Hello! I’m Ricky one of the cats in the feline cloister. I know Abbess Jane wrote about purpose in her article but I just have to tell you about the two BIG CHANGES to the Feline Cloister since I wrote my first article and share how these changes helped me learn more about the Rule.
Last August Esperanza ( “hope” in Spanish), Espy for short, then a four month old kitten, appeared at Amma’s back door and landed abruptly in the cloister, really disrupting the status quo. Has something like this ever happened to you? Someone new comes to your church or monastery or work group or even your family, and suddenly, everything shifts and no one knows what to expect. I don’t know about how you feel about someone new coming into any group you’re a part of, but Charlotte, Target and I weren’t particularly happy with the new addition to the cloister.
Espy was and still is very unpredictable with mood swings. Prior John has said that she can look like Charles Manson! (See left, if you don’t believe me.) She has a difficult time following the Rule. Here’s just one infraction. Benedict is very clear that no one is to own anything, saying that the evil practice of private ownership “must be uprooted and removed from the monastery” (33.1) Espy thinks everything is hers. I can’t used the scratch rug or play with the mouse (not a real one) without Espy running over, jumping on me and chasing me away. In fact, she loves to chase me and did so relentlessly until the second big change came last month when Amma brought home a four-month old kitten from the animal shelter.
Nikki is really cute (see picture) and was brought into the cloister in a most appropriate way, unlike Epsy. Benedict explains in Chapter 58 that anyone wanting to come into the monastery must not have an easy entry (like Espy did) but paw at the door for four or five days, showing how patient she or he is before they are even allowed to enter (58.1-3). Amma did this with Nikki. Nikki lived in Amma’s office for a week with a door that separated our cloister from the office. Espy took the role of porter of the monastery and stationed herself at that door. She and Nikki played “paws under the door” for a number of days and that went rather well. No claws extended and no hissing.
When Nikki finally entered our cloister she had met everyone and everyone had met her. Things had a bit of a rocky start, though. Espy and Nikki started vigorous wrestling which scared Amma. She whipped out the Rule and tried to stop the fray by pontificating on Chapter 70 – The Presumption of Striking Another Monastic At Will, where Benedict says that no one has the authority to strike another without the power given by the superior. Being peace-loving, Amma would never allow this. What to do?? I mewed to her that perhaps she ought to Google “kittens wrestling” and see what pops up. Well, she did and learned that because no claws were extended, no fur stood up on back or tail, no hissing was done and turns were taken chasing each other, they were just playing. So Amma relaxed a bit and instructed in firm tone that they were not to injure the other (4.30) and to keep careful watch over all they do because she and God were watching (4.48-49).
We cats really eye one another suspiciously. Do you ever do this with other people, too? By intimidating looks and occasional swipes at both Espy and Nikki, Target has made sure that he’s still Top Cat. Very un-Benedictine, but all of us can do this by how we treat someone new. We may not be so blunt as to give an intimidating look, but we can still close our hearts, right?
Benedict always reminds us to lead with love: to welcome a guest or new cat/person as Christ (53.1), to show the other pure love (72.8), to be the first to show respect (72.4), to not hiss anything harmful to another (4.51)and not to mew an empty greeting (4.25). Benedict asks us to treat even the newest member of the community with respect and to listen to what they might meow that could be helpful to Amma and to the community (3.3). I offer all this to help you next time a new person comes into any group you are a part of. Maybe all that Benedict suggests could be a part of your own purpose – to welcome others as Christ has welcomed you!
See you next issue!
Your feline confrere,
P.S. I’m really a learner to the Rule, following the esteemed Randy who wrote for Amma Jane’s newsletter for a number of years. He was a very wise observer and interpreter of the Rule. If you would like to read some of his articles Just go to “Randy’s Corner” on the website for St. Benedict’s Toolbox by clicking with your paw right here.