China – East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania

Hello from East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.  My name is China.  I am an 11-year-old female.  I would like to join the Feline Cloister because I hear that God gives the best treats.

When I shared that with Novice Master Br. Ricky on our Zoom call his eyes opened wide.  With a nod of the head, he asked me what I thought that those treats might be.  That question took me by surprise.  After a pause to lick a paw, I mewed that I thought some would be crunchy, some warm and soft like a cozy bed, and some would show me that God loves me just like pets from my human.

Br. Ricky purred.  Opening his well-worn copy of The Rule of St. Benedict in Mew, he read this:

“What is more delightful than this voice of the Holy One calling to us? See how God’s love shows us the way of life.”  Prologue 19-20

“Your interest in becoming a novice is the mew of the Holy One calling to you,” he offered.  Wow, I thought, midst a big purr.  In thanksgiving for this call, I promised that I would make biscuits for God. 

Br. Ricky looked confused.  “You can bake??” he asked incredulously.  With a feline chuckle I explained that when us cats feel really good and happy, we knead, right?  The wise Novice Master nodded in agreement.  I continued, “Many call this ‘making biscuits.’  These biscuits are my gift to God for all God gives to me.”  Br. Ricky clapped his paws together and again quoted from the Rule.

“We must always remember, therefore, what the prophet says: Serve the Holy One with reverence (Ps 2:11), and again, Sing praise wisely (Ps 47:8); and, in the presence of the angels I will sing to you (Ps 138:1).”  RB 19.3-5

Illus.  Siamese cat kneading 

To watch the video, tap on the cat

What are my outstanding characteristics?  I am devoted and very talkative.  My human says that I am Siamese through and through.  [FYI, if you would like to learn about us Siamese cats, tap your paw here.]

“You’re our second Siamese novice, China.  Novice Mia of Memphis, Tennessee is also a Siamese.  I can put the two of you in touch if you would like this.”  I purred my assent.  “I know that as a Siamese you are talkative.  Please know that silence is a big part of being a Benedictine feline.  Benedict devoted a whole chapter to restraint of mews.”

“Indeed, so important is silence that permission to [mew] should seldom be granted even to mature disciples, no matter how good or holy or constructive their talk, because it is written: In a flood of words you will not avoid sin” (Prov 10:19).  RB 6.3-4

My fur stood up on the back of my neck at those words from the Rule.  I sure don’t want my mews to get me into trouble!  The kind Br. Ricky took note of my reaction.  He gently explained that in the 21st century some of the requirements of the Rule have been relaxed.   He then shared this about silence which brought my fur back down.

“But after Sext and their meal, they may rest on their beds in complete silence.” RB 48.5

Now THAT I can do!

At Br. Ricky’s query I shared that I like to watch falling leaves, snow, birds, or squirrels through the deck window.  I’m hoping that I can do these things when I become a novice. As I mewed before, I am an avid biscuit maker.

I also like to join my human when she is reading and walk all over her.  Hearing that, Br. Ricky took his green pencil and pawed a note in his little  notebook.  He looked back up and mewed, “Please just make sure that your human is okay with this, Novice China.”  Benedict asks us to always be on the lookout for what we can do for others.

“No monastics are to pursue what they judge better for themselves, but instead, what they judge better for someone else.”  RB 72.7

I am hoping that there is something in the Rule about humans not picking up felines.  I REALLY don’t like being picked up.  And I forbid my human from clipping my nails.  Br. Ricky gave a feline chuckle at that, mewing that it’s something he forbids, too. Hearing this I thought that being a novice will be a good thing!  I will mew RB 72.7 (above) to my human about what is better for me!

My sister Poppy is also becoming a novice.   I confessed to Br. Ricky that we have things to work out between us.  Poppy gets very territorial with me and that creates problems for me and for our human.  Br. Ricky nodded sympathetically.

“We have similar issues in the Feline Cloister, too.”  he confessed.  That surprised me.  I thought monastic living was all sunshine, roses, and harmony.  “Not so,” he mewed with emphasis.  “If it were so Benedict would not have needed to write a Rule to tell us how to live in community.”

It sounds like being novices will help both Poopy and me, and our human!  I’m excited about being a Worldwide Novice.  One of my goals as a novice is to help my human know that she is God’s cat, too!

China’s sister Poppy

My Favorite verses in the Rule:

“Among themselves they show the pure love of sisters and brothers;
to God, reverent love;
to their prioress or abbot, unfeigned and humble love.”  RB 72.8-10