Miss Sassafras – Upland, California

Hello!  My name is Miss Sassafras.  One day when the vet was way behind seeing patients, I read an article about the Feline Cloister in the publication, “The American Feline – Mews for Cats.”  Curious, I emailed the Cloister for more information.  The reply came quickly which made me purr.  Br. Ricky, Novice Master, encouraged me to send in my application.  And so, with great excitement, I joined the Resident Novices.

On our Zoom call, Br. Ricky solemnly mewed the mission of the Feline Cloister that I would promise to follow.

Mission Statement

Through non-judgmental observation and gentle sharing of feline
Benedictine wisdom, members of the Feline Cloister strive to teach humans
about The Rule of St. Benedict and how this Rule can help humans find
peace and joy in daily life.
Members also strive to live The Rule of St. Benedict to the very best of
their feline abilities.

 I instantly resonated with this mission to help humans live a more joyful and peaceful life.  When I shared this with Br. Ricky he also purred.  He quickly pawed through his well-worn copy of The Rule of St. Benedict in Mew and read these verses from the Rule to me.

“If we wish to dwell in God’s tent, we will never arrive
unless we run there by doing good deeds.”  Prologue 22

“For the obedience shown to an abbot or prioress is given to God, who has said: “Whoever listens to you, listens to me” (Luke 10:16). Furthermore, the disciples’ obedience must be given gladly, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7).  RB 5.15-16

“Miss Sassafras, you are entering the novitiate with a good heart!” That really made me purr.

When Br. Ricky asked me for my outstanding personality characteristics, that was easy.  I shared that I am a very devout kitty, one who knows the importance of living in the moment and being the kitty that God made me to be. 

Br. Ricky gave me a thumbs up.  He explained that being in the present moment is a key practice in Benedictine living.  “Being really present,” he mewed, “will help you exercise the Benedictine vow of obedience.”

Illus.  Feline thumbs up

“The Holy One says of [felines] like this: No sooner did they hear than they obeyed me (Ps 18:45); again, God tells teachers: Whoever listens to you, listens to me (Luke 10:16). Such [felines] as these immediately put aside their own concerns, abandon their own will, and lay down whatever they have in [their paw], leaving it unfinished.

With the ready step of obedience, they follow the voice of authority in their actions. Almost at the same moment, then, as the teacher gives the instruction the disciple quickly puts it into practice out of reverence for God; and both actions together are swiftly completed as one.”  RB 5.5-9

My ears twitched a bit hearing the word obedience for the third time.  I didn’t know that obedience was a vow I would have to take.  As much as I care for my human, obedience doesn’t come easily for a feline. 

Br. Ricky noted my reaction.  He took his tiny green pencil in his paw and made a quick note in his little notebook.  But then the kind novice master assured me that obedience  is a challenge for felines and for humans, too.  But it comes easily when we have a loving heart.  That made me feel better.  My ears settled down. 

I take my role as companion and conscience for my human, Mommy Kimberly, very seriously. In the same way, I will be a faithful novice, helping and learning from the others in the Feline Cloister.   Faithfulness is part of the vow of stability.  We promise to be faithful to people and place.

“Where does your human need help?” Br. Ricky asked.  I explained that Mommy Kimberly needs be more faithful in setting aside Sabbath time.  I know she would feel refreshed to just let me sit on her lap in the big chair.  We can gaze outside at the patio garden together.  Br. Ricky purred and mewed that this sounds so comforting.

Then I remembered something and dropped my gaze to the floor.  Concerned, Br. Ricky gently asked, “What is it Miss Sassafras?”  I shared that Mommy’s husband Daddy Joel had passed away and that we are both very sad.  Br. Ricky nodded in understanding.  I felt better when Br. Ricky promised to help me and my human find peace in this difficult time.


Miss Sassafras’ Contributions as  Resident Novice

As a Resident Novice I helped out with the development of the website and articles for our readers, too.  That was fun!

I invite you to take a few minutes to check out what I did.  I would be delighted and honored.

Miss Sassy at prayer

Contributed to the Benedictine Glossary

Learned about The Rule of St. Benedict in a class taught by Br. Ricky.

Shared one of my personal challenges in the article on Prologue 10 – Do Not Harden Your Heart

Wrote about RB 48.1 – Idleness is the Enemy of the Soul for the website section Felines Unpack the Rule of St. Benedict

Novice Angelo lives in Castelmola, Sicily

Novice Miss Sassafras is Now a Worldwide Novice

In closing I want to share why am I leaving the Resident Novices and becoming a Worldwide Novice.

As a resident of California this seemed to be a logical move for me.  These novices get extra instruction from Br. Ricky in a monthly email called Monday Mewsings.  That sounded great.  There’s also a special section of the website just for us – the Worldwide Novice Corner.

Plus, I would like to get to know felines from other parts of the country and the world.  I learned that Angelo is a Worldwide Novice in Sicily!  With the consent of Amma and Br. Ricky I have transferred to this inspiring group of Benedictine-loving felines.

My favorite verses in the Rule:

“We believe that the divine presence is everywhere…
Let us consider, then, how we ought to behave in the presence of God and God’s angels,
and let us stand to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds
are in harmony with our voices.”  RB 19.1a, 6-7

A Postscript from Novice Miss Sassafras

I am very proud of my name and try to follow my namesake as a healer, especially of my human.

“The Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) is a North American tree steeped in Indigenous culture throughout its range within deciduous woodlands of the northeast and southeast United States. Indigenous names for the tree include kvfi, pauame, and winauk.

 “Sassafras has a long history of use among Indigenous people of North America, who have used its leaves, root bark, and wood in a variety of ways. The root bark has long been enjoyed as a flavorful hot or cold tea and also used as a traditional remedy for treating a variety of illnesses, including common head colds and fevers, and as a digestive aid and general restorative tonic for overall health.”

 From https://cornellbotanicgardens.org/sassafras