My name is Esther. I am 2 years old, and I know my actual Birthday! It’s May 29, so please send good wishes to me on that date. I would like to join the Feline Cloister because my mom and grandma think I might learn to behave. I guess my behavior could use a tweak here or there. But I just hope that being a novice will be fun, because I am really fun-loving.
When Br. Ricky heard this on our Zoom call, he gave an understanding nod. He then explained that Benedict cautioned against too much fun and certainly against raucous mewing. Br. Ricky pawed through the Rule quickly, then quoted this verse from the chapter on The Tools for Good Works from The Rule of Saint Benedict.
“Prefer moderation in speech and speak no foolish chatter, nothing just to provoke laughter; do not love immoderate or boisterous laughter.” RB 4.52-54
I couldn’t suppress a small hiss, shocked hearing the prohibition against fun and laughter. Br. Ricky noticed this and quickly mewed that today’s monasteries are not as strict as those in Benedict’s day. Monastics DO play and have fun. It’s done in moderation, however, and laughter is never at another’s expense. Laughter can connect us to joy and to God. The eminent feline Benedictine scholar, Br. Terrence Sebastian Furlong, OSB-F, PhD-F, pawed that “Laughter is praise of God because it foretells the eternal praise of God at the end of time, when those who must weep here on earth shall laugh.” 
Whee Mew! I whistled. That’s a heady thought for a little feline like me.
Br. Ricky moved on and asked me about my outstanding personality traits. That’s easy. Energetic and fun-loving. My mom, Sasha, who is also a new Worldwide Novice, tells me that I think that I am a dog. What an upsetting idea! Well…I do bring toys to my human. Then I annoy her until she throws the toy. Zip, I’m off in a flash, running like crazy to get it and bring it back! The response to the “throw the toy” game is sometimes slow in coming. So, I will sit behind my human and will tap her to get her attention that I am ready to play. If she doesn’t respond I swat her hard!!
Br. Ricky could not suppress a feline gasp, looked down and hurriedly pawed something in his little notebook. Recovering himself he then quoted the Rule in a gentle mew.
“In the monastery every occasion for presumption is to be avoided, and so we decree that no one has the authority to excommunicate [discipline] or strike [paw swat] any member of the community unless given this power by the superior [Amma Jane]. ” RB 70.1-2
Illus. Worldwide Novice Jake’s friend Annie with her favorite
Br. Ricky shared that one of the biggest challenges he had as a novice was to ease up on doing exactly as he wanted all the time. We need to follow the Rule and Amma (RB 1.2), and certainly do our best to follow God’s will, especially of loving one another. Well, maybe I can ease up on my demands.
What are my likes and dislikes, Br. Ricky asked me. I like to cuddle with my momma, Sasha. Br. Ricky purred that I am already following a very important instruction in the Rule. My ears perked forward when I heard this.
“Among themselves members show the pure [purr] love of sisters and brothers.” RB 72.8.
Sr. Scholastica Muffin, OSB-F wrote that “the rule is all about love”  and shows us how to live in many loving ways.
Illus. Sam watching “Cat TV”
I really like to play with my toys and can go chasing them around the house. I also like “cat TV” – sitting in front of the window. I jump and run from one window to the other to watch all the critters out there. I’m hoping that as a novice I can keep doing these fun things. I will see what the Rule says. Perhaps this exercise will fall under the category of manual labor? (Chapter 48 – The Daily Manual Labor).
I shared that I don’t like being picked up. Good news! Br. Ricky was in total agreement with this! My human gets a bit frustrated because I can be standoffish, just like my momma Sasha can be. But I love springing onto my human’s bed at night to sleep close to her. Br. Ricky said that although members are to sleep in separate beds (RB 22.1), he felt that sharing the bed was okay because it shows my fervent love (RB 73.3). I hadn’t thought of that. Nice.
What annoys me? First of all, I REALLY get annoyed when my human doesn’t react fast enough to my desire to play. Br. Ricky quickly pawed something in his little notebook. I also get annoyed when people come over. Most of the time I stay in hiding until they leave. Br. Ricky nodded in agreement and shared that this hiding time would be an excellent opportunity to follow the Rule. How? I asked. Br. Ricky purred and shared from the Rule.
“Listen [read] readily to holy reading, and devote yourself often to prayer.” RB 4.55-56
He explained that I can pray while I am hiding instead of grumbling that I don’t have the run of the house. That’s an idea to consider, although its hard to not grumble when things aren’t going my way.
As a novice I hope that I can help my human to learn this – “To stay home and play with me more. She is gone a lot and sitting at that machine when she is home.”
Br. Ricky nodded, pawed another note in his little notebook, I guess all these notes are about my growing edges? That’s okay. I understand. No feline is perfect. But for me, I’ll mew loudly that I’m ready to “run with perseverance the race that is set before me, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith!” Hebrews 12:1
Novice Esther feeling neglected because her human is
“at that machine.”
My favorite verses from the Rule of St. Benedict:
“Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.” Prologue 48-49 (Italics added by Novice Esther)
 Michael Casey, OSB, Seventy-Four Tools for Good Living: Reflections on the Fourth Chapter of Benedict’s Rule (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 20149, 182. Here Br. Furlong quotes Michael Casey who is quoting theologian Karl Rahner. Michael Casey, OCSO, has been a monk of Tarrawarra Abbey, Australia, since 1960. OCSO means the “Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance.”
 Sr. Scholastica quotes from Esther de Waal, Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 1998), 38. Br. Ricky notes that this is the first book on The Rule of St. Benedict purchased by Amma. It gathered dust on the shelf for a year before she read it! Esther de Waal is a foremost scholar in the Benedictine and Celtic traditions and has published extensively in both fields.