Full name: Tikhon Bellavin
Dates: 1865 to 1925
In America: 1898 to 1907
Who was he? Head of the Russian Archdiocese in North America at the turn of the 20th century, and later Patriarch of Moscow during the Bolshevik Revolution and its bloody aftermath. He was known for being a kind bishop, humble and unassuming. He suffered under the Bolsheviks and was glorified as a saint in 1988.
Something he’s famous for: In 1905, he wrote a reply to a survey the Russian Church had sent to each of its bishops. Part of that reply included a sort of blueprint for Orthodoxy in America. St. Tikhon envisioned a future where each Orthodox ethnic group in America had its own ethnic bishop, with overlapping jurisdictions, but with all the bishops sitting on a single local synod, led by the Russian Archbishop (and under the Russian Holy Synod).
Something nobody knows: St. Tikhon’s brother Michael served as his secretary during his time in America. Michael supposedly died of a broken heart in 1902, when he was 31. The story goes that he was madly in love with an opera singer in San Francisco, but she wasn’t interested. When he found out she was leaving the country, his heart couldn’t take it. From the San Francisco Call (12/5/1902):
Wednesday night he retired early to his apartment at 1715 Powell street, where the cathedral is located. He was in such a condition of nervous prostration that Dr. Victor G. Vecki was summoned to attend him. He administered sedatives and left his patient apparently resting easily. But the knowledge that Tina de Spada would depart in the morning and that probably he would never see her again gripped his heart until it ceased its beating. When the family went to awake him in the morning he was dead.
Something he said: “We live surrounded by people of alien creeds; in the sea of other religions, our church is a small island of salvation, towards which swim some of the people, plunged in the sea of life. ‘Come hurry help,’ we sometimes hear from the heathen of far Alaska, and oftener from those who were our brothers in faith also, the people of the Union. ‘Receive us into your community, give us one of your good pastors, send us a priest that we might have the divine service performed for us of a holiday, help us to build a church, to start a school for our children, so that they do not lose in America their faith and nationality,’ — those are the wails we often hear, especially of late. …
“But who is to work for the spread of the Orthodox faith, for the increase of the children of the Orthodox Church? Pastors and missionaries, you answer. You are right, but are they to be alone? … At the beginning, not only pastors alone suffered for the faith of Christ, but lay people also, men, women, and even children. Heresies were fought against by lay people as well. Likewise, the spread of Christ’s faith ought to be near and precious to the heart of every Christian. In this work every member of the Church ought to take a lively and heartfelt interest. …
“Orthodox people, in celebrating the day of Orthodoxy, you must devote yourselves to the Orthodox faith not in word or tongue only, but in deed and in truth.”
– From his homily on the Sunday of Orthodoxy in 1903, published in the English-language supplement to the Vestinik, 2/23/1903.