Our cats kill birds.
We hate this.
After the blackcap, I thought we should take the advice often proffered by others, and put collars with bells on them. A delegation accordingly went forth and selected suitable collars – ones that would break under sudden pressure so they couldn’t accidentally hang themselves in a tree. The people they like best put them on. And all hell broke loose.
I’d expected they wouldn’t like them at first, but not this. Convinced they were being pursued by alien beings impossible to shake off, they rushed wildly round the house like mad things. Edwin (yes, I know – well he’s a cat with Presence) took off down the garden and off into the woodland beyond, and Miguel charged upstairs and pooed himself under Alice’s bed.
Alice picked him up and cleaned him off, soothed him and petted him. Edwin returned and charged madly up into Hebe’s room, which they regard as their Final Sanctuary. We had thought we ought to persevere for a while, give them a chance to get used to the things; but seeing how terribly distressed he was, they took the collar off.
Meanwhile Miguel had taken off like a rocket over the garden wall and off into the woods. But he didn’t come back.
We searched and we called, after two nights went by we notified PetLog Lost and Found online, we notified the vet and the neighbours. A delegation went down to where the woods extend, calling and calling. Edwin kept vigil in the garden. The birds (who don’t care much about Edwin because he’s black and white and they can see him; Miguel is black and an incomparable hunter) had a field day, flying everywhere, swinging on the creepers and perching on the fences, enjoying the seed-feeders.
Another night went by. A pall of heaviness, a miasmic mist of sorrow and sadness descended over and right into the household. Lost. Injured? Trapped? Hurt? Frightened? Attacked? The household grieved.
Of course, we also prayed. Prayed and prayed and prayed. Each in her own way.
And a funny thing happened.
My friend Pearl is a very spiritual woman. She lives in the thin place between earth and heaven, and in her every waking and sleeping moment she is alert to each movement of the Spirit, the quietest whisper of the divine. And though she had already not long ago kindly given me two notebooks, the last time I saw her she gave me another one, with watercolours on it by her gifted friend Wendy Yeo, which I liked so much I made it into my intercessions book, being both beautiful and the perfect size. You are all in it. Yes, you. If you are reading this, you are in it and I pray for you most days.
And yesterday morning as usual, in my prayers, regarding the day and its tasks I prayed for what the day held. For the world and its needs I asked for the things the world needs most – reverence for God and love for the Earth, kindness and humility, simplicity, integrity in government; and, especially in these present days, hope. For the Church and her life I prayed that she might live the Gospel she preaches, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Then, before the closing prayers, as always I picked up my little intercessions book and prayed through the list. I added Miguel’s and Edwin’s names to the list, thinking that I had been remiss in not doing this long ago; they are, after all, members of our household. And I prayed and prayed and prayed for Miguel. I beseeched the Lord, who knows when even a sparrow falls, to watch over him, wherever he was. I asked Him to see him safely home. The Lord thought maybe Heaven was his home like everybody, but I insisted that here on Earth our house was his home, and he should come back here, the place of refuge God had given him, little rescue cat, on Earth.
After some time of bending the Lord’s ear, it was time to get on with the day, so I finished off the closing prayers. But before I packed up, the Lord suggested I look properly at my intercessions notebook. He pointed out to me the picture on it, which I have got so used to seeing I no longer see it at all – I just see an intercessions book not a picture, now.
This is the picture on the front.
And this is the picture on the back.
Let me remind you.
Miguel, a little black cat with yellow-green eyes, lost in the wood. Wearing his collar we had put on to keep the birds in the garden safe. Petitioning on his account the Lord whose eye is on the sparrow.
And I knew then that the Lord had heard. Further, I knew that He knew about this moment from all time. Pearl does whatever she does at the prompting of the Spirit, and He prompted her to give me that book, and He knew back then that the day would come when I would definitely need an answer to this urgent prayer – not a particular outcome, but the knowledge that He had heard, that He knew and He cared.
And then there was something else. The other members of the household all agreed, from their various prayings and sendings, that they felt Miguel was still alive, and that he would return. All of us women in this house are by nature cautious and realistic to the border of pessimism, but when they searched within themselves, they honestly thought he would return. No one knew what Edwin thought, but he kept vigil, and never went away on his usual walkabouts. And what I thought was, if the Lord actually wanted this incident visibly attached to my intercessions book, perhaps He had in mind some future incident, in life not yet unfolded, when I would look at the intercessions book and be reminded, ‘Remember that? He answered that one, didn’t He?’
So we waited. But another night and another morning came, and we were all in our various burrows doing our morning things when SUDDENLY there came this thundering of feet and jangling of a bell, up the stairs and into Hebe’s bedroom, the refuge of cats that need safety and peace, under her bed into the box where the fluffy slippers are.
He had paint on his whiskers, and was ravenously hungry, and obviously traumatised, still afraid.
But he came home, and he’s all right now. And this morning Edwin has felt free to go on his usual walkabouts.
Thank you, my Lord, for going with him, and for bringing him safe home.
But it’s not about outcomes. There are those whose prayers watch over their sons who are soldiers in Afghanistan, their daughters with drug habits who left home long ago and roam midnight streets, lost and vulnerable. The picture on my intercessions book tells me, He knows, already, and He goes with them where we cannot follow. The picture on my intercessions book is not to remind me that everything we pray for will come out right - you know this yourself, that praying is not a quick fix, that's not how it works. It's to remind me that He knows, and He cares.
Psalm 139, innit.