Outside the residence of the Patriarch snow had begun to fall, at first lightly and then it became very heavy. The Patriarch looked out of one of the windows of his large living room. He was wondering who else would be coming. It was all very strange. It was one thing to have the King of Saudi Arabia appearing unannounced on one’s doorstep, and this was strange enough, but to have one of the most loved saints of the Western World making an appearance as well was, to put it mildly, unnerving. As he looked around he was even more bemused for present in the room with them, in a line in front of the doorway, were five of the most important saints of Russia, standing majestically and peacefully, surrounded with what can only be described as an aura of kindliness.
President Putin had of course met two of them before, namely St. Sergius and St. Seraphim, but he was overcome with awe and reverence at the sight of the others, for there before him, was none other than his patron saint, Saint Vladimir, the founder of Russian Christianity, the Grand Prince of Kiev. With him were his two saintly sons, Boris and Gleb, who were done to death by their brother Syatopolk “The Accursed”, who wanted to succeed their father, St. Valdimir. He was determined to kill his two younger brothers and take the throne, and though they had been warned of his evil intentions, they did not resist him, but offered themselves up to God, in imitation of Christ, the true Lamb of God.
However all the human beings in the room were frozen, not with fear, but with excitement. No-one could speak, and the King’s eyes indicated a whole range of conflicting emotions, wonder, amazement, anticipation, and confusion. Something made the Patriarch look out of the window again, it was the noise of barking, there in front of the entrance were the President’s dogs. “Vladimir, your dogs are outside!”. “Of course they are your holiness, I forgot to bring them. I was told to bring them by St. Sergius.” This was all becoming too much for Patriarch Kirill, and turning to the saints he said, “Most Holy Fathers, do you mind if I sit down and rest. It is all very strange, very surprising.” Without a word the saints nodded their assent. St. Francis said with a certain authority “I will go and get the dogs.” The saints at the doorway made way for Francis, and he went downstairs to open the doors and let the dogs in. A few minutes later they appeared, as docile as lambs with St. Francis, and when they saw their master they bounded over to him, even Koni, who was much less arthritic than normal. “Now” said Patriarch Kirill “excuse me holy fathers, beloved saints, for my lack of courtesy, but I am either feeling my years, or these miraculous events are taking their toll. I can offer you no hospitality, for living in Heaven such things are not needed. Are we to do anything?”
“No” said St. Valdimir , “but let us pray, that you and the other humans, who are just about to arrive, are filled with Charity, and Peace.”
Everyone fell silent.
In the far distance they heard the most beautiful singing, but it was very far away, however as it became nearer, it became clearer and clearer. The constant refrain of Alleluia could be heard punctuating the heavenly song. Vladimir went to the window, and Binyamin, whose curiosity could not be restrained, joined him. King Abdullah sat contemplating the floor, half expecting it to open and up and divulge even stranger wonders. “Your majesty” asked Kiril in a gentle voice “Would you like some more tea?” “That would be most welcome” answered the King, wondering what the Prophet would make of the present scene that was being played out before him. For in one part of the room were the saints talking in a strange language to one another, presumably the language of Heaven. Near the Patriarch were the dogs, who had been stealing some of the refreshments from the low coffee tables, and there were the Prime Minister of Israel, and the President of Russia, looking out of the window like two excited small boys waiting for a fireworks display to begin. It would be more than fireworks that would be going off however. The King was thinking that though Russian tea was very nice, it really was not as good as Arabic tea, and the refreshments were well good but...However before he could continue his reflections on the comparative merits or demerits of Russian cuisine, there was, what appeared to be, a spectacular explosion of fireworks going off outside the Patriarch’s residence. However the old King was too tired to get up, and surprisingly the Patriarch, who was not as old as the King had dozed off, and did not seem to have been aware of the noises from outside his residence. “What is that?” he asked Binyamin.
Unfolding before their eyes at the far end of the avenue, leading up to the residence, was what looked like a huge daffodil, but it was pulsating with figures, and coming out of it, from the centre of this vision was a stairway. “Vladimir, are those cats coming out of that thing?” asked Binyamin, “Yes, and other animals too, three bears, a wolf, a greyhound, a very large mouse, and a raven. So that is why I had to bring the dogs.” “Yes, I can see that.” Why Binyamin said that, even he didn’t know. He had no idea as to why the President of Russia should be bringing his dogs for such a weird meeting, but then Binyamin was a pragmatist; there was not a mystical bone in his body, and that is why Heaven had come to rectify this lack. “Is that the Pope with two cardinals and a bishop” asked Binyamin. “The Pope?” exclaimed the Patriarch, awaking suddenly and knocking the King’s tea over (onto the floor you will be relieved to hear) and hastily got up from his chair. “Well this is extraordinary! Is he in a limousine? The Papal Nuncio has not informed me about a visit from the Pope.” St Sergius went over to the Patriarch, and gently took him by the arm and led him to the window. “This is not a visit arranged by Nuncios and diplomats. This is a visit arranged by Heaven. Let us wait and see.” Just behind the Pope were the three Professors, St. Martin and St. John Bosco.
The procession was now almost complete. Behind the Pope were four majestic looking women, three of them nuns, and then behind them was the sainted Russian Royal Family, Tsar Nicholas II, with his wife, Alexandra and their children, and her sister St. Elizabeth. Finally as they neared the entrance, the great Daffodil looking like structure dissolved, and in its place was the great Archangel Michael surrounded by a host of angels with shimmering rainbow wings. It was his appearance that brought a gasp to everyone’s lips, including the King, whose curiosity had got the better of his weakness, and so he too had found himself with the others staring out of the window. “Who’s the man in black, and the one in white, with a black cloak?”. “The one in white is my new friend Martin de Porres,” said the Russian President with obvious pride, “Did you know that he got his sister to open a cat and dog home in early 17th century Peru?” “Well I certainly approve of cats, but dogs, I’m not so sure.” said the King. “After all the Prophet, may he be blessed forever, had a great love for cats.” Vladimir continued in his little biography of St. Martin, “He was a great wonder worker. He was known to bilocate to North Africa, and tend to the needs of Christian slaves, and prisoners (It is good to know that President Putin was not remotely bothered what the King would have thought of Martin ministering to the slaves of Moslem owners). He was a trained surgeon and something of a herbalist. He often bilocated to Japan to help the Japanese Christians who were being persecuted. He assisted some of the martyrs in their last agonies. He was so loved in Lima that he was called ‘Martin The Charitable’. “Really!” said the King. “This is indeed news of wonder and mystery. Something that we need today.” But Binyamin's eyes lingered on the sight of St. Elizabeth, his heavenly visitor of the night before, who was fulfilling her promise that he would see her again.
The Patriarch was somewhat taken aback at the President’s enthusiasm for St. Martin, and wondered did this portend something awful like the President becoming a Catholic. Just at that moment, there was a tremendous blast of trumpets, and the Russian saints stood aside from the doorway as in burst the cats and all the animals. Vladimir’s dogs who had gone to the door to meet the other animals ran back up to their master and in the process almost knocked the King down, who had to be steadied by Binyamin. Vladimir was amazed at Koni’s youthful bounce, which was remarkable in such an old Labrador. The two Russian bears Vasily and Yuri found their respective masters, who then led them to the middle of the Room. Lorenzo bounded up to St. Francis and licked him with great enthusiasm, while Beppe looked a little lost, until Pope Francis entered, flanked by St. Martin and St. John, with Cardinals Boniface, and Goodfellow and Bishop Placid following up behind. At this point Beppe ran up to the Pope, and jumped into his arms. The Pope smiled somewhat bemusedly, blessed him, and handed him to St. Martin, who gently stroked him, smiling all the while his beatific smile. However his smile was, extraordinarily cast into the shade by the radiant, winning and hope-filled smile of Pope Francis, who then opened his arms and went up to the Patriarch and embraced him with a warmth that would have melted the hardest of hearts. The cats had gathered around the Patriarch and the Pope and seemed to want to take part in this embrace of the two churches. The Cardinals and the Bishop then embraced the Patriarch. Normally there would have been an awkward silence, or stilted conversation, but there was no need for that because Saints Hildegard, Bridget, Catherine, and Colette floated into the room followed by the Jewish, Moslem, and Hindu professors, who had been much relieved at being rescued from the lunacy of the IOMUASPSCS meeting. Finally amid the strains of angelic singing, St. Nicholas and St. Alexandra and their sainted children entered, all smiling, all utterly natural, and all perfectly relaxed together with St. Elizabeth, Alexandra's older sister. Everyone started clapping because the Imperial Royal Family were the first fruits of the great persecution of the Church in Communist Russia, and embodied all the martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries.
After all the excitement there was silence, a long peaceful and prayerful silence. Finally Patriarch Kirill broke the silence, and said; “Before we go any further let us invoke the Father’s guidance”, and intoned the Our Father, whereupon everyone said it in their different tongues, and it all sounded the same, rather like Pentecost. That was the first miracle. Then the Patriarch rang a bell, and in came some monks. The Patriarch asked them to arrange the chairs for everyone, saints and humans, the animals obviously did not need furniture and only the cats, and then not all of them, would be looking for laps. The Pope and the Patriarch sat together, the two cardinals on Pope Francis’ right, and Bishop Placid on The Patriarch’s left. The Patriarch then said “But goodness me, we should have Archbishop Hilarion here as well!” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than there was the Archbishop. “Oh, whispered Contessina to Lily and Dolly. “He is the most wonderful composer. His music, you would die for it. I must go and pay my respects.” “Contessina” said Lily very firmly “It is neither the time nor the place for compliments, for the things to be talked about, and to be experienced in the coming time, are too serious for social niceties.” Dolly looked at her sister somewhat startled. Lily never spoke like that normally, in fact most of the time she was too busy darting here and there to have anytime for talking at all. “Lily whatever has come over you?” asked Dolly. “Goodness me, I really do not know.” replied Lily. Archbishop Hilarion looked, not remotely phased by his sudden appearance in this most unusual of gatherings; being both artist and mystic, it was the most normal thing for him to find himself in this most unusual setting. A monk produced a chair, and he was placed between the Patriarch and Bishop Placid. “Two bishops and two cardinals; very good symmetry” said the Patriarch. Suddenly the symmetry was perfected as Bushy and Tommy simultaneously jumped on to the Pope and Patriarch’s laps respectively. Tommy jumped onto the Patriarch’s lap, and Bushy onto the Pope’s. Opposite the clergy were President Putin, flanked on his right by the Prime Minister of Israel, and on his left was the King of Saudi Arabia, who had the Moslem Professor from Syria on his left and the Indian Hindu Professor next to him. Next to the Prime Minister was the American Jewish Professor. The cats sat between the two groups, and the dogs and the wolf were on their left and the Bears, the raven and Beppe were on the cats’ right.
Finally when everyone was settled down, Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, at exactly the same time, said “Can anyone tell us why we are here?” “Yes I can; for that is why I called you together with some of the great saints of the East and West” and there was Michael the Archangel in the middle of the room surrounded by a cluster of Angels. He looked at all the gathering with great seriousness, tenderness, mixed with what can only be described as warlike severity, but because he was an angel, it was completely different to human severity.
The Archangel continued. “You human beings want peace, but peace as you all know comes from God. It is a gift of the Trinity. In the world today peace is talked about as if it had nothing to do with God. In the West people want “to be left in peace” so that they can sin to their heart’s content, for they have hardened their hearts against God and one another. Some think that they are Christians, others think that they are enlightened by science, and worst of all there are those who think that they are enlightened by a spirit world, which in fact is the world of the Devil. Many from different religions come together and pray for peace, but unless they really wish for the peace of God, to whom are they praying? The Western World is in a gigantic revolt against God, which has been going on for centuries now. It is the same boast of Lucifer ‘I will not serve’. It was this terrible defiance of God that caused me to cry out ‘Who is like unto God?’, and made me rally the angelic army against Satan and his army of devils. Today Hell is unleashing all its forces against God’s faithful, and entering into the souls of millions of humans intent on disobeying God, whether they know it or not, for within every human being there is a gift from God, called a conscience, which, however darkened, has a memory of God. I, by the command of God, have brought these cats before you humans, and in the company of these saints they will tell you what they think, for so many humans appear to have lost all sense, and have become demonic in their behaviour, whereas the cats like all animals, do not sin, but are simply part of fallen creation. Now Lizzie please begin.”
Lizzie, looking somewhat overawed cleared her throat and began; “Your Holinesses, I am only a very ordinary cat, and these my fellow brothers and sisters here, are not what you would call pedigree cats. Let me say that we are very surprised to be here. We can only think it is because we come from a hermitage and those who care for us are three hermits. We have learned many things about the world of men, and about Christianity, from listening to the hermits. Of course they think that we cannot understand what they are saying, but we can.
We have learnt that the Christian World has suffered terribly in the last hundred years. We have learnt that there have been hundreds of thousands of martyrs, if not millions, who have died rather deny Christ. Though we have heard about the heroic sufferings of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christians under Communist rule and Nazi rule, we see that in the Catholic and Protestant West nothing like that has been happening, for there is no persecution there, only much comfort, leisure and pleasure. In these lands of the West, the divinity of Christ is questioned, and sexual sin is seen as not only permissible but something that should be encouraged with zeal. Men can now marry men, women, women. Embryos can be nurtured outside the womb, and so they will not have the safety of their mothers’ wombs to protect them for awhile. Thank God Almighty that his angels watch over these tiny little beings. So many devils attack human beings, and many now do not have the grace of baptism. We can see the demons, for our sight sees spiritual realities as well as physical ones. In fact for most of the time we see the sky darkened with demons like great black thunder clouds on a sultry summer’s day.
Much talk is about human rights, but little is said of the rights of God, and what the human race’s duties are to God. Also we have seen among Western Christians a flight from the Cross. We think that this is very odd as God became Man, he did not become a cat, or a dog, a bird or a reptile.” The President’s dogs suddenly pricked up their ears and asked, “What is this about God becoming a dog? We know perfectly well that’s rubbish.” “No, No!” Lizzie tried to explain, “I did not say that God became a dog, please listen to what I am saying!” “Well I am very pleased to hear that!" said Buffy. “Dear me no wonder that the West is in such a mess.” Koni said in a mildly exasperated tone.” Lizzie then continued feeling somewhat exasperated herself. “Why do most Western Christians not wish to follow the poor crucified Christ as our beloved St. Francis did, and as did so many of the great Russian saints? Why are Western Christians so unable to do penance, unlike Orthodox Christians? Why are they, and so many in the churches so taken up with psychology and not with the spiritual life? Surely if humans were living as they did in the past, there would be neither the time nor the leisure to be, what you call, mentally ill. It is surely the luxury of an urban civilization, where men are unable to work, because machines and technology have stolen their jobs from them, and have lost their faith in God that they are taking leave of their senses, for reality without God is indeed Hell. It is not surprising then that the love of leisure leads to the most terrible sins. Violence spills out into terrifying wars, where governments show the greatest cynicism and through sanctions and evil weapons cause sufferings to so many little children, women and old people. All this is done in the name of 'national security', or in the cause of 'world peace'. Too many of the powerful are not interested in world peace. They are interested in their own comfort and power. Those of you who rule, must realize that there are children in their millions, who suffer from the greed of a few. Surely if people have enough to eat, and a roof over their heads, that is enough. Sons of Adam, remember that you have the same parents, Adam and Eve, and that in Christ you are neither Jew, nor Greek. You are all children of God the Eternal Father. For us cats we see almost nothing but sorrow in your world, and everywhere the most terrible greed.”
Lizzie could go on no longer for her whole spiritual vision was at the moment swamped with an image of suffering children throughout the world. Children dying as a result of sanctions, children being used as slaves, children dying in war, children dying of starvation, children suffering from sadists and sexual perverts, children spiritually dying because of their parents divorcing, and children dying from being unloved. She began to weep silently. So Molly said to her sister, “There there dear, don’t worry. I will continue as I know your mind and mine are one on this grave matter.”
Looking like a wise panther Molly said in her beautiful husky voice. “All this would be terrible enough, but what is terrible and scandalous is that Christians are not one in Christ. The Catholic Church is wracked by heresies, and but for the Papacy the whole Church would crumble, as are the Protestant churches have done. The Catholic Church has become so secular in many way that it resembles that worst of creatures, the civil service. Its documents read as if they were spiritually versions of something that might have come out of Whitehall or Washington. The celebration of the Mass is a world away from the Orthodox celebration. The Orthodox Churches have kept to the tradition of the Fathers of the Church, and they have imbued their cultures with the sacred. The secular, for them, is like morning mist, diffused easily by the warmth of the morning sun. There is with them no dalliance with the ideology of modern science, which, more often than not, is not about science, but about man wishing to dethrone God. This is tragically the case with the theory of evolution that the Catholic Church in its higher representatives would seem to endorse, which is tantamount to removing creation from the majestic hand of God. That God would take millions of years to create man is a fiction; is a science fiction.
I would beg that your Holinesses will do everything to proclaim the majesty and glory of God throughout the World. The social gospel, though important, especially where there is such great poverty throughout the world, must take second place to the love and worship of God, which Your Holiness Kirill, knows only too well, and I am sure you Holy Father (And here Molly addressed Pope Francis) you know this too, for your love of the poor is such a beacon of hope to so many millions of people who feel not only poor, but unloved. However we must love God properly, and if we do this then we will love our neighbour as ourselves.
Most Holy Fathers, call the world leaders to account, and say that Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Messiah, and that he is God, and the Son of God. Dialogue is all very well, but when does it just degenerate into a talking shop among religious academics and experts who, after all, are only a tiny minority in the Church. St. Paul did not hang around in the Areopagus. When he realized that the Athenians were only interested in a sophisticated intellectual gossip shop he got up and left. Hopefully Christians are above all that.” Molly finished quite abruptly and sat down, and she too began to weep at the sheer stupidity and sinfulness of human beings. Dolly ran to her side and gave her a hug, and dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief. Suddenly there was a spluttering noise, and Bushy got up, stretched his legs, and looked up with beaming eyes at Pope Francis.
“Holy Father” he said “I will not speak for long, as I am not as bright as my two sisters here, and because I am older than they, I tire more easily. I will say this that there is so little to stop the Orthodox East and the Catholic West from coming together. Your two churches have been separated for nearly a thousand years. Hopefully there will be no need for the millennium of the break in 1054 to be celebrated in 2054. May this never happen. What divides the two churches is so little, and I have to admit that the popes have not always covered themselves with glory, only a Gregory The Great managed to be a superlative ruler, a humble monk, and a pope at the same time. More’s the pity that there have been so few like him, that is no criticism of you Holy Father, it is just a fact, for even Leo The Great and Nicholas the Great, were not as competent in so many areas as was Gregory. If then the Primacy of Peter, his infallibility is seen as something like a foot being put down, a check on heretical notions, similar to an Ecumenical Council, much as was said at Chalcedon, when the fathers said “Peter has spoken through Leo”, then dogmas can be accepted. And, after all, your holiness (Here Bushy looked at Kirill even more gently than he did at Francis) what is so wrong with the Immaculate Conception? To a rather un-intellectual cat like myself, I would have thought it was rather obvious. We Westerners are inclined to over-define, and you Easterners to leave things too much in the realms of mystery, so that things become more mysterious than they should be. You also basically believe in something like purgatory. Then the final nub of the issue is “The Filioque”. It was very wrong of Alcuin, an Englishman I am sad to say, for bringing pressure to bear on Charlemagne to get the Papacy to include “The Filioque” in the Creed, which Pope Leo III did not want. I am afraid that all this thinking is very tiring. If you don’t mind, I think that I had better have a little rest before I do anything else.” With that Bushy curled up and promptly went to sleep on Pope Francis’s lap. All the bishops looked somewhat non-plussed at this sudden end to Bushy’s reflections. In fact they were left in mid-air.
There was a sweet little coughing sound, and Dolly said somewhat shyly “I think, if you don’t mind, I had better finish off where Bushy left off. I think that what he wanted to say was how the unity between East and West could take place. In a word “Sobornost” . This view of the Church, which is unique to Russia, is so beautiful and so necessary for all Christians. It is something difficult but so easy. It is that deep unity of every Christian in the heart of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It does not have that terrible division between the laity and religious and priests. For too long in our individualistic Western World, which began with the Renaissance, we have forgotten that profound life of the Christian community, and still we have not found it. Things are not helped when you have documents on the priesthood, on bishops, on the laity, and on goodness knows what else. There is no danger of broad brush strokes here; everything must be looked at and responded to, dissected and analysed; it is beyond the strength of most people. Surely the great truths of the Gospel, especially in John’s Gospel tell us all we need to know. You cannot have a community of boxes all just about connecting, but not very well. You have a communion of saints in Heaven, and we need that mirrored on earth in the Church. In the East you have it, but in the West it is not really to be found. We have become competitive in the religious life, and even between the new communities I suspect: competition which is a form of pride will wreak havoc in the Church. We cats look on with sorrow in our hearts, but if it was not for little groups trying to discover “Sobornost”, such as Madonna House, we would be lost. It is heart breaking.
There must be a way. The Catholic Church must become less like a huge bureaucratic organization. It must find it’s heart, which is in the East, the Entire East, from Egypt through the Holy Land, and round to Greece and up into Russia. O Holy Russia come to the aid of your sister the Roman Catholic Church, we cannot do without you or we will die.” By this time poor Dolly’s eyes were streaming with tears, and all the cats, crowded around to comfort her. Tommy had jumped down from the Patriarch’s lap and suddenly the noise roused Bushy from his nap, “Which reminds me” the owl like cat said, as he jumped across onto Binyamin’s lap, “When are the sons of Isaac going to be reconciled with the sons of Ishmael?” Before a very startled Binyamin could say anything, and before King Abdullah could contain his surprise, a beautiful dark voice spoke up. It was the Tsar Nicholas:
"Until cities lie waste
and houses without men,
and the land is utterly desolate,
and the LORD removes men far away,
and the forsaken places are many
In the midst of the land. (Isaiah: 7: 11-12)"
The Russian Royal family, in their medieval court dress surrounded by a crowd of angels, looked the image of peace itself. The Tsarina smiled such a winning smile that it was as if summer had come and all was well with the World. Then the royal couple, the children and the angels moved to opposite sides of the room, and all the humans and the cats gasped and fell to their knees, for there was Jesus in all his simplicity as he was 2000 years ago. He looked at every one with a tenderness that no one could ever forget. Then he spoke and the sound was a like a thousand waterfalls:
“Let your hearts not be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions.”
Then he was gone, and it seemed an age before anyone moved.