Thursday, 10 January 2013



Tiger came to me as a utility cat- as a much needed rat-catcher for the old building in which I was housed. . .infested with vermin. This cat was eminently up to the task… a creature that bristled and hissed at every friendly approach...every attempt at intimacy.  If Tiger had no need for affection he looked for approval or at least recognition. Trophies from the hunt were always brought to my door.
Mine was the task of paying Tiger his wages, keeping him alive with a mid-day plate of food washed down by a saucer of milk.   At meal-time Tiger was too pre-occupied with eating to show aggression when I lightly stroked his back. Gradually there was a transition from hostility to tolerance and then to contented purring. What a break-through  when Tiger actually jumped onto my lap.

I should have known better than to imagine we had eventually become firm friends and that the future would always be sweet and smooth between us. For many years when preparing couples for marriage I have cautioned them that at times their relationship would have moments that were rough and sour. Often they looked at me in disbelief. What did I as a priest know about being in love? “More than somewhat,” would be a fair reply. A fool was I to expect more from Tiger than I did of human beings.
    The moment of disillusionment had to come, sooner or later. On a day like any other day when I was carrying Tiger’s lunch across the lawn I heard a demented shriek followed  immediately by sharp claws plunged into my rump!  Swiftly I spun round and lashed out with my foot – like a celebrity footballer aiming at goal. I missed.  No amount of pondering or taking counsel from my friends provided me an explanation for this treacherous outburst.  More disturbing to me was the fact that there were several repeat performances.
 Thenceforth ours was an uneasy relationship. However, sometime later I was seriously ill and had to take major surgery. After several days I returned home to my bed which was snugly in a corner of the room in the space between the wall and a tall bookcase.  Restless, unable to sleep, I heard a rustling and then a gentle thump. Raising my eyes I saw Tiger sharply silhouetted against the moon- light that flooded my room. Seldom have I felt more loved, more comforted, that when Tiger nestled beside sickly me who had been exhausted and wrung out by intense pain.
Tiger had needed me; I had needed Tiger. ..more than either of us had realized.
How much we meant to each other was brought home to me once again…after the devastation and desolation caused to our house by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.  There were three of us in residence at the time of the storm. After several days with no trace of Tiger we had concluded, ‘Missing in action.’
Meanwhile , we had to sort out our lives in the midst of all the rubble and confusion. We  were able to clear some space and to salvage all that was needed for the celebration of Mass. As I sat in the corridor waiting for the others to show up for Mass I was lost in thought, deep in prayer, with eyes closed...lost to the world. I became aware of Tiger gently, hesitantly, brushing against my bare shin.  Softly I called his name. ‘Tiger.’ Confidently he jumped into my lap.
Even as I write this my eyes are moist. I thank God for those exquisite moments of beauty and love that have come to my rescue when I have been torn apart with sadness, even despair.  God knows how to meet our needs, in ways we never expected. He has seen to it that people, even Tiger-cat,  have been  ‘there for me’ when I needed them most.
Have no illusions. The world is made up of imperfect people like you and me...of imperfect cats, like Tiger!   This being so, to my mind it is a great God who through His flawed creatures can bring me to that point where my whole being throbs with the words of St. Paul,   
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.” ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4
What a strange spirituality is here!  godswaymyway! I’m to find God calling me to be for others what Tiger has been for me!  A comfort ! A consolation!
Peter Clarke OP 

1 comment:

  1. I have a cat that has a worse personality than Tiger. I have never heard her purr. She has never jumped up on a lap. She's a talker--always meowing.(when she's not hissing or growling)

    I've come to the conclusion that she's mentally ill. If people can be, why not cats?

    Spiritual lesson? Some people completely shut themselves off, don't they?