An alternate celebration appointed for 7 April is that of St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow (d. 1925). Tikhon served as Lord Archbishop of the Aleuts and North America, of the Russian Orthodox Church. In this capacity, and as a result of the efforts of our own Bl. Charles Grafton, Tikhon participated in the consecration of Bishop Weller as suffragan in Fond du Lac on 8 January 1900. A photo of the participants may be found here: http://www.diofdl.org/grafton/#circus The consecration caused a strong negative reaction in much of the wider Church, being referred to as “The Fond du Lac Circus”.
Following the 1917 fall of the Russian monarchy, Tikhon was consecrated as Patriarch of Moscow. There had been no patriarch from the 17th century reign of Peter the Great (who had essentially made the Church a department of the State). Tikhon was martyred by the Bolsheviks in 1925. Under the floorboard of his prison camp hut was found a copy of the “circus” photo. The cope worn by Tikhon in Fond du Lac was given to Bishop Grafton, and was presented by Bishop R. Jacobus to Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev (principal officer of the Russian Orthodox Church for external relations) at a ceremony at Nashotah House in 2013. The Russian Church now retains the cope as the second order relic of an important martyr.
On 9 April falls the commemoration of Bl. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A Lutheran pastor, Bonhoeffer was instrumental in the formation of the Confessing Church (Bekennende Kirche), a Christian response to the Nazification of many of the Protestant churches in Germany in the 1930’s. Bonhoeffer was hanged by the S.S. in 1945, for his complicity in the plot to rid Germany and the world of Adolf Hitler.
April 19 marks the commemoration of the martyrdom of Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1012), who was murdered by Vikings when he refused to have his people raise a ransom for his release. Another “English” saint is remembered on the 23rd, being St. George. George may or may not have existed. He is, at any rate, the type of the Christian hero, and is considered patron both of England (and Canada, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, and Portugal) and of soldiers (as well as many others). George reminds us that by the Lord we may do things far beyond our own powers.
St. Mark the Evangelist is remembered on the 25th. Mark was the son of a woman who owned a house in Jerusalem, perhaps the same house where Jesus ate the Last Supper with His disciples. He may have been the young man who fled naked when the soldiers came to the garden to seize Jesus (Mark 14.52), and Paul refers to him as Barnabas’ cousin (Col. 4.10). Mark is thought to have written his gospel on the basis of Peter’s recollections, and Peter refers to Mark as his “son” (1 Pet. 5.13). Mark is thought to have been the first bishop of Alexandria. His relics are claimed by Venice.
The month is rounded out with the feast of St. Catherine of Siena (29 April, d. 1380). A visionary who served as a Dominican nun in the care of lepers, and of those condemned to death by execution. Catherine displayed a woman’s reconciling touch (and persistence) in her tireless campaign—writing to princes, kings, and popes, to bring about the end of the schism of the western Church, and to persuade rivals to the papacy to renounce claims, to allow for the reunification of the Church. May we be counseled and led by wise women in our own day!