Sunday, January 06, 2008

For a year and a day

The Cafeteria is Closed reveals one of the most closely guarded secrets of the Vatican.

After the funeral of his friend Pope John Paul II., Joseph Ratzinger thought he'd be able to return home to Germany after 24 years in Rome. He had a plan - writing stories, stories about cats.

Joseph Ratzinger had cats around himself for decades, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The CDF is on the Via Aurelia, one of the most traffic-heavy streets in Rome. Daily, cats are killed or injured. Quite a few drag themselves into the garden of the CDF, where Ratzinger resided and movingly cared for them, feeding them, bandaging their wounds, watching them lie in the sun and slowly get better. And he gave names to all of them. ...

His friendship with cats has changed the Vatican a little bit. I park my Vespa on my way to work at the Vatican border, the hall of Paul VI., where Swiss guardsmen keep watch. When stray animals tried to enter the Vatican gardens in the past, they shood them away. But now, when the guards see a cat, they simply let it pass, into the Pope's beautiful garden, because they know that Benedict XVI., when he prays at the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in the afternoon is happy to see a cat, and he thinks again of his old dream: writing books about cats.

Every cat-friend knows how all sagas on such a topic should end: in a quiet garden or a wood near a hill hard by the sounding sea.

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.


Blogger Doug said...

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

'Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

-- by an anonymous Irish monk.
Translation by Robin Flower.

1/06/2008 02:49:00 AM  
Blogger mouse said...

When we love an animal as useless as a cat --or a mouse, for that matter-- we love a little bit in the way God loves. There can be no pragmatic return. We love simply because our joy is in seeing the health of the animal, in seeing the happiness of the animal. And sometimes we see something like affection given in return, and that is an increase in our joy. This is the way God loves. There is a difference though. God can speak cat, and God can speak mouse. His communication is complete, and so his joy in affection returned is complete.

I believe that far back in the mist of primordial times man could speak mouse, or at least I wish to believe that, and that would be back in a time when an owl and a pussycat could sail in a boat together, and dance by the light of the moon.

1/06/2008 03:43:00 AM  
Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

I'd like to see all the stolen torah, talmuds and artifacts from the temple the Vatican sits on...

1/06/2008 06:47:00 AM  
Blogger PBR said...

Hamlet’s Cat’s Soliloquy
Author: Shakespaw (Unknown)

To leave, or not to leave—that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler for a cat to suffer
The cuffs and buffets of outrageous weather
That Nature pours on those who roam abroad,
Or take a nap upon a scrap of carpet
And so by dozing melt the pond'rous hours
That clog the clock's bright gears with sullen time
And stall the dinner bell. To sit, to stare
Outdoors, and by a stare to seem to state
A wish to venture forth without delay,
Then when the portal's widely ope'd, to stand
As tho' transfixed by doubt. To prowl; to sleep;
To choose, not knowing when the fickle humans
our readmittance once again may deign.
To leave, perchance to stay. Alas - there's the hairball;
For were a paw so formed to turn a doorknob
Or work a lock, or slip a window catch,
And going out and coming in were only
As simple as the breaking of a bowl,
What cat would bear the household's petty plagues
The cook's well-practiced kicks, the butler's broom
The infant's careless pokes, the collar rude
The trampled tail, and all the daily shocks
That fur is heir to, when, of's own free will,
He might his exodus or entry make
With a mere paw? Who'd spaniels bear
Or strays, trespassing from a neighbor's yard
But that the dread of our unheeded howling
And scratching at a barricaded door
No claw can open up, dispels our nerve,
And makes us rather bear with humans' faults
Than run abroad to unguessed miseries?
Thus caution doth make house cats of us all;
And thus the bristling hair of resolution
Is softened with the pallid stroke of thought,
And since our choices hinge on weighty matters,
We pause upon the threshold of the act.

1/06/2008 08:10:00 AM  
Blogger ZZMike said...

Both those poems are wonderful. Thanks for posting them.

My sources tell me that "Hamlet's Cat's Soliloquy" was written by Henry Beard, in "The Definitive Anthology of Distinguished Feline Verse". Now I'll have to go off and see what else's in there.

1/07/2008 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

Pope Benedict must be a Fransiscan!

Salaam, Y'all!

1/08/2008 04:43:00 AM  

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