Meeting Challenge and Change with The Rule of St. Benedict

by Br. Randy OSB-F

A keen observer of human and feline behavior, a faithful follower of The Rule of St. Benedict, and an influential member of the Feline Cloister. In June 2013, Randy succumbed to lymphoma. He is dearly missed. His articles are offered here as his legacy to us. May he, along with our other departed animal friends, enjoy romping in the Paradise Cloister.

Hello there!  Glad to be back with you again.

I noticed this morning that my paws seem to be digging into the floor.  Does that ever happen to you?  It happens to me when I faced with the prospect of doing something I don’t want to do.  My paws may dig into the carpet as I try to avoid the inevitble push in a direction that I don’t want to go.  Or the digging may be figurative, played out in my head as I contemplate whatever it is in dread.

Are you wondering what is going on here in the Feline Cloister that is bringing on these stuck paws?

Boarding the Feline Cloister!

Br. Target: “I’m a cool cat with change.”

Br. Target mewed to me that he heard Amma Jane and Prior John talking about boarding us cats for a week while they’re both away.  Hiss, hiss!!  I don’t know what they’re thinking!!

We usually have this REALLY nice woman who comes to feeds us twice a day.  She talks to us, gives us brushes and brings toys and treats, too.  All this is very Benedictine, e.g., “Distribution was made to each one as they had need” (RB 34.1).  I’d like her for an abbess instead of Jane.

Truth is, I’m worried because several of our members are going to be tough to catch.  Br. Ricky is a feral cat, although he doesn’t like to be called this, and Br. Rudy, well, he’s just ornery.  Both of my feline brothers should learn that life would be much simpler for them if they would just let John pick them up and put them gently in a cat carrier.

Digging in the Paws

Well, I guess I sometimes dig in my paws when something is not to my liking, like now, even if it would make life easier and less stressful.

Do you ever do that, resist things that may be different from what you’re used to but that, in the end, could really be better?  Could it be a change of some sort?   I hear that humans aren’t good with change; us felines either.  Or maybe it’s another way of doing things that you don’t agree with.  Or something that you must do but don’t want to do?  We encounter things every day that can be opportunities to learn and grow, but instead we dig in our heels, or paws as the case may be.  We staunchly refuse to even consider

Br Randy trying to escape change by hiding in
Feline Cloister tower

something different from what has been or what is different from our way.

St. Benedict Offers Help for Digging in the Paws

∼ Humility

I searched the Rule for some wisdom and found it in the chapter on humility.  Benedict says that we must quietly embrace those things that may be difficult, unfavorable or even unjust and to endure them without seeking escape (RB 7.35-36).  This sounds a tad harsh but it’s a great way to stop stoking the ego and turn instead to God.  Benedict says that through our acceptance of things and our persistence “we overcome because of him who so greatly loved us.”  (RB 7.39 and Romans 8:37)  That’s encouraging – I’m not alone in all this!  I know, too, that when I stop batting my paws at some situation or fellow feline, I often learn something important to help me become a better cat.

∼ Conversion of Life

One of the Benedictine vows or promises in the Benedictine world is Conversion of Life, or in Latin, conversatio morum.  Sr. Scholastica Muffin, OSB-F (Order of St. Benedict – Feline) says that the goal of this vow is purity of heart.

The process for Conversion of Life is transformation, a big word for, I guess, becoming a better and more ardent follower of Jesus.  As you and I live this promise of being open to transformation we become a different person/feline/canine/parrot/garbil/horse, etc., etc.[i]  Our attitude is different and our behavior, too.  We can let go of those things that control us and keep us from following God’s will and love, like always being first/right/perfect/comfortable/in control of everything/the only one talking, etc., etc.

Sr. Scholastica says that “the greatest folly of all…is to forget that above us and beyond us…there is a voice that calls us all the time to a change of heart, and to a new beginning…There is in each one of us a divine spark, never totally extinguished, but always in need of rekindling…[we are] made for God.”[ii]

Randy’s Plans to Follow The Rule of St. Benedict

I know I’ve got a long way to go here.  Lots of transformation needs to happen before I can let Sr Charlotte have the chair all to herself without crowding in on her, or before I mew my opinion without listening to Amma’s explanation first.  Before I supervise Marcy and Smokey even though it seems that they need it, or before I eat Ricky’s food, or complain about Amma to Mickey.  But I am going to practice Step 4 in St. Benedict’s Ladder of Humility and do my best to accept things that I am being asked to do, even stay in a shelter.

Nice to be with you and thanks for reading this.



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[i] Hi.  I’m trying to expand my vision to all animals.  Randy.

[ii] Sr. Scholastica is quoting Cardinal Basil Hume, OSB, In Praise of Benedict (Petersham, MA: Saint Bede’s Publications, 1981), 47-48.  I’ll suggest this book to Amma Jane for a future book review.

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