Beliefnet
From "Praying With Katie" by Don Holt. Copyright Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2001. Reprinted with permission from the publisher. To order the book, please visit Amazon.com or call 1-800-572-3688.

Introduction
I was unemployed. It was a time of anger, fear, self-pity, and housework.

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It was also a time of considerable spiritual uncertainty. I had been ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1960. For some 20 years I scrambled through several pastorates, none very successfully, gradually drifting away from my inherited Protestantism. The current on which I was drifting carried me into the Catholic Worker Movement and to the office of a Catholic spiritual director. The former gave me a taste of Christian poverty; the latter set me to work on the Ignatian exercises. The combination made me seriously consider joining the Roman Catholic Church.

Enter Katie.

She came to us from the library of the College of St. Catherine, an orphan kitten hidden by my wife's student assistant in her dorm room. Her meowing was beginning to make obvious the fact that some dorm rules were being broken. In a desperate attempt to find her a home, the student brought her to my wife's office in the library.

My wife agreed to keep her "for a few days."

Katie had found herself a permanent home.

When Katie entered my life, I was fifty-seven years old. Without a job. Dependent on my wife and parents. Between religions. And with lots of time on my hands in which to pray and lots of issues to pray about.

Katie entered into my prayer practice just as she entered every other part of our lives. She became for me a spiritual provocateur and guide.

Self-Improvement
Katie never seeks self-improvement. She never petitions us to help her become a better cat.

It probably never enters her cat-mind that she needs improvement.

When she stares at us or snuggles against us, when she follows us around, she does so either because she enjoys doing so or because she wants something from us. She does not use our presence as an inspiration to become a better cat.

And that is not because she is a perfectly obedient cat. She does not always do our will. She gives us our dawn-licking even though we command her to stop. She often refuses to come when called. She sometimes jumps on the dinner table even though we have clearly instructed her not to. She disobeys our commandments and ignores our will.

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She even has a Pharisaic streak in her. She over-obeys one of our commandments. She obeys so well our dictum, "Thou shalt urinate and defecate only in the cat-box" that, if she is outside and needs to relieve herself, she scratches at the screen-door to come indoors to use her facilities!

She is not, by religious standards, a righteous cat. Yet, despite her breaking of our rules, we love her.

No, more than that: because she breaks our rules we love her. Her very disobedience is a part of the perfection of her felinity. She is perfectly cat-like and being cat-like includes indifference to our desires. We find her independence delightful (most of the time).

Might not God feel the same way about me? I have been told that the Lord accepts me the way I am. Might there not be more than mere acceptance? What if God enjoys me the way I am? Maybe the Holy One takes a certain wry pleasure in my indifference to the divine will, a certain amusement in my attempts to get away with something....

Katie entered into my prayer practice just as she entered every other part of our lives. She became for me a spiritual provocateur and guide.

When I think of how much of my prayer has been devoted to begging God for assistance in self-improvement, I am both appalled and amused.

Death
Katie was killed tonight.

After supper she sat at our apartment door, looking up at us, patiently waiting for her evening walkabout. We let her out, then lowered the cat-ladder (a rolled-up carpet) so she could climb up to our balcony when she decided to come home.

She stayed out later than we expected.

My wife went downstairs to see if, by some chance, she was waiting at the door. She came back stiff-faced. "There's a cat lying in the middle of the street."

I went downstairs. I saw the body. "It's not Katie," I said to myself. "There's too much white."

But it was Katie.

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