Poppy – East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania

Hello there.  I am Poppy, a ten-year-old female.  On our Zoom call, I told Br. Ricky, our Novice Master, why I would like to join the Feline Cloister.  I’ve heard about T.S. Eliot’s “Christ the Tiger” and I would like to follow him.  Br. Ricky looked a bit confused and asked me to mew about “Christ the Tiger,” an unfamiliar image for Christ.

Excited to share, I mewed that in his poem “Gerontiun”  (1920), poet T.S. Eliot used the image of the tiger twice to describe Christ.  We usual associate Christ with the Lamb.

“The lamb represents the vulnerable humanity of Christ, whereas the lion represents his victorious divinity,” I mewed enthusiastically. [1]

Eliot was writing after the horrors of World War I, I explained.  In the poem, Christ comes quietly, “To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk” in a reference to the Eucharist. [2]   But later in the poem, Christ springs on humanity with the final judgement, victorious.

“Mee-ow!” Br. Ricky exclaimed. “Eliot’s image should resonate with us felines because a tiger is a cat, albeit a wild one.  And I think Benedict would appreciate this new image and I will share why.”

My ears really perked up at that and I got very curious.

Br. Ricky mewed in excitement, “Benedict wants all the members of his community to seek God and eternal life; to hurry and act towards this now!”

“If we wish to reach eternal life, even as we avoid the torments of hell, then–while there is still time, while we are in this body and have time to accomplish all these things by the light of life–we must run and do now what will profit us forever.”  Prologue 42-44

“The Rule gives us direction for our actions and relationships with God and with each other that will lead to eternal life,” the wise Novice Master mewed solemnly.  

“Just as there is a wicked zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from evil and leads to God and everlasting life.”  RB 72.1-2

The Rule tells us how we can develop and cultivate this good zeal. “With God’s help, of course,” Br. Ricky emphasized.  By then I was really purring with delight.

Br. Ricky noted how quiet my purr was.  He gave me a nod of approval, explaining that silence is an important part of living by the Rule.  A quiet purr is part of this silence.

“…after Sext and their meal, they may rest on their beds in complete silence; should any members wish to read privately, let them do so, but without disturbing the others.”  RB 48.5      

Hearing about the need for silence does concern me.  I am really very vocal, like my sister China, who is also a Worldwide Novice.  Perhaps becoming a bit less talkative will be one of my Benedictine practices as a novice.

I explained that long ago I was a mother and raised a litter of kittens all by myself.  I was loving and attentive, a devoted mother.  Br. Ricky purred and shared this from his copy of The Rule of St. Benedict in Mew.

“Among themselves they show the pure love of sisters and brothers; to God, reverent love; to their prioress or abbot, unfeigned and humble love.”  RB 72.8-10

Poppy’s sister China is also
very talkative.

I shared that I love to sit on my human every chance I get.  I purr a lot, quietly, of course, when I can be near her when she’s reading.  But I don’t like to be picked up or have my nails clipped.  At that Br. Ricky nodded vigorously in agreement.

There are things that annoy me, too, I confessed.  When my sister China jumps up on the bed and takes the prime spot that I want I get very “hissy.”  Br. Ricky nodded in understanding and mewed, “I think that both you and China should take a look at Chapter 33 – Monastics and Private Ownership.  Benedict insists that all things should be the common possession of all.  No one is to call anything his or her own.”  Acts 4:32 in RB 33.6  I promised that China and I would look at the chapter and work things out (I hope).  Br. Ricky looked very pleased.

One final and important thing to mention.  As a  novice I am hoping that I can help my human know that she is God’s cat, too!

My favorite verses from The Rule of St. Benedict:

“Let us prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us all together to everlasting life.”   RB 72.11-12

Novice Poppy keeps this tiger picture on a little easel by her bed.
She loves Christ the Tiger.

Detail from the poem “The Tyger” (1825)
by poet and painter William Blake

[1] and [2]  Poppy’s explanations are from Christopher Benson