Spirituality for Today – July 2008 – Volume 12, Issue 12

Saint of the Month

St. Vladimir of Kiev – July 15

Photo of a painting of Saint Vladimir of KievBorn in about 960, Vladimir was the illegitimate son of the Grand Duke Svyatoslav, and he was the grandson of Olga, a convert to Christianity who later became a saint. After Svyatoslav died, Vladimir fought with his elder brother and then fled to Scandinavia. Three years later, he returned with an army to capture Novgorod and Kiev, and he became the sole ruler of Russia.

Vladimir was a fierce leader who actively supported pagan gods. His life changed, though, when Basil II of Constantinople asked Vladimir for military help. As part of the agreement, Vladimir demanded marriage to Basil's sister. In turn, Basil insisted that Vladimir become a Christian. Leaving his five wives and many concubines, Vladimir was baptized and then married to Princess Anne.

Vladimir took his new faith very seriously and began to Christianize Russia. With the assurance of a military leader, he ordered the conversion of Kiev and Novgorod. He burned the old pagan idols and built new churches and monasteries. He also gave generously to the poor and supported the Greek and German missionaries who came to educate his people.

In later years, the past returned to haunt Vladimir. Although two of his sons by Anne would become Christian martyrs, two sons from earlier marriages rebelled against him. Traveling to Novgorod to confront the oldest, he became ill and died. On his deathbed, it is said, he gave all his possessions to his friends and the poor. Vladimir's connection with the Byzantine Church set the course for Russian Christianity.

O my God!
Source of all mercy!
I acknowledge Your sovereign power.
While recalling the wasted years that are past,
I believe that You, Lord, can in an instant
turn this loss to a gain.
Miserable as I am,
I firmly believe that You can do all things.
Please restore to me the time lost,
giving me Your grace,
both now and in the future,
that I may appear before You
in "wedding garments".