The Flock that
An Animal Padre's Uphill Pilgrimage
Episode 12 - A New Post and a New Lifestyle
After much pressure from so called spiritual superiors the day
arrived when I left the loneliness of being a deserted vicar to become
one of a group of priests within an embryonic team ministry. The
destination was the large woollen town of Dewsbury and district, while
the post turned out to be little more than that of a curate.
Indeed, having fumed and fretted at such 'de-promotion' - the
bishop having assured me previously that such a post would be one of
mutual standing alongside the rural dean and rector -1 began to grovel
in self pity and bitterness. And then, as if I hadn't been suppressed
enough, a better post within the recently formed team ministry
suddenly emerged. I was by passed and the bishop appointed an outsider
bearing the same name as myself.
Why, I asked, is God allowing one lot of humiliation after another
to be piled upon me? Have I not already shown enough condescension in
having moved from a rambling Victorian vicarage in Huddersfield to a
crummy ex. Vergerís house, next to a semi derelict mill, in Dewsbury?
Yes, the mill was a gaunt woollen one, now in the process of being
wound down before imminent closure. What was even more depressing.
Fluffy the mongrel - much likened to a Shetland sheep dog -was no
longer waiting to greet me whenever I returned home from a day's work.
It had previously been made clear that as a busy thoroughfare was in
close proximity to my 'new' dwelling - the old churchyard providing
the sole bit of green between and around the headstones - it was
hardly a safe area in which to bring a dog. So, thankfully, though not
without heartache, I'd previously agreed to a truck driver, who lived
next to my previous church, adopting Fluffy for an indefinite period
of time. Indeed, they had taken to each other as ducks take to water,
and wherever the lorry driver went. Fluffy would be seen perched on
the front seat alongside of him, and weighing up all who passed by.
A Comforter Sent By God!
One particular spring morning a few months later, the delightful
young lady next door but one was feeding her favourite cats along a
back thoroughfare, which we all shared, alongside the terrace.
Learning already of my concern for animals - for I had recently taken
part in a demo. against halal meat and the need to stun animals before
slaughter -she commended my efforts and, busily feeding her cats,
asked if I'd noticed that a stray had just come to sit on my step. "I
think it has been abandoned by the mill and looks as if it has come to
adopt you," she said. "Unlike dogs, you know, they choose you. You
don't choose them!"
I remonstrated that, whereas throughout my life I had mostly had a
dog, I was hardly willing to give houseroom to a cat, as they were
cruel to mice and birds and only appeared to possess cupboard love.
Well, in a sweet way she affirmed that I could not know much about
them. "I only know," she went on to affirm "that this cute and
affectionate looking cat, abandoned to the wild with the closure of
the mill, certainly seems to have taken a liking to you."
Yes, and how right that wonderful lady was! Although not a church
attendee, she manifested a heart of gold towards all the feral
creatures that came to her back door. And as for the one that entered
my house that day, it gave me a new dimension for living. I was going
through an all time low, and it tuned into my feelings and met them
with an uncanny and almost divine instinctiveness.
In fact, I let this cat enter every room, and if the beautiful
furniture in the lounge were to suffer, just too bad! Yet it hardly
did, and somehow it knew just how I was feeling. Whenever my spirits
fell, Tibby would jump onto my shoulder, purr round my neck and then
come round to kiss my lips. In fact it appeared as if this wonderful
creature was a messenger sent from God, and I couldn't even type
without Tibby being on the typewriter.
Later witnessing the antics of a ferocious cat, from inside the
window of this same antiquated dwelling. I realized that cats, along
with humans, are a mixed breed indeed. I only know that if there were
a saint amongst them then the one who had adopted me was one of them;
and Tibby never brought in, nor appeared to chase either a bird or a
Alas, one day he went out without returning either that night or
the following morning. The days passed into weeks, and soon one was
left with no more memories. But then one night - quite uncannily! -
his closeness and an assurance that he was grateful to me for what 1
had done for him, became intensely real. Tibby was at peace in
Paradise with Jesus, my Mum, and surrounded by joy and radiance. "God,
I thank you for the memory of that cat!"
- to be continued
Go on to
A Prayer: On Behalf Of Cats Everywhere
Return to Spring 2012 Issue