The Pope’s Cats

6 October 08 | Posted in Animals, Arts and Letters, Vatican

Joseph and Chico: The Life of Pope Benedict XVI as Told by a Cat (Ignatius Press, 2008) is a children’s book written by Chico with the “aid” of Italian journalist, Jeanne Perego. popecat.JPG

The book, which has been translated into 10 languages and has sold 12,000 copies in the U.S., tells of young Joseph Ratzinger’s childhood love for all furry animals and the adult cardinal’s deep bond with the narrator, who lives in the Bavarian village of Pentling.

Chico’s owner, Rupert Hofbauer, confirmed the substance of the book and said that Chico, now 10, misses his old friend, who has not been back to visit since becoming pope.

“Sometimes Chico goes over there on his own,” Hofbauer said in a telephone interview, “and sits on the door sill or walks through the garden.” chico.JPG

When Cardinal Ratzinger was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he tended to the cats that frequented the garden of the congregation’s building in the Vatican and bandaged their wounds.

But he could not bring his two beloved cats when he moved into the papal palace. Rome’s animal rights commissioner protested the ban on pets, and urged the Vatican to “give the two papal cats access to the Apostolic Palace.”

Though Benedict is the first pope to be written about by a cat, he falls squarely within a long Vatican tradition.

According to The Papacy: An Encyclopedia by Philippe Levillain, Pope Paul II, in the 15th c. had his cats treated by his personal physician. Leo XII, in the 1820s, raised his grayish-red cat, Micetto, in the pleat of his cassock. And according to The Times of London, Paul VI, from 1963 to 1978, is said to have once dressed his cat in cardinal’s robes.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, has two silver tabbies named Raphael and Gabriel. Mahony believes that cats are perfect pets for clergymen “because they are wonderful companions. There is a spirituality about them. Their presence is very soothing.”

Pope Benedict’s publicly announced fondness for cats has resulted in one of Rome’s hottest selling tourist momentos–a little cardinal hat for cats.  The hat goes for $15 in stores such as Barbiconi, which specializes in clergy robes and accessories. 

Cardinal Mahony’s cats both have cardinal hats, given to him during a recent trip to Rome.

But currently, Pope Benedict XVI must abide by the rule against pets in the Vatican apartments, “although one cardinal has a dog and everyone in Rome knows it,” said Cardinal Mahoney.

Fr. Theodore Hesburgh on Evolution

30 September 08 | Posted in Arts and Letters, U.S. Catholic

Father Theodore Hesburgh, 91, the president of Notre Dame  from 1952-1987, was known for his work on many of the biggest social issues of the day: equal rights, the ethical application of scientific advances, justice and academic freedom. thesburgh.jpg

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Fr. Hesburgh answered a question on evolution:

WSJ: You wrote that you and the popes you represented at the IAEA had deep appreciation of the sciences. Now, a m0vement, supported by some Catholics, is fighting the teaching of evolution.

Fr. Hesburgh: I have no problem at all with evolution. I think God can create in any way he wants. If he wants to create through an evolutionary process, it wouldn’t happen without him, because he has to put beings there in the first place. But it could be a very simple kind of life, and it could evolve, as I think it did, through various, different, more-complicated organisms until eventually you get to a point where there is a human being. That requires at least one act of God, to create an immortal soul. Evolution can’t create a spiritual and immortal moral soul.

I’m not afraid of science, because the more I learn from science, the more I know about God and his creation.

Roman Triptych: The Stream

24 September 08 | Posted in Arts and Letters, Spirituality, Vatican

Pope Benedict XVI may go down in history as the greatest papal advocate for the environment, but Pope John Paul II started things off. He made statements in support of creation, but his major contribution is his example–he loved nature, and found God there.

My favorite image of Pope John Paul II is a snapshot during a camping trip. A vigorous and robust man, he liked camping, hiking and relaxing outdoors. roman-trip.jpg

His nature experiences found their way into his poems. The Poetry of John Paul II: Roman Triptych: Medications begins with “The Stream.”

I. The Stream

Ruah

The Spirit of God hovered about the waters

1. Wonderment

The undulating wood slopes down to the rhythm of mountain streams.

To me this rhythm is revealing You, the Primordial Word.

How remarkable is Your silence

in everything, in all that on every side unveils the created world around us..all that, like the undulating wood, runs down every slope…all that is carried away by the stream’s silvery cascade, rhythmically falling from the mountain, carried by its own current–carried where?

What are you saying to me, mountain stream? Where, in which place do we meet? Do you meet me who is also passing–just like you.

Read the poem here.

Becoming Fully Ourselves

10 September 08 | Posted in Animals, Arts and Letters, Global Catholic, Spirituality

In his book, The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis writes of a great journey through Heaven and Hell in a manner similar to Dante’s Inferno.  As they enter heaven, the visitor observes a woman enfolded in the glory of the divine energies surrounded by animals. The visitor is awed–thinking this is the BVM.

When he finally gets up his courage to ask the bus driver about the woman, the driver responds that no, this isn’t the BVM, but some humble woman who had rescued all of these creatures of God, and in her care, they became fully themselves. I would take Lewis a step further, in relationship with these animals, the woman also became more fully herself as well. They were her companions in prayer and life.

– From the blog, Bending the Rule

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Walk The Blue Fields

6 September 08 | Posted in Arts and Letters, Global Catholic

Walk the Blue Fields is a new book of short stories by Irish writer Claire Keegan.  All but one of the seven stories is set in rural Ireland. blue3.jpg

In the title story, a priest marries a young couple and throughout the celebrations he is haunted by the memories of a love affair and the choice he made. When everything begins to close in on him, he leaves the party to walk.

Reflecting on the perennial question, “Where is God?” he discovers “tonight God is answering back. All around the air is sharp with the tang of wild currant bushes. A lamb climbs out of a deep sleep and walks across the blue field. Overhead, the stars have rolled into place. God is nature.”