The other day, I opened the front door of the church and a cat I had never met before walked in. I bid her welcome. She meowed.
I had, I confess, been having a dreadful afternoon, by which I don’t mean that anything horrifying had happened, but that I was buckling under that dull burden of dread which accompanies winter in the northern hemisphere: the lack of brightness, the dismal disbelief that sows doubt about the eventual return of spring.
We finished up the work I had to do in my office, then set off for the sacristy to set up for evening service. We ended up for a little while on the chapel floor, beneath the benevolent eye of Jesus, purring, and I reflected that when our saviour was humanity incarnate, there must have been moments when he was unable to move, or shout, or sneeze for fear of waking a cat that had taken up residence in his lap. These things happen.
When the first person arrived for service, the cat greeted him with a polite leg rub, then showed herself out. I saw her once more as I drove out of the parking lot later, sitting under the porch light, watching me leave.
Now, I know that I have a weakness for whimsy, but there was something about that cat. She had a flash on her forehead that was the exact colour of the sand in the Jordan desert. She arrived as though in answer to prayer, and stayed until she left. She watched over my going out, and for all I know my coming back in.
If it is possible for the Holy Spirit to inhabit a dove’s form, or to inspire the formation of a flock of geese, why not send a small cat as a messenger of hope, comfort, warmth on a cold midwinter’s afternoon, her desert colours proof against the dying of the light?
The Revd Rosalind C Hughes is Rector of the Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, Ohio, a congregation that loves to welcome all kinds of visitors. She posts more words and occasional cats at her blog, over the water