Hello from Castelmola, Sicily! I am what humans here disparagingly call, gatto randagio, a stray cat, who lives in a community of gatti randagi. I became a novice because I wanted to center my life in God. I also want to be an agent of change and transformation in my community because it is not a peaceful place.
First of all, you may be wondering how I found the Feline Cloister which is so far away from Sicily. Several years ago, pre-COVID, I met Amma Jane and Prior John at the end of their walking tour of eastern Sicily. They had taken the bus up to where Castelmola is perched far above Taromina.
Walking through the town, Amma noticed me and came over to talk. I think she recognized a worried look on my face. Through an Italian – English – Mew interpreter, I learned all about the Feline Cloister. Amma gave me a little card with Novice Master Br. Ricky’s email address. I tucked it away for safekeeping in a small crevice in a wall.
Several years later in the midst of one of our many frays I remembered what Amma said about the Rule and the Feline Cloister – that the Rule can help us live a Christ-like life with others. This sounded like a solution to the unrest around me.
A motley crew, we don’t always get along even if we are related. Or perhaps, especially when we are related, if you know what I mean. Angry mews, hisses, and bad feelings abound as we compete for food and places to nap. We are wary, always on the lookout any approaching trouble, human or animal. Much of the time we don’t behave kindly towards each other. Even our personal habits are often substandard. Take a look at the picture. What is Little Liana doing lying in our food dish?
If I learned about The Rule of St. Benedict, I could share with the other felines here. We could grow together. Plus, I’d like to see God in each of my sisters, brothers and other felines in the community. I took that little card out of the crevice and contacted the Feline Cloister.
On my Zoom call with Br. Ricky, helped again by the same interpreter, I felt so welcome. He explained how important hospitality is in the cloister. He mewed this from the Rule:
“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
What a wonderful idea. I could be a presence of hospitality. I could welcome not only new felines but also the felines I know, even felines I have trouble liking.
I told Br Ricky that I felt called to be an agent of change in my community. Br. Ricky said that the Rule gives lots of help here. Relationship and community are important subjects in the Rule. There is whole chapter devoted to our behavior and how we treat others. Chapter 4 – The Tools for Good Works will be a great resource for me. Here is just one example.
“Never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love. Do not repay one bad turn with another” (1 Thess 5:15, 1 Peter 3:9). RB 4. 24, 25,29.
When I change how I relate to the others, Br Ricky purred encouragingly, other felines can see me as an example and may be encouraged to change, too. He said that this is one of the important roles of the cellarer, who is to be like a parent to the whole community (RB 31.2).
The Rule is filled with ways to create communities of love and support. Sounds great to me. I am excited to be part of the Feline Cloister as a Worldwide Novice!
My favorite verse from the Rule:
“Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else.” RB 4.20, 21