Letter from Prison by the Romanian New Confessor Valeriu Gafencu (†18 February 1952, aged 31)

5 December 2019

29 January 1946

Life is different from what people imagine it to be. And people themselves are different from what they imagine themselves to be. The truth really is different from what the human mind usually considers it to be.

I want to be sincere and open to the depths of my soul. With the first step I took in prison, I wondered why I’d been jailed.

On a social level, I’d always been considered very good, a model of moral upbringing. If I clashed with anyone, it would only ever have been over the truth.

After a great deal of worry and a lot of pain, when the chalice of tortures was filled to overflowing, the holy day came, in June 1943, when I fell, face down, to the ground, on my knees, with a heart full of contrition, sobbing uncontrollably. I begged God to give me light. At that time, I’d lost all faith in people. I thought I was walking in truth. But then, why was I suffering? My soul had once been filled with enthusiasm, but now all that remained was love. No-one understood me.


At the same time as I was crying, I began to make prostrations and suddenly- Oh, Lord how great you are!- I saw the whole of my soul full of sins.

I found within myself the root of all human sins. There were so many sins, but the eyes of my soul which was hardened by pride didn’t even see them. How great God is!

When I saw my sins, then, I felt the need to shout aloud and seek forgiveness. And then a profound peace, an infinite light and great love inundated my heart. As soon as the door opened, I hurried out of the cell and went to people I knew loved me greatly and also to those who hated me and had sinned against me the most, and I told them in no uncertain terms: ‘I’m the most sinful of persons. I don’t deserve the trust of even the least of people. I’m happy!’

They were all astonished. Some looked at me contemptuously, but as though it was neither here nor there. Others with love that they themselves would have been hard put to explain. Only one person said: ‘You deserve to be embraced’, but I fled back to my cell, lay down on the bed and continued weeping, thanking and glorifying God…

From then on I consciously began the struggle against sin. But if only you knew how difficult this is! I’d like you to know that not only here, but also when I was outside, I fought hard against sin.

In prison, I examined my soul and I realized that, even if I hadn’t sinned in practice, I’d transgressed through my mouth and my mind. I went to the priest and, after a profound examination of my conscience, I confessed. Confession relieved me of my sins.

And I strive without ceasing. The struggle doesn’t end until we die. Without repentance, nobody can take even a step forward. What is life? It’s a gift from God to us so that we can cleanse our soul of sin and, through Christ, prepare ourselves for eternal life. What is the human person? A being created by the immeasurable love of God, to whom the choice has been given to choose between happiness and death, as he or she wishes…

Be very careful! In our social life, people are seen and judged not by what they really are but by external criteria. Don’t place demands on other people, because those who do so will suffer harshly. Love other people. Only One is perfect, only One is good and pure and that’s Christ our God.

And now, what is truth? The truth is Christ, the Word of God. Try to really come closer to Christ and to leave behind the world and its sins.