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St. Philip of Moscow

Engineer and monk

Feast Day: October 5

Claim to fame: St. Philip of Moscow, born in 1507 as Theodore Kolyshov, is remembered for standing up to Tsar Ivan IV, better known as Ivan the Terrible. St. Philip used his role as bishop of Moscow to protect the people of Russia from Ivan’s abuses, even though he knew that he would most likely end up as one of Ivan’s victims.

Little-known fact: Philip of Moscow was a skilled engineer who created a new system of irrigation for his monastery, set up windmills for power and built two cathedrals. He also introduced reindeer herding to the monks and taught them how to use reindeer hides to make clothing and shoes.

What made him a saint: Philip of Moscow willingly gave up his position as a member of a wealthy, noble family to pursue a life of prayer and service. He hid his background from the abbot at the monastery in Solovetsk and humbly accepted positions as wood cutter and baker for his monastic house. He also spent several years as a hermit, praying and studying Scripture. Because of his holiness, he was elected abbot of his monastery in 1547. He rebuilt the monastery, added improvements, and worked to provide respectful treatment of the peasants in the region around the monastery, including the right of grievance against the ruling aristocracy. Ivan the Terrible considered Philip’s actions to be meddling in political affairs. But that didn’t cause Philip to back down. In fact, it made him a stronger voice for the people, even though that meant privately and publicly chastising the tsar for his actions.

Best quote: “If I do not bear witness to the truth, I render myself unworthy of my office as a bishop. If I bow to men’s will, what shall I find to answer Christ on the day of the Judgment?”

How he died: Philip found out that Tsar Ivan IV did not take kindly to correction by religious authorities. When Philip, as leader of the Russian church, spoke out against Ivan’s policies of murdering political opponents and others who disagreed with the political regime, the tsar had Philip removed from office. He was arrested, chained and moved from one prison to another for many months. On Dec. 23, 1569, an agent of the tsar murdered Philip by suffocating him with a cushion.

Prayer: God, you gave Philip of Moscow great courage to speak out for what was right. Teach us to see the injustices in our world and to speak and act with courage to right the wrongs that harm your children. We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.