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The cat who converted the Pope by Gerald J SchiffhorstThis slender book arrived just in time for my birthday and what a wonderful present it was.  Gerald Schiffhorst has completely encapsulated the feline wisdom and spirituality that all cats possess, that most of us humans are totally oblivious to.

Simon Goodfellow – a brilliant name for a cat – is now living in the Vatican with MB, an English priest who brought Simon along for company.  But Simon is lonely.  The Vatican is a bustling place with thousands of visitors every day and the daily life of the hundreds who live and work within its walls is scary to him.  Having lived in a quiet English village where he could come and go at will, this is a different lifestyle and he’s not happy.  MB (Monsignor Butler) has come to the Vatican to work for the Pope, but he pays Simon little attention which makes him wonder why he didn’t leave him behind in England. MB tells him to stay away from the crowds, to never go into the streets of Rome and to find quiet places in the chapels where he can sleep the hours away.  He is also advised never to speak to the Holy Father, the cardinals and bishops, and to avoid the Swiss Guards who may not treat him kindly. 

Simon is the first cat to have ever lived at the Vatican and a lot is riding on his shoulders. As a Cat-lick, Simon has the freedom to explore the vast rooms, making observations that there were no cosy shelves or nooks for him to have his naps.  The Vatican was a not a cat-friendly place, he came to realise.

Simon befriends a little female cat called Catrina, whom he calls Trina.  They’re out in the gardens one day and they find the Pope sitting on the stone bench that Simon likes to nap on.  The Pope is friendly and Trina jumps into the folds of his cassock.  The Pope is surprised that Simon can speak English and is further amazed when Simon tells him that MB taught him to read.

Simon then suggests to the Pope that he should have a cat in the papal apartment so that he can unwind at the end of each busy day.  He explains to the Pope the value of having a cat around as cats are spiritual companions, devoted to the inner life.  The Pope listens attentively, and Simon continues to offer his sage advice. The Pope agrees and Simon and Trina take up residence in the Papal Apartments together, although after a few weeks, Trina returns to the gardens where Simon meets her each day after breakfast with the Pope.

Simon may have converted the Pope, but he, too, undergoes a conversion of sorts as he settles into life within the Papal Apartments.

The second part of the book is on a short guide to feline spirituality.  Gerald Schiffhorst discusses lessons that cats can teach us humans, noting that ‘these little creatures have secrets to share with us about inner peace and happiness.’

Towards the end of the book is another section dedicated to the wisdom of Simon Goodfellow: what people can learn from cats.  Each of the sayings could easily become a mantra for prayer and meditation.  I’m sure that if more humans listened to their feline companions, the world would become a more joyous and joyful place and we humans would be less anxious or fraught.

This is a beautifully written, well-thought out book.  I have read it several times and marked passages that I can meditate on when I feel the need to slow down.  I am not a Cat-lick, but that’s unimportant.  What is important is that we all live in the here and now, in the sacrament of the present moment.

Published in paperback this book is available from www.amazon.com.

The ISBN number is: 9780974553115    

One Cat is Company

"One cat is company.
Two cats are a conspiracy. 
Three cats is an attempted takeover.
Four or more cats is a complete coup!"

Shona Steele (Australia)