Still Lucky Kitty

I got a lot of email this week. One friend saw the title of last week’s blog—”lucky kitty”—and before reading it, turned to me: “You’re writing about a dead kitty? The only lucky kitty is a dead kitty, right?” This friend, who knows my heart well, was surprised when he read the blog to discover I had a kind word about a living kitty. He later wrote: “The image of VA tipping his biretta to a cat is High Comedy.”

Cat lovers wrote. One cheered what she called my conversion experience. Another said I had made my peace with cats. That, however, might be saying too much. Another reader, deeply committed to the felines in her life, perceived merely “a step in the right direction” (which she instantly qualified as a paw in the right direction). 

I admit that ambivalence continues. I sneeze when a cat comes near (some say a sneeze is a recognition that a devil is nigh). I still surmise that cats think they are Egyptian gods.

As does at least one reader who sent me a picture of a very god-like statue of a cat erect on its hind legs, accompanied by words from 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2: “... the rebellion ... the man of lawlessness ... the son of destruction, who ... exalts himself ... takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God....”

On the other hand is the observation made by a priest on St. Francis’ Day, that God made dogs to remind us of his unconditional love. He made cats to keep us humble.

Yet despite their haughtiness and the whiff of idolatry, I admit to a new sense of admiration. Cats are more resilient than I would have guessed. Several writers told me of their own cats who survived a fall from, for instance, nine stories, and there was one who survived a shorter fall but was injured. Even if they want to usurp God’s place, God still made them. 

Which is an amazing truth that, I suppose, applies likewise to the author and readers of this blog.

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On the Web. My lecture on "The Theology of Walking" was recorded and you can hear it here: https://vimeo.com/759616458/e93553bed9

Lucky Kitty

It’s time to tell a story on myself. Imagine my feelings as I began reading: “Sasha, an eight-year-old peach-colored cat, fell from the balcony of her 15th-floor condo in Alexandria, Va., sometime in the wee hours of July 21.” The story continues promisingly: “Her feline roommate went to the balcony and paced. Their human, Meagan Wilson, woke up early, surveyed the scene, and began to mourn what she assumed was Sasha’s demise.” But then the tale takes a turn. “A neighbor found Sasha outside and carried her upstairs to Wilson, who was shocked to see the cat not only breathing but walking around. A vet flushed away some debris in Sasha’s left eye but found no broken bones or trauma to internal organs. Exemplary but not exceptional in her demonstration of a feline superpower, Sasha joins a long list that includes, for example, Sugar, a deaf cat that survived a fall from her 19th-floor apartment in Boston in 2012. Outcomes tend to be worse for cats falling from lower heights of, say, four stories. Given enough time, a cat will splay its limbs to increase its already impressive ratio of surface area to weight, for a parachute effect, which distributes the impact across its body when it hits ground. Wilson calls Sasha ‘one lucky kitty.’ Sasha was lucky to be a kitty.”

What can I say but “Amen”? This: Every creature has its distinctive goodness, given it as a sign of the Good that is the Reality that is God. I repent of ever having suggested that there is no goodness in cats. Parachute instincts, impressive surface area-to-weight ratio, walking away from such a fall. I would tip my biretta, if I had a biretta, to Sasha and to her maker.

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Clunkers in the inbox: An ad for a new book claims to offer “3 Biblical Strategies to Help Strengthen Your Families [sic] Faith.” I’d think one biblical strategy would be to have only one family.

And then this unintentionally provocative email from CVS Clinical Trials: “You may be able to help stop RSV in its tracks. See if you qualify.” I thought: Is the Revised Standard Version making a comeback? Has it aroused opposition that aims to stop it in its tracks? Then I wondered: Does CVS know that while I was at Saint Thomas Fifth Avenue our rector took us whole hog out of the RSV into the Authorized (King James) Version for all high altar and choral services?

As I may be perhaps the last person to know, RSV now stands for “respiratory syncytial virus.” But wouldn’t it be great if the RSV (Bible) could stop the RSV (virus) in its tracks!

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The paragraph I quoted about Sasha the lucky kitty was in National Review, September 12.

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Out & About. I am completely psyched about this coming Sunday, October 9, because I get to deliver the fall theology lecture, a “theology of walking” with reflections on the Camino. I was thinking about this lecture even while I was walking, six months ago. I hope you will be able to come to it. The talk starts at 5 p.m. in the Ascension Chapel of Church of the Incarnation, 3966 McKinney Ave., Dallas. There will be slides, time for Q & A, and a reception following. If you are not able to come, the lecture will be posted on Incarnation.org, but of course the questions are livelier and the refreshments tastier in person.

The following Sunday, October 16, the Good Books & Good Talk seminar will meet to discuss Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor. Anyone who reads the novel is welcome to the conversation (others are welcome to listen). This is at Incarnation, from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

I consider Wise Blood one of the most fascinating Christian novels and have read it a half dozen times. But an even better book, one which I have read more than a dozen times, is Augustine’s Confessions. I’ll be teaching Books V and VI on October 9 and 16 respectively, at 10:20 a.m. at Incarnation. (My apologies to my close readers for having the wrong book numbers last week.)

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The Rev. Canon Victor Lee Austin. Ph.D., is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Friendship: The Heart of Being Human" and "A Post-Covid Catechesis.: