Mewsings on the Rule of St. Benedict
Hi again! I like companionship, don’t you? When my friend Charlotte goes on one of the cat tower platforms, I like to get up there with her. When Mickey’s on the favorite chair, I jump up and rearrange him so that there’s enough room for me. If Target lies down on the chest, I go up there, too.
Last week Abbess Jane spoke stern words to me about my companionship urges and claimed that I just wanted what everyone else had. In self-defense I mewed that Benedict encourages us to show “the pure love of brothers” (RB 72.8) and that this was what I was doing. With a skeptical look Jane continued her lecture by reciting RB 72.7 where Benedict tells us that we are not to pursue what’s best for ourselves, but what we judge to be better for others. “Rand,” she sighed. “The other cats may not want to cozy up with you. Maybe you should ask first.”
This got me to thinking. Maybe I do envy Charlotte, Mickey and Target when they’re resting on one of those nice places. I want that, too. But Benedict says that we’re to do nothing out of envy (RB 4.67). In Chapter 34 – Distribution of Goods According to Need, he makes it clear that we’re not to be distressed or, heaven forbid, grumble if someone gets something that we don’t get, for we all have different needs. I don’t grumble. I want to make that clear. I just, well, rearrange things a bit so that we all can be happy. Don’t we all do that from time to time, rearrange things to our liking, I mean? But Jane may have been on to something when she stated that the three friends of mine may not want my companionship right then.
Maybe I just don’t consider that Charlotte, Mickey and Target might want to be alone. Charlotte and I are both well-endowed and the platform does get a bit cramped. Mickey doesn’t seem happy when I push him around on the chair and Target sometimes gives me intimidating glances when I sidle up to him on the chest. In discussing this with my friend Ricky, he cited our favorite commentary, Why the Rule of St. Benedict is Not Only for People by Scholastica Muffin, O.S.B.F. (Order of St. Benedict Feline). Sr. Scholastica says that Benedict is asking us to “respect and revere the other”, and have a sense of restraint, holding ourselves back from intruding on them.”
I’m sharing all this with you to help you think about a situation or two in your own life where you, figuratively, “jump on the chair” and make room for yourself. Is it from envy? Do we want things always to our liking? Do we want to be with our friends because we care about them or because we want something from them? Do you and I ever consider what might bring them joy? Give it some thought.
Next time I see Charlotte, Mickey or Target in a nice place where I’d like to be, I’m going to first ask them if I can share the spot. Or maybe I’ll just stay where I am and look on with delight that they’re happy in their cozy resting places.
Yours, Randy the Cat
 Sr. Scholastica’s drew from Esther de Waal’s book A Life-Giving Way: A Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict, page 43.