Mao – Carmel, Indiana

Hello, there.  My name is Mao.  I am an 11-year-old male feline, at least I think that’s how old I am.  I want to join the Feline Cloister because Aunt Jane (Amma) wants me to.  I had been thinking about the idea, too, but had some reservations about whether or not I could make it as a novice.  

On our Zoom call Br. Ricky explained with a serious look,  “The Rule is very clear about some of hardships and difficulties that lead a feline to God.”  Benedict says,

“The concern must be whether the novice truly seeks God and shows eagerness for the Opus Dei, for obedience and for trials. The novices should be clearly told all the hardships and difficulties that will lead to God.”  RB 58.7-8

The fur on my neck stood up momentarily, but then I felt crestfallen.  Can I meet the challenge of being a novice??  Br. Ricky noticed my reaction and gently continued, “Yes, it does take perseverance, but you will have plenty of support from me, Amma and the other novices.  We all want you to succeed.  We know that you will find lots of joy following the Lord in this community.  All of us have been praying for you, too.”  That made me feel much better.

Br. Ricky wondered how I got my name, Mao.  With a a quizzical look on his face he mewed slowly, “Mao, I just want to find out if you were named after Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.   That wouldn’t keep you from being a novice, however.”  I gave a little feline chuckle and explained that I’ve been asked that question before.  “No, Br. Ricky,” I assured him.  “I got my name from the mew I use to summon humans.  Listen.”

I took a deep breath and issued forth a robust, “Maaaaah – Ooooow!”   (Pronounced “mah – ou”  with the “ou” extended).

Noting my addresses on the novice application Br. Ricky asked why I have two addresses.  Most novices have just one.  I mao’ed that Ihave a home address where I get my meals and sleep.  Then I have a second address where my favorite human friend lives.

Br. Ricky then asked me to name my most outstanding characteristic.  That was easy.  I adore my human friend Bill, who lives at my second address.   In great excitement I make my way to his front door.   Then I “maow, maow, maow” until Bill opens the door.  I love to be with him.  I get lots of pets and treats from Bill.  Br. Ricky nodded appreciatively.  He pawed open his well-worn copy of The Rule of St. Benedict and mewed this.

“Among themselves they show the pure love of sisters and brothers; to God, reverent love.”  RB 72.8-9

Novice Mao waiting for yummy treats from Bill

I shared that I love to be with Bill and eat the treats he gives me.  One of my concerns is if I can continue to get Bill’s treat snacks as a novice.  Br. Ricky explained that the Rule is clear that food is to be consumed only at mealtimes.

“No one is to presume to eat or drink before or after the time appointed.”  RB 43.18

I couldn’t help myself and hissed at that, seeing myself already breaking this instruction.  But Br. Ricky consoled me saying that Amma doesn’t follow this direction very well herself.  She’s known to spoon peanut butter and snack on chips, most often when Prior John isn’t in the kitchen.  “In light of this,” Br. Ricky explained with a resigned sigh, “there is some leniency on this point.”  Whew!  Benedict is very clear that needs are to be met, and I REALLY NEED THOSE TREATS!  I found for support for this in the Rule after our Zoom call.

“It is written: Distribution was made as each had need (Acts 4:35). By this we do not imply that there should be favoritism–God forbid–but rather consideration for weaknesses [treats are not a weakness but a need!]

Whoever needs less should thank God and not be distressed, but those who need more should feel humble because of their weakness, not self-important because of the kindness shown them. In this way all the members will be at peace.”  RB 34.1-5

I’ll opt for humility, although one of my favorite things to do is to say my own name, over and over – “Mao, mao, mao.”  Then, in the summer when it’s hot I love pouring the bird bath water on my head to cool off. 

Br. Ricky looked surprised, glanced down and made some notes in a little notebook with his green pencil.  He explained that the Rule discourages baths which is perfectly fine with most felines.

“The sick may take baths whenever it is advisable, but the healthy, and especially the young, should receive permission less readily.”  RB 36.8

OK, I thought.  I’ll just do what Amma does with her nibbling between meals and dump the water on my head when no one is looking.

What I DON’T like is being told by the other human in Bill’s house, “Bill’s not here, Mao.”  That really hurts.  I run back to my first address like someone had spanked me!!

What does my human Bill need to learn?  “That I need more treats!” mewing emphatically to Br. Ricky.  Br. Ricky quickly looked down and pawed a note in his little notebook with his green pencil.  He then gave me these verses for personal reflection.

“…above all overindulgence is avoided, lest anyone experience indigestion. For nothing is so inconsistent with the life of any Christian as overindulgence. Our God says: “Take care that your hearts are not weighted down with overindulgence.”  RB 39.7-9

Maaaooow!  Three repeats of “overindulgence.”  I guess Benedict was trying to make a point here.  Well, as I novice I sure hope treats won’t be a thing of the past!

Br. Benedict Furmore, OSB-F
has not followed the Rule’s prohibition against overindulgence

My Favorite verse in the Rule (although you can forget the fruit and vegetables)

“For the daily meals, whether at noon or in midafternoon, [or anytime??] it is enough, we believe, to provide all the tables with two kinds of cooked food because of individual weaknesses. In this way, the person [feline] who may not be able to eat one kind of food may partake of the other. [or partake of both].  

Two kinds of cooked food [wet food and crunchy treats] therefore, should suffice for all, and if fruit or fresh vegetables are available, a third dish [a different brand of crunchy treats] may also be added.”  RB 39.1-3