A blog where families who love and live the Catholic Faith can share, encourage and support each other.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mother Teresa, Love and Three Cats

By Sue Elvis

Sammy and Jenny have no idea who Mother Teresa is. Why should they? They are only cats. But they have reason to be grateful to this holy woman.

A wheedling text message arrived on my phone: “You know how I am your favourite middle son? Please can I have two cats? They need a home.” The answer: “You’ll have to ask Dad.”

When my husband came home, I said, “Callum wants to ask you something.”

“He wants something? How much does it cost?”

“It doesn’t cost anything. It’s free.”

“Well, then he can have it.”

“He can?” (surprise) 

A moment’s silence. “It’s not an animal is it?”

“No, it’s two.”

So in this way, Sammy and Jenny, two grey and white moggies joined our household, much to the displeasure of our resident upper class feline, Poppy. Yes, Poppy did not like her territory invaded. She felt she was more than enough cat for one adoring family. What could we have been thinking about when we let these two ordinary cats into our home?

It wasn’t long before we were sharing Poppy’s view. These cats didn’t know the family rules. They jumped onto the tops of bookshelves and walked over chests of drawers and desks, scattering everything underfoot. Food was no longer safe on the kitchen bench-tops. Unlike Poppy, they just did not know how to behave.

Callum kept on defending the cats (perhaps he felt guilty) - “They’ll settle in soon, Mum”- until the day Sammy chewed up two sets of his expensive headphones. Another set of ruined headphones later and we’d all had enough. “Yes,” we crooned to Poppy as we stroked her magnificent long fur, “we should have stuck with you. You’re a perfect cat.” (We conveniently forgot Poppy’s bad habit of scratching at doors.) Poppy purred, and glared at the other cats from the safety of our arms. She thoroughly agreed.

We had a problem. How could we get rid of the two unwanted adult cats and go back to being a one cat family? Would Sammy and Jenny’s former owner have them back? (No) Could we persuade another family to adopt two fully grown moggies? (Unlikely) Could we take them to the animal shelter? (Would that be bad?) Such thoughts circulated my mind until the day we met several nuns from the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa.

The nuns were eager to share the wisdom of ‘Mother’, who poured her love on the unloved and the ‘unlovable’. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta searched out and helped the unloved and the unlovable in the slums of the world. But we needn’t travel so far. We only have to look at our own family to find the unlovable. And when we have found them, we need to remember that the unlovable are the ones most in need of our love.

I went home to my own family and looked. And what I saw were two unlovable cats. There they were, milling about my feet hoping to be fed, nagging me with their strange unattractive, squeaky meows, Jenny gazing with her cross-eyed look, Sammy butting his big head against my legs. I felt like pushing them back and making room for Poppy. But I didn’t. I looked at the cats and thought: “What would it be like living in a house where no one wanted you? Would I like to be dependent on the goodwill of people who’d rather I wasn’t there? What would it feel like to be ignored because I was plain and ordinary while all the attention was being lavished on someone more beautiful? What if I was thought of as a problem rather than as someone who was in need of love?

Sammy and Jenny are now part of the family. They may not be as good looking as Poppy but we have discovered they have charms of their own. We have learnt to love cross-eyed Jenny and big tough Sammy and in return they seem to love us, snuggling up on our laps and thrusting out their chins for a rub. As far as behaviour goes, they are learning the rules of the house. We just need to be patient and persistent.

When Mother Teresa talked about the unlovable I am sure she wasn’t referring to cats. Perhaps she wanted us to think about the less lovable child, the child we don’t find easy to love, the one who in reality needs our love the most. I began thinking about the family I grew up in. Who was the unlovable in this family? Was it one of my sisters, my brother, or was it in fact me? That is quite a thought. Why should I not love the unlovable when someone loved me?

Please share my stories at Sue Elvis Writes

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