Church Cats 10
St Mary of the Angels
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It was in 1996, on a night when there was a rainstorm, thunder and lightning, that a black cat made her way into St Mary of the Angels church in Hollywood, California, when the Office of Vespers was just beginning. She seemed tired and frightened and was walking with a limp, but she made her way down the central aisle to the sanctuary, where she waited patiently until the service was over.
She was then looked after by Father Jones and Jean Johnson, who dried her off, gave her food and water, and decided to wait until morning to see whether she needed a visit to the vets. Apparently she did not; the nourishment and rest seemed to have solved the problem, and so she decided to explore the whole church from top to bottom. She did so quietly and stealthily almost reverentially without mewing, and just occasionally allowing herself to be briefly petted as long as she made the first approach herself. For obvious reasons, and because it looked as though she had decided to stay, she was named Vesper.
She began to attend every Mass and Office, sometimes remaining on the sanctuary carpet, but at other times lurking under the pews, from where she would emerge unexpectedly to rub against someone's leg and give then a fright! At first there were one or two complaints of 'What's that cat doing in here?', but after a couple of weeks, as everyone came to know her, that changed to 'Has anyone seen Vesper?' She greets visitors, as well as getting to know members of groups that meet regularly in the church such as A.A. and a Hollywood actors' workshop. A favourite resting spot now she is getting older is a strategically placed pillow at one side of the sanctuary.
Only once has Vesper needed emergency surgery, after she took on what seems to have been a particularly vicious possum that invaded her ecclesiastical domain. On that occasion her vet's expenses were paid without demur by the normally very thrifty parish treasurer.
The church website declares that after 15 years of devoted attendance as inquirer, candidate, postulant and novice, she is now recognised as 'life professed', with the name Sister Mary Vesper de Los Feliz, or sometimes Sister Mary Vesper of the Undercroft (Missionary of the Sacred and Most Needful Order of Rodentia Eradicum). By popular consent she is regarded as not only life professed, but SUPERIOR very superior in every respect. Should you have doubts, just ask her!
Vesper has a Facebook Page.
With acknowledgements to the St Mary website.
Update, January 2014
The church's website no longer makes any mention of Vesper and her Facebook page hasn't been updated since March 2012. We tried to check on her progress in late 2013 but received no reply to the enquiry, and on looking a little further it seems the church has been in a state of flux, which may explain the lack of response. We hope that Vesper is being cared for during this difficult time for the church.