I would like to join the Feline Cloister because my friend Emily is a member. Like Emily, I attend evening prayer and love the chanting. It’s so calming and makes me feel close to God.
On our Zoom call Br. Ricky, the Novice Master, asked me what kind of feline I am. I told him that I am affectionate and loyal. “Wonderful” was his response. “Those are helpful qualities for a Benedictine feline to have. Let me show you.” He purred as he pulled out a copy of The Rule of St. Benedict in Mew and shared this from the chapter on The Good Zeal of Monastics.
“Among themselves they show the pure love of sisters and brothers; to God, reverent love; to their abbess, prioress or abbot, unfeigned and humble love.” RB 72. 8-10
He explained, too, how loyalty to people and to place is an important part of the Benedictine vow of Stability. “Our Abbess, Amma Jane, has written in her book St. Benedict’s Toolbox, that stability is a call to remain where we are and to find grace in that relationship, place, or situation. That’s loyalty.” Br. Ricky encouraged me to check out the vow of Stability in the Benedictine Glossary to learn more.
I am excited to learn more because I read the New York Times every day to learn things. I also enjoy doing crossword puzzles and can often be seen sitting at (or on) both. Br. Ricky mewed that I will be doing other kinds of reading as a novice, what he called “holy reading,” or, in Latin lectio divina. St. Benedict says,
“Listen readily to holy reading and devote yourself often to prayer.” RB 4.55, 56
Our home is shared with a puppy brought in two years ago during the pandemic. His name is Topper. Topper and I are frequent visitors to evening prayer. With a tiny hiss I mewed that I tolerate him. Br. Ricky’s ears flattened a bit when he heard this. He pawed some notes in a notebook, making me wonder if I am to be affectionate to Topper, too, and not just tolerate him. Then Br. Ricky mewed this from the Rule.
“This, then, is the good zeal which members must foster with fervent love: They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom 12:10). supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body or behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another.” RB 72.3-4
Well…two things I don’t tolerate – to have my nails trimmed and other canines visiting our home. I am hoping that as a novice these trials might be removed from my plate. I will cull the Rule for help with both.
What does my human need to learn? In all honesty, that I was here first!
(Editor’s P.S. – Hearing this, Br. Ricky quickly pawed another entry in his notebook.)
My favorite verses from the Rule of St. Benedict:
“We must always remember, therefore, what the prophet says: Serve the Holy One with reverence (Ps 2:11), and again, Sing praise wisely (Ps 47:8); and, in the presence of the angels I will sing to you (Ps 138:1).
Let us consider, then, how we ought to behave in the presence of God and God’s angels, and let us stand to [mew] the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices.” RB 19.3-7