THE CATS’ CONSISTORY
OR THE CAT MOOT
It was a damp October night in the Midlands of England in the town of Corby. The rain clouds had all but disappeared after a day or heavy showers, and the moon in all her silver light filled glory was poised high in the sky over the church of St. Patrick’s. The water drops gleamed everywhere, and if you had been in the herb garden close to the north side of the church you would have been astonished at the sight of eight cats in, what looked like, an earnest debate.
They appeared to be having a very serious conversation and as you looked among the shrubbery opposite the Church wall, you would have been even more surprised to see four beautiful women clothed in light. One was a Benedictine nun, another was a Poor Clare nun, clothed in her brown habit with unshod feet, the third was a widow, and the fourth was a Dominican tertiary, They looked at the cats with a sort of laughing seriousness. The cats were quite unaware of the presence of these wonderful women, not because they would not have been able to see them, but because they were so intent on the purpose of their meeting, and what was the purpose of their meeting?
“Can we have a bit of quiet, please?” said the convener of the meeting, a beautiful black and white cat, whose name was Lizzie, and who had a marvellous deep honeyed voice. She continued “My dear brothers and sisters, we have spent the last half an hour arguing as to what we can do to help the hermits.” “That’s because they do seem very concerned”, said a tiny little cat, who was also a black and white cat like Lizzie, but whose black face, above her white throat, looked like an eighteenth century woman’s mask. “I’m amazed Lily that you notice what state the hermits are in, because you dart around so much.” purred a husky voice that came from a magnificent panther-like cat whose name was Molly. “I do notice quite a lot you know" said Lily somewhat petulantly. She did not add, and she would have been quite within her rights, that she often was running away from Molly who, I am sad to say, rather bullied her. Molly was about to give her views on the hermits, when she was stopped in her tracks by a loud yawn and a lot of snuffling. These noises emanated from rusty, black, large, leonine cat. “Well I can see that not all of us are attending to the business of the meeting Bushy,” for that was the cat’s name, remarked Lizzie, rather as if she was a stern and starchy headmistress of the 1950’s addressing a school assembly. The modern head teacher of today, however, seems to have all the charm of an accountant, and all the charisma of a bureaucrat, and no powers of leadership whatsoever. “Oh I am terribly sorry, did I doze off?” said Bushy in his warm gravelly voice. “You are always dozing off you lazy bones” chipped in a young cat with the longest legs that you have ever seen on a cat, who began to jump around laughing and chasing his tail. “Sammy, will you try and behave like a sensible young cat, and not some idiotic imitation of what humans call "a Jack the lad", though I don’t suppose even they exist in this now quite mad country. Oh would that we were in the East where we came from!” exclaimed Lizzie and then emitted a long drawn out sigh. Her mind wandered away from the herb garden, and her eyes fixed on the moon and a night studded with stars, while her thoughts soared into another night sky above the great pyramids of Egypt, the fabled land of cats. She thought to herself "Why did the Egyptians worship cats?" Such a notion she found rather stupid, though quite gratifying. Then her thoughts moved further East up into the Holy Land, and she thought of the ancient legend that said that it was a cat who led the Holy Family to safety in Egypt after they had fled from Palestine and King Herod’s murderous fury. From there her thoughts sped across the centuries over every continent and country, and she thought of all the hatred that Man vents against God, and all the violence he does to animals and even worse violence that he does to his fellow men and women, and her eyes filled with tears, and her throat tightened with pain, and she began to sob. “O please don’t cry!” said a silvery voice. “O Dolly, you are right.” she said to the sweetest little cat with beseeching amber eyes. “Have we done something wrong?” and this question came from a wonderful grey Mau cat called Freddy, (His ancestors were most definitely from Egypt) his tiger like face showed his sunny character and his rather overpowering nature. “Oh please don’t weep dear Lizzie” pleaded a massive black cat, dark as night, in a voice that was equally black but also very comforting. “You are quite right Tommy, I know that I should not, but it’s all so very difficult.” , and with that the poor kindly and motherly cat began to sob uncontrollably. Immediately all the cats were crowding around, licking Lizzie and making snuffly noises and telling her to cheer up as things could never be that bad. Over all of them presided Bushy looking like some wonderfully benign grandfather. “Now we must have a plan," he said, "and we must know why Lizzie has called this meeting, and what it is all about. Now Lizzie my dear, we must really get down to the nuts and bolts; Come now.”, and with that he nuzzled her with his nose, while Dolly offered Lizzie her handkerchief, which Lizzie gratefully accepted. “Now let’s all sit down and listen to what Lizzie has to say” declaimed Bushy rather solemnly.
All seven cats sat down in a semi circle while Lizzie cleared her throat and began, her beautifully deep voice almost singing what she had to say.
“The last time such a meeting took place was a very long time ago, so long ago that we don’t even have the minutes of the meeting. Oh dear me, I sound like Brother Stephen who never seems to know where he’s put the minutes of the hermits’ meetings. I am surprised that these humans can manage their affairs at all. Well that meeting took place on 4th October 1378.”
“Wow! That was a long time ago” interrupted Freddy. “Yes Freddy; now please let me continue” replied Lizzie reverting to her headmistress tone. “Were you there?” asked a wide eyed Lily. “Oh Lily do think, how could I have been there; it was well over 600 years ago. You really must think.” , said a mildly exasperated but amused Lizzie, who took up her story once more. “Now please let me continue. There was a great moot not only of cats, but of all sorts of animals from bears, wild boars, down to little field mice, and no-one fought each other or ate each other. I can see you are all surprised at this piece of information, and are curious to know why?” Indeed the cats were all eyes, and their eyes almost lit up the darkness of the night. “The meeting was convened by St. Francis” Lizzie continued “ for it was his feast day, and he made sure that all of the animals were fed with heavenly food, which I am told was too delicious for words.” Lizzie’s feline auditors' tongues were literally hanging out of their mouths, almost like dogs. “The reason for that meeting is that the Holy Roman Catholic Church was split apart in what is called a schism, because the Pope, Urban VI, the newly elected Pope had gone rather mad, and some rebel cardinals went and elected another Pope, called an anti-pope, a rather awful man called Robert of Geneva, who took the name Clement VII. This was rather odd as Urban VI was, what is called, a reformer. “What’s a reformer?” asked Dolly, and before Lizzie could answer, Bushy said “to form again” “Exactly” said Lizzie “though I prefer “restore”. “What does that mean?” asked a wide eyed Sammy “to bring something back to its original state.” purred Molly with a maternal assurance that was unassailable for, being the sister of Lizzie, she shared some of her sister’s kindly dominance. “Now the problem they had with, what is called the Western Schism, which means split, before anyone interrupts me again,” as she said this Lizzie swept her front paw into the air so that a respectful silence should resume, “is that Urban had a dreadful temper, and tortured some of his cardinals, and some disappeared never to be seen again. All the good work that he intended was destroyed. It gives me no pleasure to say there are people talking about schism again. Our present Holy Father is determined to reform, or renew the Church in the spirit of Vatican II, and before you ask me what Vatican II was, it was an Ecumenical Council of the Church”. Lizzie could see that her fellow cats were looking at her with blank expressions, and so she resorted to very simple and plain language. “To put it bluntly the Church along with the World is in a mess. For the last 50 years the Church has been trying to be up to date and modern and open to the World, but she might as well be open to a gang of rabid dogs.” “But there are some very nice dogs” pleaded Dolly. “Have you ever met a nice dog?” Lizzie answered somewhat imperiously. “I think so” Dolly said somewhat submissively. “Think so is not good enough!” Lizzie said about to warm to her theme of the moral degeneracy of the canine world. “Could we possibly get to the point of why we are having this meeting, and could you tell us what the outcome of the last one was?” suggested Bushy. “In answer to the second half of your question, I really don’t know. Let me tell you my part of the story” With that the other cats all relaxed and lay down, up until then they had been sitting up, but a good story always requires that the listener should be relaxed and cats are no exception.
Sitting before her fellow cats Lizzie drew herself up to her full height and began her tale.
“It was yesterday afternoon, as I was taking my siesta, that I fell into a deep sleep, and dreamt this dream. I was in magnificent garden, the like of which you have never seen before. Huge cedars and great oaks enclosed the garden, which was an explosion of flower beds. Climbing roses, delphiniums in abundance, hollyhocks, honeysuckle and cascading wisteria jostled with dahlias, and lilies in profusion. In the centre of the garden was a beautiful round pool surmounted by a golden fountain, and beyond that a path which led to a gate. Curiosity, being the very make up of our being, led me to the gate, and I peeped through. Imagine my amazement as I stepped through the gate to find myself in an amazing throne room.
It was like some great Byzantine Church. Mosaics covered the walls, great pillars of marble, yellow, red, green and blue soared up towards a great dome, and in the centre was this jewelled throne. It was gold and covered with rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds, and with so many other stones that you could not number them. It was very wide, more like bench, and seated upon it was The Trinity. How I knew this I do not know, as each of them were identical to the other, but somehow different. They were enclosed in a globe of gold and silver lights, and as I looked upon them too awed to speak, they commanded me to go with you, my brothers and sisters, on a mission. I asked what this mission might be. It was a mission of common sense, holy common sense, as it seems, for there is so little sense around, only fantasy. I did not hear any words, but felt the message in my heart. I was not quite sure what I was to say on this mission, and was not told. I was only told that we had to visit three people in particular, but that we would meet others on the way. Then suddenly the great hall was full of music and angels. The globe of light, that surrounded the Trinity disappeared, and with it the vision of the great hall as well. I found myself back in the garden staring into the pool. As I gazed into the water, I saw in the reflection a man standing behind me. I turned round to look at him, and found that it was Jesus. He said “Drink of this water. It will give you courage and wisdom” and with a smile He added “and also humour, for humour is what is needed in these dark and humourless times” I did as I was told. He then picked me up, stroked me with such love, gave me a kiss, and I woke up.”
The cats looked on in silence. “Is that all?” said Tommy. “Yes!” replied Lizzie. Just then, just as Lily was about to ask something, there was a rustle behind the Buddleia bush, and the four women who had been listening intently made their appearance. All the cats pricked up their ears in surprise and each wondered why they had not noticed these impressive and radiant beings. Lily who was about to ask this very question had it answered for her by the tallest of the four, the Benedictine Abbess. “You were thinking Lily why we could have remained so close and yet hidden from your normally excellent senses. This was because, though we had not made ourselves invisible, we had made you all concentrate on the meeting. You will also, no doubt, wonder why God has called you cats to help in bringing that necessary truth to the serious situation in which the Church and the world finds herself. It is because you are both wise and prudent, and you do not let your enthusiasms and emotions get the better of you. People normally associate wisdom with owls, but cats are wise also.”
As the Abbess fell silent, all the cats including Lizzie realized it was time for a wash, and possibly a snooze. The Abbess seeing the contentment of the cats said to the other humans. “I think we should come back tomorrow, as they’re all agog with this news.” “That’s a very good idea" said the Poor Clare, and the two other women smilingly agreed.
The moon was somewhat lower in the night sky, which was now empty of clouds, and as serene and peaceful as the cats sleeping in the garden. The three nuns and the widow wreathed in golden light glided across the lawn past the fruit trees and entered the house through the library door.
All was quiet and the moon’s light shed a peaceful glow on the garden and the sleeping cats. If the cats had been awake they would have observed three men looking down on them from the Church roof. A Dominican brother with some mice licking at his feet, and next to him a friar with his hood up and some large wolf-like creature by his side, and then a priest in his cassock with an enormous dog sleeping at his feet. Quite what the cats would have made of the dog is hard to know, though the thought of mice would certainly have interested them, but their dreams were of different things, of gardens, of a mission, and a test that would have possibly frightened them if they knew what it entailed.
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