Dear Parishioners and Friends,
In Rudyard Kipling’s short story, “The Cat That Walked by Himself,” we read a fanciful accounting of how certain animals became domesticated or otherwise dependent upon humans. First a dog, then a horse, then a cow all find their way to a cave where humans have discovered a source of light and heat—and cooking. The combination of food, shelter, and warmth compel the animals to make an eternal pact with the humans to serve them in exchange for these comforts. All of them, that is, except the cat; he comes and goes on his own terms.
Like the creation story in the Book of Genesis, Kipling’s story attempts to shed some dim and flickering light on our deep and eons-old connection with our animal companions. For many of us, they bring a sense of completeness to our lives, and truly make a house a home. This is a gift from God, I believe, and an object lesson in love.
Seventeen years ago, my friend (and sometimes foe) Mr. Kitty came into my life on his own terms. On Monday, at the age of eighteen, he left in the same way. After a miserable, rainy morning, the clouds broke and suddenly it was a beautiful day. I carried Mr. Kitty down to his favorite spot on the porch, where he spent his last few hours with his three favorite frenemies, basking in the sun.
Pets can be messy, costly, and even destructive (Mr. Kitty had two sofas, two love seats, a chair, and several carpets to his credit). They require constant care and attention, and they force us to order our lives around beings other than ourselves. But the unconditional love, the warmth, and constant companionship make our sacrifices for them seem small. Even aloof and crotchety Mr. Kitty was truly a light in my life, and was loved by people all over the country who had known him.
They say “all dogs go to heaven.” If God is just then all cats must spend at least a little time in purgatory. Whatever happens, one thing is for sure, they leave an indelible mark on our hearts. I am looking forward to celebrating the love that animals bring into our lives with you on St. Francis Day next month. In the mean time, please say a little prayer.
Blessings, Father Rick