J. M. J. and Doe-Re-Mi
When I attended Catholic schools, a LONG time ago, we were required to print the letters “J. M. J.” on the top of every page before we began to write. It was meant to remind us to pray to Jesus, Mary and Joseph for help.
Although it became a writing habit, more than a prayer, it a lovely idea. J. M. J. help me in this work. I dedicate this page to you.
I was thinking about this invocation to the Holy Family, as the Advent season unfolds with new challenges at our house. There have been animal deaths and computer problems. Lots of ending and opportunities for new beginnings.
Just a couple weeks before the new year in the church calendar began, Brigit’s barnyard cat was hit by a car. Then right after that her indoor cat, Doe-Re-Mi, started howling in pain. We rushed Doe to the vet in the middle of the night only to be told that our singing cat had a string wrapped around her intestines. The cost for surgery would start at $900 and was likely to be closer to $1500. The cost for our nighttime visit was already $200.
At home we faced costly computer problems and a greatly reduced income. We couldn’t spend that kind of money.
Brigit, age 11, held the limp cat in her arms as we talked about the decision we had to make. Our animals are important to us here at Sagging Acres. We love our cats, dogs, goats, horses, donkey, chickens, roosters and ducks. But animals are not humans with an immortal soul. It was a distinction we now had to discuss for the first time in my young daughter’s life.
If Brigit had been holding a child instead of a cat, we would clearly spend every dollar, go into debt and take every action. But our cat, though she was precious to us and we desperately wanted to save her, was not a child. And we had to make the right decision for our family’s health and well-being.
We prayed together. This was a difficult moment for me. How much more so for an 11-year-old…
Brigit took in three pregnant, feral cats 18 months ago and was very responsible about finding homes for the kittens and getting the adult cats spayed and neutered. But two cats stood out in this group. One was Sox, a male cat who greeted us every morning as we walked out to the barnyard. He was killed as he tried to cross the road in front of our house. Then there was the kitten, who seemed to respond to lilting sounds. Brigit would sing, “Do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti…” And the kitten ended the song, on pitch, with, “Doe!”
We brought this calico kitten inside the house. She became famous for singing, diving into laundry baskets and for using the bookcases as mountain-climbing exercise. We have 22 bookcases which provided her with a lifetime of scaling experience and gave her the opportunity to send lots of pretty knick-knacks crashing to the floor.
Now, we stood over a cold, steel table, with our singing cat hunched around her distended stomach. She was an independent cat who only seemed to “tolerate” being held by humans. But now, for one instant, as the needle came down that would end her life, Doe-Re-Mi looked up at us in love. She seemed to say, “Thank you for a good life.”
These were just two of the endings that preceded this Advent. Now we start over. The season of Advent calls us to renew our commitment to virtue. Not simply to prepare for the birthday of Jesus, but to prepare for His Second Coming. Then we will be judged for all the decisions we make. So we pray that the decision we made about Doe was the right one.
As human beings we are made in the image of God. Our souls distinguish us from the animals we care for. That means we are called to respect human life in a most special, sacred way. We are also called to be stewards of creation and to extend respect, love and care to all of God’s amazing creatures.
I hope Brigit will feel blessed by the time we had with our special cat friends and to entrust them now to God’s merciful care.
During this holy season, we begin again to renew our lives under the guidance of the Holy Family. J. M. J. I offer you this page in our family history. Strengthen our family and all families. Amen.