Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica
Elder Thaddeus (Strabulovich) of Vitovnica was one of the greatest modern Serbian elders. He was born in 1914 in Vitovnica in Serbia to working class parents, and was named Tomislav.
At the age of 15 he was told by doctors that he only had five years to live. He joined the monastery of Milkovo in Serbia where he became a novice under the guidance of Russian monks who had fled there due to persecution.
Among the Russians at Milkovo was Elder Ambrose, a disciple of the Optina Fathers. It was from him that Fr Thaddeus learned the Jesus Prayer.
After the repose of his Elder he moved to the Gornjak monastery and was tonsured in 1935. Later that year he was ordained a hierodeacon, and in 1938 he was ordained a hieromonk in the Rakovica monastery in Belgrade. During World War II, like many other Serbian churchmen, he was arrested by the Gestapo.
After first being made an abbot in 1949, Elder Thaddeus became the hegumen at Vitovnica Monastery from April 14, 1962 until the end of March 1972. He dwelt around Vitovnica for much of his remaining life.
The Elder became well-known and was greatly sought after for guidance. It is due to his many spiritual children, mostly Serbians but also Bosnian converts from Islam, that we can enjoy his life and teachings collected in the book Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives. Here are some of his teachings:
“Our thoughts determine our whole life. If our thoughts are destructive, we will have no peace. If they are quiet, meek, and simple, our life will be the same, and we will have peace within us. It will radiate from us and influence all beings around us.”
“Work hard to have good thoughts and goodwill towards friends and enemies and you will see what good fruit you and everyone around you will receive.”
He departed this life on 13 April 2003 and is buried in the monastery of Vitovnica.
Source: Lychnos December 2020 – January 2021