FLIGHT IN THE NIGHT
St. Thérèse looked with great amusement at the cats. She then went over to join her companions, Sts Hildegard, Bridget, Catherine and Colette. The Pope and Patriarch, and all the other mortals, found themselves looking at the dazzling array of saints with a kind of stupefaction. To the front of them were the Russian Royal Family, and on their left were all the male saints. To the right were all the women saints. In front of them were the celestial animals, and above them all, with quivering and flashing wings, was St. Michael with a glittering array of angels of varying sizes sending out thousand upon thousands of coloured lights.
St. Michael in a thunderous voice sang “I leave you dearest children of men, and go ahead of you to our final meeting.” With that he and all the angels disappeared amid a shower of stars that looked like so many precious stones. When these touched the ground they disappeared.
St. Therese then spoke; “Before we begin the final leg of our journey, I just wanted to add something to what the venerable Fathers said about monasticism and the life of hermits. It is true that after the age of martyrs, which is still with us.” With that, she bowed low to St. Nicholas and St. Alexandra and their children, with a truly holy elegance, and continued “ Those who wished to live a holy life found that it was very difficult to do such a thing in the newly Christianized Roman Empire. The world had entered the Church, and to baleful effect. And so from that time, until the present era, there were new forms of religious life springing up in the garden of the Church, despite the many persecutions, which at times seemed to have all but wiped out religious life. What persecution could not do, comfort has done. If monasticism was the floor of the Church, the apostles being the foundation stones of the Church, then the cement was the blood of the martyrs. Oh how I wished to be a martyr, but it was not to be. It was when I found that I was to be love deep down in the heart of Mother Church, that I then realized, not only was my vocation to be love, but that should the vocation of every Christian. Love is the Vocation, that is Charity which is the heart of what has been called “The Little Way”, but the little way is only the Gospel, and it is the heart of a trusting child. I know that this is what you dear Holy Father Francis are trying to tell the World”. St. Thérèse then looked very solemn “But the ‘Little Way’ is a martyrdom of love. It is not the sentimental spirituality that quite a few think it is. It is a love of the Cross, and it is a cup of suffering that must be drained to the dregs.” There was a solemn few moments of silence, and then the saint laughed delightfully and said, “But come my dear friends, be of good cheer for love will carry us all to God. We must pray for sinners. There are so many who need our sacrifices and prayers, especially when humanity is struggling under the stranglehold of Satan. Now let us depart, as our sleighs await us. Come my sisters we will go and arrange everything for our guests.”
With that summonsd, the four women saints floated out of the doorway followed by the men saints, and finally by the Russian Royal Family. Then came the Celestial animals, followed by Binyamin Netanyahu, King Abdullah, and President Putin and his dogs, followed by the three professors. Finally the bishops, cardinals, the Pope and the Patriarch, surrounded by the cats, made their way out of the room, and descending the stairs, came to the entrance.
The sight that met the cats and the humans was indeed like being wafted into a fairy tale. There were five sleighs made of what looked like the most delicate carved ice. They gave off a white bluish light, which seemed to pulsate through the dark night sky and light everything up. Each sleigh was harnessed to winged horses. However no-one could see any harnesses, for though there was nothing that attached the horses to their vehicles, when they moved so also did the sleighs. The winged horses were very solid looking, not at all ethereal, but they were certainly whiter than snow, and had nothing blue about them.
“Good Heavens!” gasped Molly, “Winged horses!” The cats were very excited and kept jumping up and down, and the President's dogs ran around the sleighs barking most enthusiastically. The five great sleighs were parked in the square, in front of the entrance to the Patriarchal residence. In the first were the apostles Peter, Paul, and Andrew. In the second was the martyr St. Stephen, in the third was St. Augustine of Hippo, in the fourth was St. Teresa of Avila, and in the fifth was St Edward Confessor, and St. Elizabeth of Hungary.
Peter, jumped down and greeted the Pope and Patriarch, “Brothers it is good to be here. You and your fellow bishops will be coming with Paul, Andrew and myself. The journey is a very unusual one, but it is one that must be made. Please let me help you up” he said to the Pope “as I see that you have a slight limp.” With that Andrew, who was very tall, also jumped down from the driving seat (He, Peter and Paul were all in the driving seat) and helped the Patriarch into the sleigh. Once they were seated then Paul helped archbishop Hilarion into his seat, and then Peter, and Andrew helped the two cardinals and Bishop Placid into their seats. The Pope, and the Patriarch sat with Archbishop Hilarion, and Cardinals Bonaventure and Goodfellow, and Bishop Placid sat opposite them.
The only other people that had to be helped into the sleighs were the King and the professors, as the Saints and the Celestial animals could quite easily shift for themselves. St. Elizabeth, while leaving St. Edward in the driving seat, floated down towards Vladimir, Binyamin, King Abdullah, and the three professors. “Dear friends, please come aboard” said the lovely saint, and with that she took King Abdullah’s arm, and he floated up with her followed by the Professors, who seemed to be invisibly harnessed to King Abdullah. President Putin and Prime Minister Netanyahu, being reasonably young and healthy had no difficulty getting into the sleigh, and found themselves sitting with Prince Vladimir. “My son" said St. Vladimir addressing Vladimir Putin, “Are you not pleased to be with me. You look so serious?” “No! I am very pleased to be here. In fact pleased is an understatement, something that St. Edward being and Englishmen might know something about.” replied Vladimir. “Indeed, I most certainly do” said The Confessor. “it is also unexpected”. “As unexpected as me talking.” and there on his lap was Koni, looking young and spry and most definitely talking. “Isn’t this the most exciting adventure?” she continued, “And who would have thought that cats were so nice.?” “But we are nice. Who could think otherwise?” and there were Lizzie and Molly.
The cats and dogs were finding which were the most suitable sleighs. Bushy had managed to get into the Papal and Patriarchal sleigh and decided that the Patriarch’s lap was even more comfortable than the Pope’s. He was joined by Buffy who seemed to be in his element. “Not exactly a St. Bernard. remarked Archbishop Hilarion. “No but very imposing all the same.” said Cardinal Goodfellow.
The most packed of the sleighs was obviously that of St. Augustine. It had St. Francis, St. Martin, St. John, St. Antony, St Basil, St. Benedict and St. Romuald. In fact it was made up of all those male saints who were not martyrs, and who were not laymen, and traditionally known as confessors. It also had St. Corbinian’s bear. “What do we call you?” asked Yume, “Hans” said the bear," But I am known as St. Corbinian's Bear, so I suppose, you could call me Corbie, if Hans doesn't sound quite right." "Yes that sounds perfect." said Yume. “The problem is that it sounds rather like the town where I come from” said Tommy in an unusually, for him that is, reflective mood. He was normally like a feline version of Mike Tyson, though he showed no inclination towards Islam. He was, in fact, a very Catholic Cat! “That sounds rather nice.” said the bear, “I rather like it.” “Well Corbie it is” and of course the voice was St. Colette’s, who rather like a station guard was seeing that everyone was on board, “And that is also the town I came from, except it is the French version, so we have that in common, Tommy”. One suspects that was one of the few things that they did have in common.
St.Colette then went to see how Lily and Dolly were getting on in the sleigh of the virgin saints. They were very happy darting from saint to saint, and feeling very at home, for of course they were the first saints that they had encountered in the garden at St. Patrick’s. “It’s all so interesting” Lily kept saying. “What’s interesting?” asked Dolly, “Well what we are doing; this!”. “Could you be more specific?” said a bemused Dolly, but as Lily was running at breakneck speed around the sleigh she decided not to continue that line of enquiry. It was at that point that St. Teresa of Avila joined in the conversation. “I think that what Lily is saying, though she does not quite understand it, is that she is very pleased to be involved with the reform of the Church, and the salvation of souls.” “Yes that’s it, that’s quite right, spot on” chirped Lily as she jumped up on the driver’s seat and began to pad St. Teresa. In the meantime St. Bridget who was not a virgin, but like St. Elizabeth had been married, floated over to sit with St. Edward and her fellow widow St. Elizabeth. They both sat either side of the Confessor.
“Is everyone aboard?” asked St. Colette , “I think they are?” replied St. Thérèse, “Yes I can see Sammy and Freddy with the Royal family, and Contessina” “Are all the celestial animals on board?” she said. “Well if they are not, then they can easily find us” said St. Colette. In fact the wolf, Lorenzo had decided that the martyrs’ sleigh was just the perfect place for him, and he had placed himself at the bottom of the Tsar and Tsarina’s feet, and Contessina decided to jump onto Alexei’s lap. She was, as you can imagine, in her seventh heaven. Now all her desires of being part of Russian exoticism had been fulfilled. She was, as one cannot fail to realize, a very Italian cat full of charm and sophistication, which he English cousins did not quite possess. They were very jolly in the main, but sophisticated no, as their love of Gilbert and Sullivan would indicate. Grigio, though very fond of Lorenzo, had decided he wanted to be with Vladimir Putin, and Beppe went with him. King Abdullah looked quite worried that the mouse had taken a shine to him, and wondered whether the Koran had anything to say about very large mice and their relationship with kings. However, before he could pursue this line of thought, Methuselah jumped on to his head and then said to Beppe, "Lets go and sit with the Tsar and Tsarina's children." which is what they promptly did. To the heavenly delight of Alexei and Anastasia, they found that the mouse and the raven had attached themselves to them. Beppe landed on Alexei's shoulder, and Methuselah on Anastasia's. The other sisters looked on, delightedly.
The two Russian bears, Vasily and Yuri, stationed themselves at the back and the front of the cavalcade of sleighs. Yuri sat on the back of the Apostles' sleigh, and Vasily on the back of the Confessors' sleigh. St. Colette then got into her sleigh and blew her whistle. The winged horses began to neigh and pummel the ground with their hoofs. Up until that moment they been so quiet as to almost make themselves unnoticed, which is pretty amazing when one thinks that most people do not see winged horses at all, and if they mentioned that they had, they would be immediately locked up in a mental hospital, and be told that they had “mental health problems.” Others would say that mental problems were even more unreal than winged horses. The horses now began to beat their wings and slowly the sleighs rose into the air and then swiftly soared higher and higher over the great city. St. Thérèse standing with the monks in the snow waived them goodbye, and before long the celestial caravan was flying high over Moscow. “Ah just look at the Kremlin. Is it not a sight worth dying for, don’t you think?” asked a rhapsodic Contessina. “Now Contessina, don’t be so silly, the only thing worth dying for is Our Lord.” said Sammy somewhat curtly. Normally Sammy was very easy going, but when it came to the Faith, he would stand no nonsense. “Oh yes, you are quite right, so right. I am afraid I do get carried away rather.” aid Contessina. “You do” said Lorenzo “but I wouldn’t worry about it.” “I’m feeling very tired after all this excitement.” said Freddie. “I think I am going to have a little sleep”, and with that he immediately fell into a deep snoring slumber. Nicholas and Alexandra looked with great tenderness at these cats, who on one level seemed to have no real idea of what they were involved in.
“Does anyone know where we are going?” asked the Patriarch. The Pope shrugged his shoulders in typical Latin fashion indicatint that he had no idea at all where they were going. “Yes.” Said St. Peter, “but before that we must visit a special place.” “I think I know where that is. said Nicholas. "I think we do." said Alexandra. They smiled like well meaning conspirators. Suddenly everyone became very sleepy, but some remained awake just for long enough to hear Sammy singing his favourite song.
If you’re anxious for to shine in the high aesthetic line
As a cat of culture rare,
You must get up all the germs of the transcendental terms,
And plant them everywhere,
You must lie upon the daisies and discourse in novel phrases
Of your complicated state of mind,
The meaning doesn’t matter if it’s only idle chatter
Of a transcendental kind.
And everyone will say,
As you walk your mystic way,
“If this young cat expresses himself
In terms too deep for me,
Why, what a very singularly deep young cat
This deep young cat must be!”