Willow – Jackson, Mississippi

Hello.  I’m Willow, a 1 ½  year old female.  I want to join the Feline Cloister because, in all honesty, I need self-discipline and tolerance for all others.  Like most of my feline friends and relatives, I feel that the world revolves around me.  Having everything my way is imperative and most natural.  Despite my name being Willow, I will admit, I’m not very flexible.

I shared all this on my Zoom call with Br. Ricky, our Novice Master.  After pawing something in his little notebook, he nodded in understanding.  He explained that many novices entering the Cloister have similar growing edges.  This is true of their humans, too.

The Rule of St. Benedict is most clear on the need for us to have self-discipline and respect for others.  Benedict gives many examples of how we can do this.  Br. Ricky mewed 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 72.3-6

My fur bristled a bit at that last statement about obedience.  Br. Ricky noticed my reaction and explained that obedience is being attentive to those around me to figure out what God is asking me to be or to do.  I am to listen.  In fact, he mewed, “listen” is the very first word in the Rule. 

“Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from one who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.”  Prologue 1

“This means your ears and eyes are on the lookout for ways that you can help others,” Br. Ricky explained.  “Everything you do comes from a heart that is open to God and to others.”

I must have looked discouraged as I pondered my practice of hearing but ignoring what I hear.  Our kind novice master pawed the Rule again and found this reassuring verse.

“We must, then, prepare our hearts and bodies for the battle of holy obedience to God’s instructions. What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Holy One to supply by the help of grace.”  Prologue 40-41

I purred at that.    God will help me to be open, loving and obedient.  Now that I ‘m no longer a kitten, I would like to consider others more than I have been considering them.

In this short time on Zoom Br. Ricky said that I seem like an independent and strong feline.  Yes to both observations, I responded.  Br. Ricky was pleased and said that Benedict’s favorite kind of monastic is the cenobite.  The cenobite belongs to a cloister and serves under a rule and a superior, i.e., Amma Jane.  Benedict calls these monastics “the strong kind.”  RB 1.1, 13  Hearing that I became more excited to start my journey as a novice in the Feline Cloister.

One of the things I love to do is to chase both human and animal.  I find it fun and energizing; a good balance to more sedentary occupations.  I’m hoping that as a novice I will still be able to play chase.  I’ve learned that Benedict requires daily manual labor for the members in
Chapter 48 of the Rule.

Willow in a rare sedentary occupation

“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the community members should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading.”  RB 48.1

I’m not sure I will be able to sit still for any prayerful reading.  But playing chase is labor, right?

One thing I don’t like is being held.  It’s so confining.  I need my feet on the ground even though my human takes great pleasure in cuddling me.  What does Benedict say about that I asked.  Br. Ricky explained that the Rule does not address being held by a human, but the Rule does ask us to respond to the needs of others.

“No monastics are to pursue what they judge better for themselves, but instead, what they judge better for someone else.”  RB 72.7

Willow alert to space invaders

Br. Ricky encouraged me to keep this verse in mind the next time my human picks me up to cuddle.  “Your human may need your comforting presence,” he mewed.  That is going to be tough but I will try my best. 

I must also confess that another thing that annoys me is when anything invades my space uninvited.  I hissed quietly as I mewed this.  Br. Ricky made another a quick paw note in his little notebook. 

I am very happy to become a novice and learn all about the Rule of St. Benedict.  I know that what I learn I can share with my human.  What my human really needs to learn, I mewed to Br. Ricky, is that I am the boss.

Br. Ricky looked concerned and pawed another note in his little notebook.  As I see it, I can learn self-discipline and tolerance for others but still be the boss.  Makes sense to me. 

My favorite verse and my goal as a novice from the Rule of St. Benedict:

“The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally
to those who cherish Christ above all.”  RB 5.1-2

“I promise to be more obedient
and more tolerant of others.”