Lilibet – Torrance, California

Hi!  My name is Lilibet.  I would like to join the Feline Cloister because I need some self-discipline and I would like to learn to meditate better.

On our Zoom call I told Novice Master Br. Ricky about my delight in running, pouncing and keeping in motion.  With a twinkle in his eye, Br. Ricky mewed, “St. Benedict would approve, Novice Lilibet.  He was very much against being idle.  He was keen on having his monastics do manual labor.”   RB 48.1

My ears had flattened at the idea of manual labor!  Noting my response Br. Ricky quickly assured me that manual labor, whatever form it takes, would be balanced by prayerful reading and rest.  I relaxed a bit as Br. Ricky read this from RB 2012: The Rule of St. Benedict in Mew.

“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the community members should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading.”  RB 48.1

I found this picture in the magazine Feline Benedictines in America to illustrate feline manual labor.  Here Br. Boniface Gregory is moving a stone to help clear a field for catnip plantings.  I sure hope I won’t be asked to do this seemingly impossiable task.  Although there is a way out – The Rule has a whole chapter all about what to do if a task seems impossible – RB 68: The Assignment of An Impossible Task to a Monastic.  I think I will memorize that one…

Br. Boniface, OSB-F, illustrating manual labor.

I shared that I am playful, curious and headstrong.  I had hesitated a bit before meowing the last one, sensing that being headstrong is not a positive trait for a Benedictine.  I was right.  Br. Ricky nodded, looked down and pawed something in his little notebook.  “Obedience to God, to others and to the Rule is one of the vows taken by Benedictine feline monastics,” he explained with a concerned look.  “Sounds like you may have a challenge following this vow.”   With my fur still raised on the back of my neck, I did my best to listen carefully to these verses from the Rule.

“Obedience is a blessing to be shown by all, not only to the prioress and abbot but also to one another, since we know that it is by this way of obedience that we go to God.”  RB 71.1-2

“The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all.”  RB 5.1-2

The wise novice master then encouraged me.  “Not to worry Lilibet.  I know that you like to hang out next to your human on the sofa.”  I nodded enthusiastically and purred mightily.  “Your human needs your love, and you respond by sitting right by her.  That’s what obedience is all about – listening to the need of the moment and then responding to that need.” 

Wow!  Did THAT make me purr!  Maybe there IS hope for me as a Benedictine feline!

Novice Lilibet absorbed in a hummingbird watch

A hummingbird, happy she is outside and not in the apartment with Lilibet.

I also like to chase toys, especially in the early morning hours.  This annoys my human, of course.  And it’s fun to hide under blankets and carpets.

Watching the hummingbirds at the feeder is a favored pastime, too,  along with stalking spiders and my sister.

My “sister” Shadow is already a Worldwide Novice.  I confessed that it annoys me when Shadow doesn’t want to play.  Br. Ricky nodded in understanding and mewed this from the Rule for me to think about.

“No monastics are to pursue what they judge better for themselves, but instead, what they judge better for someone else.”  RB 72.11

That sounded pretty tough to me.  What else don’t I like?  I really don’t like greeting guests or having anything at all to do with them.  Br. Ricky’s eyebrows arched way up at this last statement.  “I think that this will be another growing edge for you, Lilibet, as it is for many felines.  Hospitality is a key practice in the Rule.  In fact, Benedict devotes a whole chapter to receiving guests that begins with these important words.

“All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, who said: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matt 25:35).  RB 53.1

I mewed in awe at this and vowed to myself that I will try not to hide when guests come to the home.  My love for Jesus is one of the reasons that I am a Worldwide Novice.

Yet in all truth, I’m hoping that as a novice I will be so occupied by spiritual matters that I won’t have to do other things I don’t like – getting pedicures, being held or confined in any way, and sleeping through the night.  I’m home free on one of these!  Br Ricky assured me that the Rule instructs us to get up in the middle of the night for Vigils!  (RB 8.1) That would work for me!

What does my human need to learn?  My human needs to remember that I ‘m a kitten and need to burn off excess energy. I think that she would like me to be friendlier with guests, too.  My instincts tell me to hide first and ask questions later. So, when strange people come to visit that’s exactly what I do.  Yet, I vowed to try, but she needs to remember THAT I AM NOT A DOG!  Bottom line my human needs to let me do things my way until I learn to trust a bit more.

Br. Ricky pawed something in his little notebook when I shared that!


My favorite verses from the Rule of St. Benedict:  

Novices Shadow (front) and Lilibet are learning to welcome one another as Christ

“During the winter season, that is, from the first of November until Easter, it seems reasonable to arise at the eighth hour of the night. By sleeping until a little past the middle of the night, the community can arise with their food fully digested. In the time remaining after Vigils, those who need to learn some of the psalter or readings should study them.”  RB 8. 1-2