April 7 – Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow; Albert of Tournai

Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow (1865–1925) (né Vasily) was born in the Pskov (“Pshaw”) district, whereupon his (dead) grandmother appeared to his father in a dream declaring him (Vasily) destined for greatness. (Her prophecies for his brothers weren’t so great but this isn’t their story.) After some time studying and teaching at various seminaries (where he was well-loved for his intelligence, gentle spirit, and willingness to help others with their homework (seriously)) he was tonsured as Tikhon. Soon he was made Archimandrite and then Bishop, and sent to Lublin and then Kholm (Chelm), melting pots of Ukrainians, Poles, Russians, Lithuanians, and probably others who kept their heads below the parapet. He won great acclaim and love from Russians and non-Russians alike, but he was banished to Alaska anyway.

As you might expect, he hit the permafrost running. Renaming his see the “Diocese of the Aleutians and North America” (rather than “…and Alaska”), he traveled across the continent, consecrating churches here, authorizing seminaries there, and in general establishing and strengthening the Orthodox faith. Understandably, he is called “Apostle to America.” He did so well there that he was recalled to Russia and sent to Yaroslavl, at the time a bustling metropolis of 70,000 ice-bound souls, where once again he won the people’s love.

After the February Revolution, he was made Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, a title that had lain dormant since Peter the Great abolished it in 1721 (he was called “great” for some other reason). He was immediately impressed with the enormity[1] of the October Revolution and Civil War. The Bolsheviks wasted no time attempting to destroy the Orthodox Church, and when that didn’t work, attempting to subvert it through the “Living Church” movement. Stuck between speaking out against the godless, ecclesiocidal regime on the one horn, and protecting his clergy by having them lay low on the other horn, he carefully threaded a way which in retrospect was deemed not only acceptable but worthy of sainthood. (Some thought him too accommodating of the Soviets, but few of them ended up being declared saints, so determine your desired salinity level there.)

The strain eventually broke his health, and two-thirds of the way through a triple recitation of the prayer, “Glory to thee, O Lord, glory to thee,” he entered into his rest. His funeral/laying-in-state was attended by millions, and he was glorified by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1989.

We end with an example of his forthrightness (and sense of humor): when a sewer line broke open under Lenin’s tomb, he said, “По мощам и елей,” an allusion to myrrh-streaming icons: “The myrrh befits the relics.”

Albert of Tournai (ca. 1060–1140), a pious lad, was stricken with desire for the monastic life when he heard a traveling minstrel-beggar singing at the family’s front door. He set out for the Saint-Crespina monastery (destroyed years later by Napoleon, the cretin), where he worked as sommelier[2] for 23 years before retiring to a private hermitage.

Like many a good hermit, he quickly became a disciple-magnet, and the bishop ended up priesting him and building a chapel inside his cell (we’re talking a very large cell or a very small chapel) so his disciples wouldn’t have to hoof it to the nearest church for the sacraments. It is said he prayed the rosary 50 times a day, which is amazing considering it is also said that the rosary was first revealed to (St.) Dominic (Aug 8) in 1214, some 70 years after Albert’s death. Once again, we are forced to consider the time travel explanation.


[1]I use this word with its proper meaning, you’ll note.
[2]Since you ask, no, I didn’t realize monasteries had sommeliers either.