Pitirim of Tambov
St. Pitirim was born on February 27 in either 1644 or 1645 in the city of Vyazma in western Russia. He was baptized Procopius. As a child he learned reading and writing, attended church services, and acquired the habit of prayer. Procopius loved to read the writings of the holy Fathers and the Lives of the Saints. He loved work and developed a broad base of knowledge with a mature judgment. Endowed with artistic talent, he successfully occupied himself with the painting icons and church singing.
Resolved to dedicating himself to God, he entered the Monastery of St. John the Baptist at Vyazma, a monastery known for its strict rule. When he was twenty-one, he was tonsured a monk with the name of Pitirim. Pitirim soon earned the respect of his brethren by his ascetic life and was chosen igumen. In 1684, he was raised to the dignity of archimandrite.
Igumen Pitirim was diligent in following the decree of the Tsar and Patriarch to remove "poorly executed" and westernized icons from churches and private use. On an occasion during a procession he confiscated an icon painted by an unskilled iconographer. This created an incident among those who had brought the icon. They grumbled, cursed, and stirred up many people against Igumen Pitirim. The incident, however, became known to Patr. Joachim, who praised the courage and zeal of Archim. Pitirim and approved his actions. He was soon summoned to Moscow for higher service to the Church.
Nominated to the episcopate on September 1, 1684, Archim. Pitirim was consecrated Bishop of Tambov on February 15, 1685 by Patr. Joachim. As his new see had only been established in 1682 and was in a territory of many pagans and Muslims, Bp. Pitirim remained in Moscow for a year to prepare himself for his new responsibilities. A frontier diocese, the Diocese of Tambov was impoverished, with illiteracy widespread among its inhabitants. Pagan Mordovians, Cheremysi, and Mereschi comprised the greater part of the population. Also, the territory of the diocese included many Muslim Tatars, who were bitter opponents of Christianity, and among the Christian population there were many schismatics, fugitives from justice, and banished criminals.
Arriving in Tambov, Bp. Pitirim quickly began to transform his see. Under his supervision, he began by building a two-story cathedral of stone in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord on the site of an old wooden church, taking part in the actual construction himself. He traveled throughout the diocese to familiarize himself with the needs of the communities and the people. He also devoted great effort to the spiritual enlightenment of his flock with the establishment of a school to train the clergy, as well as collected a library of spiritual literature.
Bp. Pitirim was constantly concerned with encouraging the return of schismatics and dissenters to the Orthodox Church. Deeply pious, his compassion towards neighbors, and wise patience in conversations with the schismatics and dissenters brought them to trust his word and led many to return the true Faith. Through his example of frequent prayer, he taught his flock about prayer. Often serving himself, Bp. Pitirim attended divine services every day. When he did not serve, he sang in the kliros (choir), teaching the choir proper church singing and reading.
He often entered the forest to offer solitary prayer, and there he set up a large wooden cross bearing an image of the Savior. Nearby, with his spiritual friend St. Metrophanes of Voronezh, he built the Tregulaev Monastery of St. John the Baptist. Like the great ascetics, he allotted much time to physical work, as evidenced by the wells he dug with his own hands at the Tregulaev Monastery near the Tambov Cathedral and in the forest where he withdrew for silence and prayer. In 1690, he founded the Ascension Monastery for women, of which his sister Katherine became the first abbess.
A bold man of prayer and intercessor before God, Bp. Pitirim never lost his Christian humility. He reposed on July 28, 1698 at age fifty-three and was buried in the lower level of the Savior-Transfiguration Cathedral in Tambov, at the south wall of the right side chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas.
His spiritual ties with his flock did not end after his repose. Crowds came to his tomb seeking his intercession as many obtained healing from God. Each year the number of pilgrims grew as many also would come on the anniversary of his repose to attend services at the Tambov cathedral. Each sign of God's mercy, obtained by prayers to Bp. Pitirim, inspired an assurance for the people that the bishop they venerated was truly a man of God. Beginning in 1819 a record of miracles and personal testimonies began to be kept as the veneration of Bp. Pitirim as a saint extended far beyond the Diocese of Tambov. On July 28, 1914, the holy wonderworker Pitirim, Bishop of Tambov, was numbered among the saints.