Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Cat who Came to Church

Long before I attended St. Spike's regularly, I knew of Brigid, one of the Resident Felines. I first encountered her one Ash Wednesday; I dutifully trooped up to the rail to get my ashes, and was boggled when I trooped back down the side aisle to see a large gray tabby perched placidly on the childrens' toy basket in the front of the nave, calmly observing as a church full of people passed by her. On my second trip down after Communion, I stopped and gave her a scritchie. She accepted it as her due. I was utterly charmed when I read the bulletin later and noted that she (and the other cat) were listed under "staff" (Felines Brigid, Julian).

I heard via the fabulous Sara of Going Jesus of a large, well-loved cat who attended early service at a Berkeley church vocalizing if she desired attention and knew the church and the cat instantly.

When I popped into early service myself for the first time, there she was. (I knew she was Brigid, not Julian, because she had allowed me to inspect her collar at the Easter Vigil.) No chance to give her a scritchie, as she was comfortably ensconsced on Dave's lap during the readings and the sermon (although Dave evicted her during the Gospel reading). The chapel felt like a sacred space version of my living room - peaceful, good light, and with a mellow feline in residence. (Usually she would make her rounds and then settle in on one of the chairs for a nap.) I felt, quite literally, at home and decided to stick around. When I started mostly going to 10 am, Brigid was around in the courtyard before and after the services greeting her fan club. (She also usually graced evening classes and committee meetings.)

Anyone who has been around St. Spike's for a while, especially at the early service, has a Brigid story to tell. I heard some of the classics ("When E. dropped the chalice") and was around myself for some of Brigid's continued adventures. One night when I was in the church setting up for a Eucharist the next day, we heard mewing like she was trapped, and we opened every cabinet in the sacristry area to see if we could find her. Turned out she was in the crawl space and we were hearing her well because of the special drain we have in the sacristry for disposing of consecrated liquids which goes "to the ground" (e.g. fewer building layers). And I almost disgraced myself laughing after one of the most solemn services of the year when Brigid brought in a live mouse and started chasing it around Rector's feet in the acolyte's room. It reminded me so much of Maya in her Mighty Huntress days that, even though I managed to not burst out in mad giggle fits, I was no help at all getting the mouse out of the church. (I did get one of those lidded dustpan things for the sacristry Stuff Cabinet, though.)

Brigid was my special pal at the church after Maya died, because her attitude reminded me so much of Maya. So she always got a hello and a special scritch from me, even if I was shooing her out of the sacristry at the time (because we didn't want her to get trapped in the closet). If I didn't see her on Sunday, I missed her.

I swung by the church today to pick up some items I'd left and made some remark about the open sanctuary door to the sexton, to learn that Brigid had died on Thursday after being hit by a car. I hope it was sudden for her and that she did not suffer. In a lot of ways it's like I'm losing Maya all over again, so I've been rather weepy (although remembering the story of the mouse in the sacristry made me laugh). I will miss her, as will the other FoBs (Friends of Brigid). She was a very fine cat indeed.

Here's a photo of Brigid on the Rector's Chair, taken in late May:

The Lion of St. Mark's


Blogger Karen said...

Oh, too bad! I met Brigid at St. Spike's a couple of years ago, and she was a real character. If churchgoing is any sign of sanctity I'm sure she's in Kitty Heaven now.

September 24, 2005 1:01 PM  
Blogger Charlotte said...

She was indeed Ms. Personality.

After my Maya died, a friend (who is an animal lover and Methodist minister) recommended a book called "Cat Heaven". It's a really sweet book. God feeds them tuna off the counter and lets them all sleep on His bed. I like to think there is a sunny chapel with comfy chairs in Cat Heaven for the church cats like Brigid.

September 24, 2005 1:59 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

September 24, 2005 4:47 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

I remember Brigid watching us all from the top of the steps during communion. She would also visit us during our midweek movie and discussion nights.

R.I.P., Brigid.

September 24, 2005 4:48 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

A true church cat. And a beautiful tribute and picture.

September 24, 2005 5:19 PM  
Blogger LutheranChik said...

So sorry to hear about the kitty.
And I love the image of God feeding the heavenly felines tuna off the counter...and, I'm sure, letting them sharpen their claws on the heavenly upholstery.;-)

I really like the idea of a church "collective companion animal"...I mean, maybe a goldfish or hamster not so much;-), but a resident cat or dog. (Not my dog...he's nuts.) It reminds me of the text about all creation groaning in travail -- which in turn reminds me of the inbreaking of the Reign of God, and the restoration of all of creation. It seems that inviting our animal friends to our worship is a sign of that. (And they're fun to cuddle during the sitting-down parts.)

September 25, 2005 11:27 AM  
Blogger Charlotte said...

LC, besides the church cats (who kept the mouse population down), we have two parishioners with guide dogs. One is in the choir so there is a dog bed in the choir area :). So they are part of the parish too. I hope they're first in line to be blessed next Sunday!

If I ever fund a window it will be St. Francis preaching to the animals and I'm going to ask for a black lab and a grey tabby cat for Christmas and Brigid.

September 25, 2005 12:35 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

Don't tell me Christmas passed away . . .

October 12, 2005 3:30 PM  

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