Hello! I’m Brother Ricky, one of the four cats in the Feline Cloister. I hope you are curious about the title I gave to this article. It’s an acronym for a way to live within your family, workplace, church or other organizations, and anywhere you go. R-I-C-K is really helpful when we get into those emotion-packed discussions, too. For me it is a way I try to live here in the cloister that is based on the Rule of Benedict, and of course, the Gospels.
The acronym R-I-C-K came to me one day as I was pondering how to respond to the antics of my feline sisters Nikki and Espy to be consistent with who I really am and want to be. Here is what I invented and how the Rule gave me the ideas.
As the sole male cat with three female cats you might think I am “top cat.” Wrong. My manner is mild and retreating, and so I am sometimes the brunt of playful (or not playful) chase and pounce games by both Espy and Little Nikki. As a middle aged member, I am too old for being chased around, pounced on and wrestled with. Benedict says we are not to treat another member unreasonably. He quotes the Bible, “Never do to another what you do not want done to yourself” (RB 70.7 and Tobit 4:16). R-I-C-K gives me a way through the challenges of relationships with Espy and Nikki. Perhaps R-I-C-K may help you, too.
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 72.3-6
Not only does Benedict remind us to respect others, he tells us how – by being patient and obedient, i.e., cutting the other cat some slack and listening to what they need. Patient understanding is showing respect. I try to look beyond behavior that I consider unseemly, and see Espy and Nikki as my sisters in Christ. Benedict asks us to show “pure love of my sisters” (RB 72.8) as a way to show respect. If I do something to upset one of my sisters or mew unkind words I follow Benedict’s instructions in chapter 71 on mutual obedience – I apologize (RB 71.6-8).
There is so much in the Rule that guides us to living what we value – the ways of Jesus. Espy can get rather crazy and it really challenges me – note the picture and you will see what I mean. The
Tools for Good Works, chapter 4 in the Rule, gives me a super list of how to be true to my best self in the toughest situations or conversations. Here are a few samples of relationship-building actions.
“Do not repay one bad turn [or word]with another.” (RB 4.29 from 1 Thess 5:15 and 1 Pet 3:9)
You are not to act in anger or nurse a grudge. (RB 4.22-23)
If people curse you, do not curse them back but bless them instead. (RB 4.32)
Guard your lips from harmful or deceptive speech. (RB 4.51)
To me, this verse sums up what integrity looks like – living the love of Christ.
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)
Some of my favorite stories in the gospels are when Jesus shows compassion. He showed compassion for the hungry crowds and for individuals like the bent over woman and many others. I think compassion was Jesus’ leading quality. Compassion is important in the Rule especially in the instructions for the abbot and prioress. These monastic leaders must know each person’s capabilities and needs and must be sensitive to what they ask of each person. Benedict devotes a whole chapter to distribution of goods according to each member’s needs (RB 34). He makes sure the sick are properly cared for (RB 36.5-6, 10), that allowances be made to help a monastic avoid tardiness (RB 43.4) and that those who serve in the kitchen have a snack before the meal so they can serve without hardship (RB 35.13). Benedict reminds us to never turn away when someone needs our love (RB 4.26). I might be tempted to hurry away from Espy when she is acting crazy, but my vow of stability asks me to stay with her to work things out and there find God’s grace.
I do think Benedict was a really kind person and shows us how to be kind. For example, the elderly and children are not required to follow the strictness of the rule about food, but “should be treated with kindly consideration and allowed to eat before the regular hours” (RB 37.2-3). While this would never work in the Feline Cloister and would result in vociferous mewing, it is a reminder that Charlotte, our elderly sister, needs the most comfortable bed and a tad extra food to give her pleasure in her old age. Benedict asks us to do what is best, not for ourselves, but for the other person (RB 72.7). We can also listen to others to show kindness. Remember, listen is the very first word in the Rule (Prologue 1). Quoting Sirach, Benedict says that a kind word is the best gift (RB 31.14). It is a gift I like to receive and it is a gift I can give to others.
So that is R-I-C-K. What do you think? How might you live with Respect, Integrity, Compassion and Kindness at home, at work, in heated discussions, everywhere and every day? When you feel yourself getting angry, impatient, frustrated – do R-I-C-K! You will bring peace, the peace that Benedict asks to make our quest and aim (Prologue 17).
P.S. You can always add a “Y” to the end to make it R-I-C-K-Y. And that isn’t just to make my name. “Y” is the reminder to always say Yes to God!
See you next issue!
Your feline confrere,
Br Ricky, OSB-F (Order of St Benedict –Feline)
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.