A WALK IN THE NIGHT
The President of Russia was restless. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was very tired, but that was not the problem. As he was sitting in his sitting room, he tried to rack his brain as to what he was feeling. It was not anxiety, but the feeling of restlessness was more like an anticipation of something unknown. It was slightly frightening, but it was not fear as such. Though he was one of the most powerful men in the World, he was too much of a realist not to know that power is here today, and gone tomorrow. He had only to think of the Stalinist purges to realize that your star could fall at any time. What was he to do, he who was leader of Holy Russia? Was he to imitate St. Vladimir, great-grandson of Rurik, the founder of Russia, and not convert Russia, for Russia had been Christian since 988, but re-convert it and bring about a true Christian Renaissance in the country. St. Vladimir had been very keen on having close relations with the Catholic Church, as had been his successors. He felt, therefore, that he had something important to do, but what was it.
He suddenly became aware of someone standing in the room, who had not been there before. He was not remotely frightened however. If anything he was tingling all over with excitement. He had been looking down at the floor, while he had been thinking these thoughts. Slowly, lifting his eyes he saw standing before him a smallish man in a rough grey hooded habit with a a cord. The tingling got more intense, for he knew that he was in the presence of one of the Latin West’s greatest saints, the Poor Little Man of Assisi, St. Francis. The saint said in a very deep and beautiful voice “Would you like to come for a walk?” Vladimir jumped to his feet with a spring that belied his 61 years, “It would be a great honour to go for a walk with you”. There was a noise at the door, it was the sound of the President’s dogs trying to get in. “Shall I let them in?” asked Vladimir, and as he saw the saint looking very amused, he said, “Of course you are the patron saint of animals.” “I’m not the only saint who loved animals, many of your saints have loved animals too.” replied the saint.
The President opened the door, and in came Koni, the Labrador, Buffy the Bulgarian shepherd dog, and Yume the Japanese Akita-Inu. The two younger dogs burst into the room jumping up and down, followed by Koni who was rather old and slow. Having licked and jumped up to greet their master, they then noticed St. Francis and suddenly went very silent and appeared to be overcome with awe. They promptly sat down at his feet looking up at him with wide eyes and utter admiration. “This will never do” said St. Francis “Your master and I have a meeting in the woods, a very important one, and you must come too”.
The President left the house, without any of his guards or secret service men accompanying him. He told them that he would be quite alright. As none of them could see St. Francis, but only the dogs looking at something that the staff could not see, they were somewhat concerned, but as the President was so emphatic, they could do nothing but obey.
“It is not far,” said St. Francis, “400 metres at the very most”. Whether it was far or not, in no time at all they found themselves in a clearing in the grounds which Vladimir had never seen before. “I did not know that this place existed”. “Well” replied St. Francis, “It doesn’t exist here, but exists somewhere else.” The clearing was suddenly bathed in bright moonlight, for at the moment the clouds parted, and then began to disappear. The sky, which until that moment had been overcast, was now clear and spangled with stars.
“They will be here in moment” said St. Francis “Who?” asked Vladimir. “You will find out.” replied the saint. “Now let us keep silence. That is most important”. The President realized that St. Francis was inviting him to pray. They stood in silence for a few minutes, and then in the distance through the pines and the birch trees, there appeared a light, a bluish white light. It came closer, and as it came closer the chanting of monks was heard, a beautiful and deep chant, which kept getting louder and louder, the nearer the light got. Vladimir noticed that the trees were covered with what looked like thousands of glow worms, but it was quite the wrong time of the year for that. He was more and more overcome by a an overwhelming feeling of peace, and well being. Just as the light emerged into the clearing it disappeared, and there were two monks standing just a few yards from St. Francis and Vladimir.
Overcome with emotion Vladimir fell to his knees. One of the monks, who was dressed all in white, came over to Vladimir, and lifted him up, and kissed him on both cheeks. “Are you pleased to see us my joy?” said St. Seraphim, for that was he who the monk was. “Yes holy father, but who is the other monk with you?” he asked. The other monk came forward, and gave Vladimir a great hug, and said “Vladimir Vladimirovich, do you not know me?” “Can it be?” said Valdimir, “Is it true?”. “Yes it is me, St. Sergius of Radonezh”. It is a credit to Vladimir Putin’s humility that he could not believe what he was seeing, and could not understand why two of Russia’s greatest saints should be appearing to him, for Russians, unlike their Western Christian counterparts, have a great sense of their sinfulness.
“We have come with a message from Heaven” said St. Sergius “Tomorrow at 6 o’clock in the evening you must come to the Danilovsky Monastery, where the Patriarch will be waiting for you. We will tell him that you are coming. He will dream of us visiting him this very night, and at 7 o’clock we will come with visitors, and you are to bring your dogs”, “But Koni is old and cannot walk too far.” “Vladimir Vladimirovich. she will be quite alright tomorrow, I assure you” St. Seraphim said comfortingly. “But why have you come to me, a sinner, a great sinner?” asked Vladimir, who was confused, despite his peace. “It is precisely because you are a sinner, and know that you are a sinner, that we have come to you.” Said St. Sergius. “Now we must leave you, and you must get some sleep.” “Before you go holy fathers, give me your blessing, I beg you” With that the two saints blessed him, and disappeared.
In the silence Vladimir was filled with wonder and deep emotion. He wondered what it could all mean? He looked down at his feet and his three dogs were sound asleep. He looked up, expecting to see St. Francis, and was taken aback. In front of him was a smiling dark faced monk in white. “Who are you, and where is St. Francis?” asked Vladimir, “I am a mulatto dog!” the man said, and then grinned at the puzzled President, “Well I used to be, but I am now known as St. Martin de Porres. I am not at all well known in Russia, but my sister used to have a home for dogs and cats in Lima of all places in, what is now called, Peru.” “We should get on then.” said Vladimir. “Anyway” continued the saint, “in answer to your second question. My brother Francis has some important business to attend to, and so I am here to take you home.” “But I am in the grounds of my home” replied a mystified Vladimir.” “Well not exactly. You are in actual fact in another place. You are close to the Sarovka River, some way away from Moscow.” Martin traced in the air a large circle of blue light, and in it there was a round door, which he opened, and there are few yards away was the entrance to the Presidential residence. “Now I must go, but before I do I must say hello to your lovely dogs.” said Martin. The dogs reciprocated and jumped up to lick and paw St. Martin. “Goodbye dear Vladimir” said St. Martin. “Goodbye St. Martin, will we meet again?” “Oh yes we will” and smiling broadly at the President, he closed the door, and he and it disappeared. The President turned to enter his residence, when one of the guards said, “Have you forgotten something Sir?” “No, why?” “Well you only left the house a few minutes ago.” “Yes, then I suppose I must of done.” said Vladimir.
Entering his house, the President went to his office, sat down at his computer and googled St. Martin de Porres. The dogs immediately went to sleep at his feet. Sleep, however, was the last thing on President Putin’s mind.