Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Happy St. Francis of Assisi Day
My cat would no sooner agree to be present at a Blessing of the Animals ritual than she would agree that a trip to the vet's office is "fun". For one thing, my pledge to my partner at the time of her conversion was that we would raise our cat Jewish. The cat seems to have taken this to heart. She delights in listening to practice tapes of Jewish High Holy Day music... and leaves the room if I start reciting verses from the New Testament. Her favorite stuffed toy is Hanny the Hanukkah teddy bear. She hasn't quite mastered the laws of Kashrut. She seems to believe that Torah provides an exception for cats, allowing them to eat shrimp and crab.
So while she won't allow me to have her blessed, I still reflect on what a blessing she has been in our lives. Often times, cats are seen as aloof, uninterested, or too skittish to be much of a companion. But our cat is the opposite. True, she enjoys having her space and her alone time, but she also likes to be in the room with us in the evening, curled up between us on the couch or lying somewhere where she can see us. She comes trotting up to greet either me or my partner when we come home. And she likes to hide behind trees or bushes so she can jump out at us in an element of surprise attack, and then dash down the driveway or up a tree trunk. Our job is to notice and be admiring, perhaps chase her a bit.
One morning last summer I broke down crying on the bed. I had been in some physical discomfort for a week, and I was just miserable. As I was sobbing, and crying out to God to "do something!", I heard the cat in the hallway, doing her trill, as she jumped up on the bed with me. This was the "something". My cat had come to be with me. I scooped her up in my arms and held her as she purred. And slowly, I came back to that place of homeostasis, and I could believe those words of Julian of Norwich that "all shall be well."
Animals add joy, happiness and love to our lives, which is of course what their patron saint, Francis of Assisi, knew. They are creatures of God who share the planet with us, and are good companions to young and old. That's the true blessing of the animals.