four months later, “and the hair of his head went back and down to his feet so that only his toenails could be seen; his hair was white and beautiful, like silk.  His eyes were large and blue,[2]” and from the man emanated “a scent more intoxicating than the smell of any known flower of the field.[3]”  Of course, met with such an otherworldly and unexpected sight, Petrache initially responded in terror.  The man, however, quieted his fear and commissioned him with a message for the world:

Do not be afraid.  I will give you courage, and I will tell you something…  Go and tell the world, whomever you meet on the way, tell him:  If we do not repent, if we do not keep the festivals, if we do not go to church… if we do not keep the fasts, if we do not go to the priest… then fire, then He will destroy [all] our work, brothers![4]

After imparting the message to the shepherd youth, just as unexpectedly as he had appeared, the man disappeared, rising into a square-shaped cloud in the sky.  Petrache, stunned and uncertain of what to make of the whole experience, continued on to the sheepfold, where he spent the remainder of the evening and the night without further incident.

When he returned home the next day, ashamed, he told no one of the strange experience.

A week passed, and it was again Friday evening around six o’clock when Petrache once again met the old man, in the exact same location as in the previous occurrence.  This time, the man questioned the youth, asking him why he had failed to transmit the message to the world.  Petrache lied, claiming he had forgotten, and asked for forgiveness.  The man responded, “Go anyhow and tell the world, and do your job concerning the message I gave you, and know that I will forgive you.[5]”  The man then left in exactly the same fashion as he had in the first experience, entering a square cloud and disappearing into the sky.  This time, there was no doubt in the young man’s mind as to what he was expected to do, but he was just as certain of the ridicule he would bring upon himself should he tell anyone of these experiences.  Once again, he continued to the sheepfold and told no one what had happened.

The very next Friday, the 14th of June, as he approached the tree stumps at about six o’clock in the evening, the old man made yet another appearance to Petrache.  This time, he was quite angry because of the young man’s disobedience and insisted, “I will not forgive you!  I sent you these two times, and you have not gone.  Go now, do your job, and tell the world![6]”  Petrache, afraid, responded, “Wait, I have to go to the sheep now,” to which the stranger responded that he would join the young man in the field.  This evening, according to at least one account,[7] two other shepherds were present with the young man during this conversation; neither of them heard or saw the mysterious visitor and so naturally asked Petrache with whom he was speaking.  The shepherd attempted to answer but was overcome by vertigo and could not respond.

The following morning, the old man re-opened his discourse with Petrache, commanding plainly, “Go, go and tell the world!”  The young shepherd at last gave his consent but reminded his visitor that he had to finish milking the sheep first.  When it came time to strain the milk, however, the man “would not wait for [him] and poured out [the shepherd’s] bucket of milk.[8]”  The man insisted strongly that the shepherd fulfill the purpose for which he had been called.  Petrache argued, voicing his fear that no one would believe and would only laugh at him, but the stranger would not relent and merely repeated his previous command.  Again, he disappeared into a square cloud in the sky and left the youth.

petrache praying           That day, Saturday, Petrache began to fulfill the mission he had been given but it was not until Sunday that the news really made an impact in the town of Maglavit.  On Saturday, he told the local priest Nicolae Bobin and those he met on his way home from the sheepfold, all of whom received the news with incredulity but were amazed that the shepherd was able to speak clearly and coherently, without impediment.  Sunday morning, the story grew more interesting.  During the service in the local Orthodox church, Petrache suddenly felt someone pull his chin to direct his head upwards.  There in front of him, appearing at the altar in the Holy of Holies, was the old man from the sheepfold!  The man made a sign beckoning the shepherd to come to him, and the youth obeyed.  Upon entering this room forbidden to him, Nicolae Bobin sharply rebuked the shepherd for his impropriety.  Petrache responded simply, “I don’t need you.  I’m the one whom the old man called.”  With those words, the shepherd found the courage to begin spreading the message the old man had imparted to him:  repent and return or face terrible punishment.  While the young shepherd himself never carried his message outside Maglavit, from this small town along the Danube his notoriety would spread far and wide throughout Romania and even into neighboring countries.

The News Spreads

In Maglavit itself, church attendance immediately exploded; from the four or five women previously in regular attendance, crowds swelled to include men, women, and children, “the whole town… ready to riot.[9]”  Such excitement could not stay long within the confines of the small town and quickly spread to neighboring villages.  Illustrating the rapid growth, less than one month after that fateful Sunday, a crowd of two- to three-thousand had gathered at the church and began a procession towards the sheepfold where the visions had taken place; by the time the crowd had reached the field, it had grown to some 10,000 people![10]  A journalist from the newspaper Dimineaţa described his own journey from Craiova to report on the events, telling of towns along the road all under the influence of the occurrences in Maglavit:  “All the villages through which we passed were boiling.  The villagers had forgotten their work in the fields and the difficulties of the drought…, stopped in the middle of the miracle road.[11]”  Professor Gelu Dumitru described the incredible spread of the news, stating in an interview, “The news went out like lightning to the whole country, and so began the avalanche of people from all regions of the nation and even from neighboring countries—Bulgaria, Greece, Yugoslavia, Hungary.[12]”  Over the next two years, in fact, some two million pilgrims would visit the sheepfold in Maglavit, with an average of 20,000 visitors per day during the early months and as many as 100,000 when Bishop Vartolomeu Stănescu visited to lay the foundation stone for a church and monastery.  Some, like the flood of journalists, came for a few hours while others, like the two pregnant women who refused to leave the field and so gave birth there among the sheep,[13] arrived looking for a miracle and intended to stay until receiving one.  A great number came by foot—including one man who walked over 125 kilometers from the town of Caracal—seeing the long and arduous journey as a form of penance for their sins, but the vast majority of the pilgrims arrived by one of the ten extra trains mobilized to handle the influx of people or by special wagons whose use was strictly controlled and taxed.  However they came, men, women, and children flooded into the small town.

What motives brought these millions to this otherwise largely unimportant, little-known town in south-west Romania?  While certainly the pilgrims encompassed a wide and varied spectrum—from those coming for purely economic or political reasons, hoping to capitalize on the preacher’s fame, to those myriads of wonder-struck believers anticipating their own miracle—we know that the initial visitors were largely drawn by reports of extraordinary phenomena occurring in Maglavit which, besides the original visions of the “old man,” included also prophetic messages reportedly coming directly from God Himself as well as miraculous healings and wonders in the area.  While the accuracy of the stories that drew the pilgrims is open to debate, it is certainly true that spectacular events were taking place in this town, and millions flocked to witness them with their own eyes.

petrache crowds

The Message of the “Saint of Maglavit”

Having been educated only at a quite basic level, Petrache Lupu spread a simple message influenced heavily by the religious attitude and traditions of the Orthodox Church.  He encouraged repentance with evidence witnessed in good deeds, meaning both a change in how listeners related to other people and also a return to the strict observance of Church rituals and traditions.  All of this was punctuated by threats of grave and terrible punishment at the hands of God should rebellion continue.  A few months after the initial visions, he spoke to the crowds, explaining the message received at those first encounters:

If we don’t repent, if we don’t keep the festivals, if we don’t go to church, pray to God for health, if we don’t keep the fasts, if we don’t go to the priest… then fire, then He will break our labor, brothers!…  Let us no longer do bad things, let us no longer laugh at our brothers, let us unite all of us to do good deeds, let no one throw children into the pits… and let us no longer be enemies.  Let no one steal, let none add fuel to the fire, let no one take the rights of another!  Let us unite, all our nationalities.  Let us do good deeds because if not – death, if not – fire!…  He takes everything of ours, he torments us with no effort and all of Romania is nothing…  It’s bad, brothers for all of us if we don’t repent according to the message for which the Old Man sent me, and we have nothing to hold onto:  neither ox, nor horse, nor sheep, nor pig, nor bird, nor anything else.[14]

Later, as critics increased, the shepherd’s words grew even harsher, bolder, pronouncing “then comes death, then comes destruction[15]” to all who did not heed his warnings and change their ways.  His frustration is almost visceral in passages such as the following:

Why have you not grabbed hold of it?  Make yourselves clean because death comes!  Everyone will shout from fear, but I will say, “Why have you not repented?”  I’m not a doctor, I’m not a sorcerer.  May God forgive our sins for we are evil.  May you repent!  Don’t laugh at our elders, don’t laugh at anyone!  No longer throw children into pits, into wells, into the wheat, into the corn, for it’s bad of us, brothers…!  Cattle are dying, men are dying, children are dying.  The world that is sick, it’s from God, for the world lives in evil, in hostility, and it’s against God.  They don’t believe.  Let the whole country repent!  This is the command of God for which reason he sent me to all of Romania.  I’m not a doctor.  I’m not a sorcerer.  Because of all this about the Old Man, the world curses me.  Why don’t you believe…?   In the end, you will repent.  “What did the shepherd Petre Lupu tell us?  What have we done that we didn’t listen to him?”  May you not even repent at the end…  I did my job.  May God forgive you, if you repent.  If not, that’s your problem![16]

At times, his words even took on a style reminiscent of an apocalyptic prophet:  “If you do not repent, from the great star coming in the east will flow much blood onto this land, and there will be famine and much suffering.[17]”  Through every message, the same basic message remained the same:  repent from all evil and do what is good before God sends punishment.

The results of his preaching were felt early in the town of Maglavit and the surrounding villages.  During the first few years, church attendance increased dramatically as men and women came to hear the words of the preacher and receive their own touch from God.  One newspaper reported that all theft and violence had stopped completely in Maglavit itself and that people began to live more moral lives, rarely now eating meat (the Orthodox fast).[18]  Even the doctors reported no new medical cases in the town from June to September in 1935.[19]  Argetoianu, a reporter for Insemnari zilnice, summarized, “Petrache Lupu does not do harm to anyone, rather much good.  He has made the whole county moral.[20]

Although his message was strictly one of repentance, thousands came to Maglavit seeking physical healing at this place where God himself appeared to a simple shepherd.  In the beginning, Petrache Lupu refused to pray himself for these miracle-seekers, claiming he was neither a priest nor a doctor but simply a messenger.  However, at one point he received an impartation of courage from the old man in his visions, and from that time forward he began to pray for and bless people as a priest would.

Miracles, Healings, and Prophecies

While Petrache Lupu’s message was a simple cry for repentance, a large percentage of the two million pilgrims to Maglavit came seeking a miracle, drawn by the thought that God himself had appeared in the town.  Newspaper reports of healings, prophecies, and even supernatural retribution against critics of the movement abounded, drawing more pilgrims by the sensational accounts.  There is certainly a heavy shroud of legend and mysticism covering the entire phenomenon at Maglavit, and much more so concerning the reported miracles, but it is no doubt that despite even the Patriarch Miron Cristea’s cautionary words[21], the majority of contemporaries viewed the claims as accurate and truthful or, at the least, inspiring enough to motivate a pilgrimage of their own.

While Petrache prayed with the pilgrims and laid hands on them for healing, many received a miracle simply while sleeping in the field where the shepherd had first seen the “old man.”  Radu Manolescu (54 years old) from Braila was suffering from a paralyzed hand and foot.  He made the pilgrimage to Maglavit and stayed a week in the field among the tree stumps, praying for healing.  After seven days, he left healed![22]  In another example, Costica Trandafir from Coreseni was deaf and mute for seventeen years.  She spent one night sleeping among the tree stumps and woke up the next day speaking perfectly![23]  Elena Constantinescu from Constanţa had suffered for seven years from epilepsy.  She came to Maglavit and stayed two weeks in the sheepfold before she was finally spontaneously healed.[24]  Ion Negrila (71 years old) from a town in Arges County had a paralyzed left foot and hand.  After staying three weeks in the field, he was finally healed![25]  The military doctor Captain Radulescu lost his sight after an automobile accident.  Doctors and specialists from Bucureşti and Berlin had been unable to do anything for him.  Finally, a specialist in Vienna suggested he simply be patient and wait for his eyes to recover, which could very well happen naturally.  He went to Maglavit out of desperation and stayed three days among the tree stumps before he began to recover his sight.  He returned home overjoyed, but his own family refused to believe he was actually healed.  He was finally able to convince them only after reading a clock and describing the clothing his sister was wearing.[26]

petrache praying for people            Although less common, some were healed immediately after Petrache Lupu laid hands on them.  Marin Coveianu from Amzuleşti, for example, brought his daughter, born deaf and mute, to receive prayer in the field.  After the shepherd prayed, she began to speak.[27]  In a similar story, Gheorghe Pricop from Baia County fully recovered his hearing after receiving prayer.[28]  The most common mode of healing in Maglavit was, however, not through the laying on of hands but through a spontaneous miracle while a person waited and prayed in the field where Petrache had seen God.

While healings composed the majority of reported cases, the miraculous occurrences at Maglavit were varied.  During a particularly hot and dry stretch of weather, the newspaper Dimineaţa reported the following event.  Stan Mucică, owner of a large estate, asked Petrache to come to his property to pray for rain lest he lose his harvest.  Petrache refused to go with the man but instead simply told him to return to his land because in an hour it would rain in his region.  Exactly as the shepherd had spoken, within the hour, it began to downpour; the rain lasted between four and five hours, saving the harvest.[29]  In a case reminiscent of the Book of Acts, Ghorghe Coca from the town of Maglavit mocked Petrache Lupu and his message; he was instantly paralyzed in both his legs and arms.[30]  The shepherd Guran Branzache from Flămânda Mehedinţi experienced the same when he did not believe Petrache’s message.[31]

Even more extravagant claims were made concerning the young man and the “holy place” where he had seen the visions of the old man.  The simple watering hole dug by the shepherd to care for his flock was soon referred to as the “miracle-working well,[32]” and its waters reportedly had the power to heal the sick; even today, the well is known as “The Spring of Healing[33]” and continues to draw pilgrims from throughout Romania.  There are even accounts of desperate visitors, expecting to receive a miracle by simply touching “the man who spoke with God,[34]” kissing the tree stumps on which he had sat, or anointing their bodies with sap from the trees in the field.[35]  Claims of the miraculous and those desperate to receive from God flourished in Maglavit.

Problems:  Theological Issues and Embezzlement

Wherever there are people, there are problems, and this statement is only more true when those people are desperate, worried, or enthusiastic, as was the case with many involved in the events at Maglavit.  While a full discussion of the problems that arose in connection to Petrache Lupu’s activity is not possible at this point, there are a number of points worth making concerning some of the more troubling occurrences.  In particular, there were blatant problems in two main areas:  the theological emphasis and the handling of money.

One of the most troubling issues related to the events at Maglavit is the clearly faulty or at best partial understanding of the nature of God and his relationship to mankind.  For example, observant listeners would have noticed a figure strangely missing from every one of Petrache’s messages:  Jesus.  While repentance form dead works was highlighted, living in righteousness was emphasized, and certain punishment for wrongdoing was clearly stated, at no point did Petrache mention the One through whose sacrifice we can receive the grace and power to actually change.  According to Hebrews 6:1, repentance is only one-half of the picture; the other half is faith towards God:  “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.[36]”  Again, Paul wrote of the letter that kills, in stark contrast to God through whose Spirit we receive life:  “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.[37]”  Once again, we are reminded of the complete lack of power to save ourselves:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.[38]”  At best, the message of repentance followed by obedience is an incomplete understanding of salvation, but at worst it leads men into further religious bondage as they attempt to live differently but cannot do so under the power of the law.  A complete and healthy gospel includes Jesus and His power to free us from sin by His grace, not by our religious tenacity.

Departing further from biblically-accurate teaching, the very nature of the “old man” with whom Petrache Lupu spoke is quite different from the God of the Bible.  This misunderstanding likely arises directly from the shepherd’s own background in Romanian Orthodoxy, a tradition that emphasizes the nature of God as Lord while minimizing His nature as Father.  While God as revealed in the Bible certainly spoke of the judgment of the disobedient, even the harshest Old Testament prophets also spoke of God’s compassion and mercy, as in Ezekiel:  “‘As I live,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live[39]” and “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.[40]”  Love and redemption in the hands of an Almighty Father is never lost in His judgments or His rebuke.  After a similar manner, Isaiah spoke concerning the heart of God as a Father towards his rebellious children:  “There is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses himself to take hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us and have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.  But now, O LORD, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand.[41]”  While judgment and correction are certainly an important part of any father’s relationship with his children, it is only a portion of what a father does; a father also encourages, guides, strengthens, comforts, loves.  A father, while expecting to be obeyed, is at the very core relational.  This relational aspect of God’s nature is completely lacking in Petrache Lupu’s interactions.  In Petrache’s teaching, God is master and man is servant, and there is little if any relationship between the two.  However, from a biblical perspective, while God desires and expects, even demands, obedience, His heart is far less about correct actions than it is about correct relationship because relationship is the foundation for obedience.  Any picture of God that does not make relationship vital will inherently set itself in contrast to the biblical view of God.

While the theological errors spread through Petrache’s teaching are of more eternal importance, the blatantly inappropriate handling of money by the Orthodox Church[42] in Maglavit has also become a major area of concern, great enough in fact to cause serious doubts to arise concerning the reliability of events reportedly having occurred in the town.  No official investigations have ever been made, and no charges have ever been filed against the Church, but records show a number of highly suspect activities through which the local priest Nicolae Bobin and various political associates would have gained for themselves a small fortune at the cost of the faithful.  Throughout the years of mass pilgrimages, vast amounts of money were accumulated with no accountability; it was a veritable breeding ground for abuse that attracted “a multitude of profiteers.[43]

On the 4th of July 1935, Nicolae Bobin sent a letter to Bishop Vartolomeu Stănescu in which he suggested the field where Petrache Lupu had seen the visions should become “a holy place on which to build in time a monastery, a church, a little building or at least some crosses.[44]”  Immediately after the Bishop gave his consent, Nicolae Bobin began to collect funds for constructing not only a single church building but even an entire monastery.  The thousands of pilgrims visiting in these early days gave abundantly, leaving huge piles of money in the field that were collected every night in great sacks by the priest and the Senator Toma Valereanu, neither of whom was an official church accountant and neither of whom was held accountable by a third party.[45]  It is said that these funds were in such a great quantity that exact values were never recorded by Bobin and Valereanu but rather merely the number of sacks carried to the church, where the money would at that point finally be officially counted and registered.[46]  While we cannot be certain that the men took a share of these early donations, there are simply far too many warning signs.  With no accountability and plenty of opportunity, the verdict does not look good.

Further, history shows that Bobin became a master at turning the extraordinary events in Maglavit into hard cash.  The priest, for example, wrote various tracts concerning the miracles and insisted that pilgrims buy them.  All funds from their sale went directly to himself, for his own personal use.[47]  He did the same with some little crosses that he purchased in Craiova and then sold for a profit to the visitors.[48]  His money-making schemes went even further!  Anyone who wished to sell anything in relation to the miracles at Maglavit was required to purchase from Bobin a two-lei stamp for each item sold, marking it as approved for sale in the town.[49]  Bobin even managed to get his hand into the vast amounts of money made by the transportation of pilgrims!  He and Senator Valereanu allied themselves once again, this time to convince CFR (the Romanian Railway) to give them a share of the money made from each ticket sold to a pilgrim going to Maglavit.[50]  With a fortune awaiting him, one cannot help but wonder how much Bobin used his own marketing skills and political connections to make Maglavit a worthy destination for pilgrims.  To say it bluntly, did Bobin invent the miracles to draw more pilgrims to the town and so gain more money for himself?  The ability of this priest to turn a visitation of God into a money-making endeavor is truly amazing and at the same time nauseating, but things did not begin and end with him.

The priest’s “business” proceeded without hindrance until the Bishop Vartolomeu Stănescu visited and used his higher position in the church to remove Bobin from power.  However, he did not do so in order to stop the money-making machine and its abuse of the faithful but rather to put it under his own control!  Stănescu was in fact even worse than Bobin.  Already accused of having embezzled 15 million lei from the Church, when he came to Maglavit, he cleverly set up a charitable foundation and a bank account into which all the donations were put, but this was merely a façade.  The foundation, whose purpose was to work for the “physical and spiritual healing[51]” of the faithful charged membership fees, spent an extravagant amount of money to rent unnecessary office space, and paid a number of salaries to people whose actual names and specific functions are never recorded.  Now controlling happenings in Maglavit, Stănescu demanded that all the priests under his oversight sell the booklets describing Petrache Lupu’s visions and the miracles; if a priest did not meet his quota in sales (10,000 lei a month), the difference would be taken from the priest’s own salary.[52]

By the end of four years, about 10 million lei had been collected from official, church-sanctioned donations and sales alone; this figure does not include the money that went directly into the hands of Bobin and his associates.  The foundation stone for a church had been laid, and a few walls had been raised, but the rest of “the money donated by the people had disappeared from the Craiova National Bank[53]” without a trace, as reported by the Romanian Orthodox Church without further explanation.  It would not be until the 17th of August 1990[54] that work would finally begin anew and the promised monastery would be built, but one fulfilled promise cannot erase the vast abuses committed regarding the happenings in Maglavit.

Conclusions

The story of Petrache Lupu and the events at Maglavit are enough to cause the blood to boil in anger and the heart to beat with excitement.  Many questions remain regarding exactly what happened and whether or not the movement was from God.  There were many failures, including unbiblical teachings and the clearly inappropriate handling of money, but there were also many victories, including a dramatic reduction in crime, an increased interest in God, and miracles of healing.  If we study the facts surrounding Maglavit, it seems as though the young shepherd did in fact see and speak to God, but his youth, inexperience, and lack of training in the things of God combined with the greedy desires of men more powerful than he to create a truly ugly thing out of what could have been beautiful.  Did the shepherd see God?  Yes, I believe he did; the descriptions of the “old man” are simply too strange and Petrache’s response too natural to assume Bobin or another invented the initial visions.  Did God give him a message to share?  Again, I believe the answer is yes, but I do not believe every message Petrache spoke was in fact from God, nor all parts of each message.  It appears his Romanian Orthodox beliefs more than once surfaced to distort or leave unfinished what God was communicating.  Were people healed of diseases in Maglavit?  Maybe, probably, but the severe abuse of power and desire for money seen in the men promoting the events cannot help but put serious doubt on all things that would have put money into these men’s hands.  Knowing the amount of money Nicolae Bobin and others intended to make should Maglavit attract any sizeable amount of pilgrims, I cannot help but doubt any statements concerning the spectacular.  In the end, was it from God?  While there is much that is quite unpleasant concerning the events that took place in Maglavit, it does appear to have been initiated by God, even if it was later taken over by men, all of whom sought to use the event for their own purposes.  Clearly, there are no easy explanations for the events that began on the 31st of May 1935.

While the whole Maglavit phenomenon was far from an ideal situation, we can certainly learn from the experience.  There are lessons concerning the danger in assuming a spectacular experience or spiritual gift makes one a credible witness or teacher, lessons about the different callings of a prophet or seer and a pastor or teacher, lessons related to the terrible ability of money and power to corrupt, as well as many other lessons.  Perhaps the greatest and most encouraging lesson, however, is that people are truly hungry for miracles.  While Maglavit was only a small community, within two years over two million people had come primarily because of the reports of miraculous activities, visions of God, prophetic words, and especially healings.  People born and raised on religion, people living in turbulent times, people of all types want to know that God is real, that He is alive, and that He still moves on the earth today.  People are hungry for miracles.  As the Church of Jesus Christ begins to walk in the power and grace available to it, in the boldness of the children and ambassadors of God, miracles will occur, and people will come by the millions to see the living God.  “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe…[55]”  May the church rise up in all her glory to display the real and living Jesus Christ in power.


Bibliography

Carciga, Dragoş Maglavit: Miracol sau escrocherei? <www.historia.ro/exclusiv_web/general/articol/ maglavit-miracol-escrocherie> 23 July 2010.

Chronology: Roman Vishniac Archive. <vishniac.icp.org/chronology>

Destination: Romania/ Maglavit Village secures Dolj a place in the history of Christianity. <http://www.agerpres.ro/ engleza-destinatie-romania/2014/09/12/destination-romania-maglavit-village-secures-dolj-a-place-in-the-history-of-christianity-11-34-40>

Dorobantu, Florentin.  Minunea de la Maglavit – Partea I. <http://bizantina.ro/2010/02/14/minunea-de-la-maglavit/>

Fenomenul Maglavit. <http://cuvantortodox.ro/2011/04/29/fenomenul-maglavit>

History of Romania. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Romania>

Istoric (după Mitropolia Olteniei. <http://manastireamaglavit.ro/istoric/despre-lacas>

Maglavit (Petrache Lupu) – Teofanie sau Dracism? <https://saccsiv.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/maglavit-petrache-lupu-teofanie-sau-dracism>

Maglavit şi Petrache Lupu. <www.crestinortodox.ro/religie/maglavit-petrache-lupu-96339.html>

Maglavit, un subiect demn de Kusturica. <http://www.historia.ro/exclusiv_web/actualitate/articol/maglavit-un-subiect-demn-kusturica>

Minunea de la Maglavit. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rdw_0OiSxNA>

Minuni petrecute in România şi din lume: Petrache Lupu de la Maglavit, cel care L-a văzut pe Dumnezeu.  <http:// minunicrestine.blogspot.ro/2010/09/petrache-lupu-de-la-maglavit-cel-care-l.html> 19 September 2010.

New American Standard Bible. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.

Pelerinaj la Manastirea Maglavit. <http://www.noutati-ortodoxe.ro/pelerinaj-la-manastirea-maglavit_l52436_p0.html>

Petrache Lupu. <https://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petrache_Lupu>

Petrache Lupu. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oq35GkHcgMQ>

Petrache Lupu, deshumat. Oamenii au strigat “Un sfant!” <http://stirileprotv.ro/stiri/eveniment/petrache-lupu-deshumat-oamenii-au-strigat-un-sfant.html>

Petrache Lupu, omu’ lui Dumnezeu. <http://manastireamaglavit.ro/istoric/petrache-lupu>

Petrache Lupu profeţii. <www.profetiile.ro/petrache-lupu-profetii.html>

Petrache Lupu si minunile de la Maglavit.  <https://proortodoxia.wordpress.com/2009/07/18/petrache-lupu-si-minunile-de-la-maglavit>

Petrache Lupu şi minunile din… Maglavit. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8R52D7D0og>

Roman Visniac: Jewish Life in Eastern Europe, ca. 1935-38. <vishniac.icp.org/exhibition/jewish-life-in-eastern-europe-ca.-1935-38>

Tămăduirea vine prin credinţă la Maglavit. <ziarullumina.ro/tamaduirea-vine-prin-credinta-la-maglavit-23120.html>

Urzică, Mihail. Minuni şi false minuni.  Editura Anastasia, 1993.

Footnotes

[1] http://www.crestinortodox.ro/religie/maglavit-petrache-lupu-96339.html

[2] http://cuvantortodox.ro/2011/04/29/fenomenul-maglavit/

[3] http://www.historia.ro/exclusiv_web/general/articol/maglavit-miracol-escrocherie

[4] http://cuvantortodox.ro/2011/04/29/fenomenul-maglavit/

[5] ibid.

[6] ibid.

[7] http://www.crestinortodox.ro/religie/maglavit-petrache-lupu-96339.html

[8] https://saccsiv.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/maglavit-petrache-lupu-teofanie-sau-dracism/

[9] http://cuvantortodox.ro/2011/04/29/fenomenul-maglavit/

[10] https://proortodoxia.wordpress.com/2009/07/18/petrache-lupu-si-minunile-de-la-maglavit/

[11] http://cuvantortodox.ro/2011/04/29/fenomenul-maglavit/

[12] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rdw_0OiSxNA

[13] https://proortodoxia.wordpress.com/2009/07/18/petrache-lupu-si-minunile-de-la-maglavit/

[14] http://cuvantortodox.ro/2011/04/29/fenomenul-maglavit/

[15] ibid.

[16] ibid.

[17] https://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petrache_Lupu

[18] https://proortodoxia.wordpress.com/2009/07/18/petrache-lupu-si-minunile-de-la-maglavit/

[19] ibid.

[20] http://cuvantortodox.ro/2011/04/29/fenomenul-maglavit/

[21] ibid.

[22] http://www.crestinortodox.ro/religie/maglavit-petrache-lupu-96339.html

[23] ibid.

[24] ibid.

[25] ibid.

[26] ibid.

[27] http://cuvantortodox.ro/2011/04/29/fenomenul-maglavit/

[28] https://saccsiv.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/maglavit-petrache-lupu-teofanie-sau-dracism/

[29] ibid.

[30] ibid.

[31] ibid.

[32] https://proortodoxia.wordpress.com/2009/07/18/petrache-lupu-si-minunile-de-la-maglavit/

[33] ziarullumina.ro/tamaduirea-vine-prin-credinta-la-maglavit-23120.html

[34] Urzica 178.

[35] https://proortodoxia.wordpress.com/2009/07/18/petrache-lupu-si-minunile-de-la-maglavit/

[36] Hebrews 6:1, New American Standard Bible.

[37] 2 Corinthians 3:5-6, New American Standard Bible.

[38] Ephesians 2:8-9, New American Standard Bible.

[39] Ezekiel 33:11, New American Standard Bible

[40] Ezekiel 36:26, New American Standard Bible

[41] Isaiah 64:7-8, New American Standard Bible

[42] To be sure, the Orthodox Church, while the greatest offender, was not the only one greedy to exploit Maglavit for its own monetary gain.  Even the mayor himself took advantage of the two million pilgrims by enacting a special tax on wagons carrying visitors to the town; each one was required to pay a ridiculous sum of 500 lei.  Should a driver complain, his license to carry passengers to the town would be rescinded.  Further, the mayor only gave receipts reporting 120 lei, thus putting 380 lei straight into his own pocket.  Reports abound even concerning politicians as powerful as King Carol II, whose hands seem far from innocent.  (Carciga)

[43] Carciga.

[44] ziarullumina.ro/tamaduirea-vine-prin-credinta-la-maglavit-23120.html

[45] Carciga

[46] ibid.

[47] ibid.

[48] ibid.

[49] ibid.

[50] ibid.

[51] ibid.

[52] ibid.

[53] http://manastireamaglavit.ro/istoric/petrache-lupu

[54] http://manastireamaglavit.ro/istoric/despre-lacas

[55] Ephesians 1:18-19, New American Standard Bible

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4 responses to “Petrache Lupu – The Shepherd Who Saw God

  1. Reblogged this on The Missal.

  2. Hey Ben,
    Just heard about Cornerstone. Breaks my heart

    • Thanks for the support and prayers! It all still seems so unreal since I only see things through facebook. I’m sure when I go back to visit home, it’ll finally sink in that the place I spent nearly 10 years of my life is gone. Crazy, though! I was really bothered at first (not so much for the loss of the building but thinking through the difficulties of finding a new place to meet, dealing with insurance, rebuilding, the loss of all the hard work, etc.), but talking with Derek and Matt definitely left me feeling much more hopeful and full of faith. Still, I’m praying for them ’cause I know it’s a big change.

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