Sainted Pitirim, Bishop of Tambov
Commemorated on July 28
Bishop of Tambov, in the world Prokopii, was born 27 February 1645 (or
1644) in the city of Vyazem. From his youthful years the Lord readied Prokopii
for high spiritual service, which was set him to fulfill. While still in
childhood he learned reading and writing. Favoured exercises of Prokopii were
reading the literature of the holy fathers and the Lives of the Saints. This
furthered the formal spiritual makeup of the future sainted-hierarch. The boy
was remarkable for his overall love of work, broad knowledge and mature
judgement. He was endowed with artistic talent, and he successfully occupied
himself with the writing of icons and adroit knowing of church singing. A
sublime spiritual disposition early on led Prokopii onto the pathway of
monastic efforts. Having resolved to totally dedicate himself to God, he
entered into the Vyazemsk ForeRunner monastery, known for its strict rule
(ustav). In his 21st year of life he took monastic vows with the name of
The young monk earned the respect of his brethren by his ascetic life and was chosen hegumen. In 1684 he was raised to the dignity of archimandrite. On 15 February 1685 Patriarch Joakim (1674-1690) summoned him to Moscow and ordained him bishop of Tambov.
Organised in 1682, the Tambov diocese suffered from the frontier poverty and the coarse illiteracy of its inhabitants. Pagans comprised nearly all the greater part of the settlers: the Mordvi, the Cheremysi, the Mereschi. On the territory of the diocese lived also many Tatars, bitter opponents of Christianity. Among the Christian settlers of the diocese were numbered many schismatics and fleeing or banished criminals.
The saint zealously took on resolving the tasks set before him. On the place of the old wooden church at Tambov he began to build a two-storied stone cathedral in honour of the Transfiguration of the Lord with a chapel in the name of Sainted-bishop Nicholas. Saint Pitirim not only zealously watched over the construction of the temple, but even himself participated in the building work. The saint allotted great effort to spiritual enlightenment. He built a special school for clergy-servers, where under his guidance were raised up worthy Church pastors. At his dwelling by the labours of the saint was gathered together a library of spiritual literature (in the works of the Moscow Uspenie cathedral there is noted "two books of Dionysios the Areopagite, leather bound, one in red, the other in black, along the edges gilded", belonging to Saint Pitirim). The saint continually instructed his flock, preaching the Word of God. He often made trips throughout the diocese, so as to have the possibility to familiarise himself on the spot in the needs of the communities.
The holy archpastor was constantly concerned about the reconciliation with the Orthodox Church of the schismatics (raskol'niki), about the reunion of the dissenters to it. The deep piety, active compassion towards neighbour and wise patience of the Saint in conversations with the raskol'niki and dissenters disposed them to a full trusting of his word. By fine example of holy life and by the power of gracious discourse the saint led many to the true faith. The saint's sister by birth, Ekaterina, became the first head of the Ascension women's monastery founded by him in 1690.
Being an audacious man of prayer and intercessor before God, Saint Pitirim never forgot about Christian humility. Not relying on his own human strength, the archpastor shielded the city of Tambov entrusted him by God with icons of the Saviour and the Kazan Mother of God, locating them at the two chief gates.
Saint Pitirim prayed much and taught his flock about prayer. He was daily present at Divine-services and often himself performed the priestly doings. On those instances, when the Saint did not serve, he sang in the kleros (choir), teaching the choir the correct church singing and reading. In his cell the Saint very often prayed before icons of the Devpeteruvsk Mother of God and Saint Nicholas.
Saint Pitirim acutely sensed the beauty of nature in his land, which awakened in him a feeling of prayerful thanksgiving to the Trinity for the visible world. Alongside his favourite spot of strolling and pious meditations was built in the deep woods the Tregulaev monastery of John the ForeRunner, founded by him together with his spiritual friend, Sainted-hierarch Mitrophan of Voronezh (Comm. 23 November and 7 August). The saint set up a large wooden cross with an image of the Saviour.
Similar to the great ascetics, Saint Pitirim allotted much time to physical work: the water-wells give evidence to this, dug up by the hands of the saint at the place of his prayerful deeds.
Sainted Pitirim died in 1698 at age 53.
The body of the saint was buried in the lower level of the Tambovsk Saviour-Transfiguration cathedral, at the south wall of the right-side chapel in the name of Saint Nicholas. After the blessed end of Saint Pitirim his spiritual ties with his flock were not sundered. The place of his repose started soon to be devoutly venerated. With each year grew all the more the number of pilgrims, gathered on 28 July – the day of death of the saint, for Divine-services at the Tambovsk cathedral. Each new sign of God's mercy, manifest by prayer to Saint Pitirim, inspired assurance for the people that the bishop venerated by them – was truly of God. From the year 1819 there was begun the conducting of a record of grave-testimonials of the manifestations of grace. The veneration of Saint Pitirim extended far beyond the bounds of the Tambov diocese. On 28 July 1914 Sainted Pitirim, Bishop of Tambov, was enumerated to the ranks of the Saints.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.