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Church Cats

Although the behaviour of some cats can hardly be considered saintly, devout cats have been kept by saints, such as the sixteenth century saint Philip Neri.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. when many a poor puss was persecuted, Cardinal Pichelieu kept a room in his palace devoted to his cats, where two servants fed the creatures the best foie gras France could offer.

Pope Pius IX and Leo XII all hand-fed their favourite Vatican cats. Leo XII may well have been the pope who gave audiences with a cat secreted on his lap. Presumably the cat was not as well concealed within the robes as the pope supposed, for the story to be told today. A dangling paw or suspiciously furry tail poking out from under the religious robes may well have given the game away. Micetto, a large blue and red tabby cat, was born in the Vatican and raised by Pope Leo XII.

One deeply religious cat appears to have belonged in the sixteenth century to the English Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. The cat was said to attend mass if the cardinal was celebrating it.

The Monk & His Cat Pangur

Written in the margins of an illuminated manuscript at the Abbey of St. Paul at Reichenau, Corinthia. The poem inspired a book telling of the adventures of the cat Pangur Ban who finally ends his travels at Cashel Castle in Eire, keeping it rodent-free and where he was greatly loved. Pangur Ban is Gaelic for "white Pangur" or "little white cat."

I and my white Pangur
have each his special art:
His mind is set on hunting mice,
mine is upon my special craft.

     I love to rest - better than any fame!
     With close study at my little book;
     White Pangur does not envy me:
     He loves his childish play.

When in our house we two are all alone...
A tale without tedium.
We have - sport never-ending!
Something to exercise our wit.

     At times by feats of derring-do
     a mouse sticks in his net,
     while into my net there drops
     a difficult problem of hard meaning.

He points his full shining eye
against the fence of the wall:
I point my clear though feeble eye
against the keenness of science.

     He rejoices with quick leaps
     when in his sharp claw sticks a mouse;
     I, too, rejoice when I have grasped
     a problem difficult and dearly loved.

Though we are thus at all time,
neither hinders the other,
each of us pleased with his own art
amuses himself alone.

     He is master of the work
     which every day he does:
     While I am at my own work
     to bring difficulty to clearness.

Eighth Century Irish Monk

Pudding from St. Mary's, Little Birch, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom.

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