Cosmo the Christ Cat was snoozing peacefully in his usual place on the piano, when his morning nap was rudely interrupted.
“Wake up, Cosmo!” Colin the Corgi beamed cheerily. “The postman’s been, and he’s brought this for you.” He deposited a slightly slobbered envelope in front of the church cat.
Ever since he completed the University of Wales Trinity Saint David Diploma in Digicat Communications, Cosmo had developed a shamefully dismissive attitude towards the Royal Mail.
“It’s probably just junk,” he yawned, “certainly not worth waking up for.”
“It looks really important,” Colin urged. “It’s got DAFDO in big letters on the envelope. What does DAFDO stand for?”
“Good grief!” Cosmo’s eyes were suddenly wide open. “The DAFDO is the Diocesan Advisor for Feline Deployment and Organisation. He’s a sort of Archdeacon for cats.”
“Oh,” Colin looked worried. “The Vicar says that he’s allergic to Archdeacons,” he remarked nervously. “He says that every time he sees one he comes out in a rash. Whenever he hears that the Archdeacon is on the way, he goes and hides.”
“I’m sure the new Archdeacon is quite different,” Cosmo smiled. “My ex-girlfriend, Feodora Fluffikins, heard some people in Abergwili talking about him, and they said that he was just ‘a great big pussy-cat’ – and you can’t get higher praise than that. The DAFDO isn’t too bad either.”
Colin felt curious. “Let’s see what he has to say then.”
Cosmo ripped the envelope open with one of his claws and drew out the letter, which was printed on rather impressive cream paper. He read out its contents:
This is to inform you that, from next September, Christ Church will be part of a Larger Mousing Area or LMA. You will cease to be a church cat, and will be re-designated as an ALMAC (Associate Local Ministry Area Cat) as part of a team that will cover the area. The LMA will consist of Christ Church, St Peter’s, St John’s, Abergwili, Capel-y-Groes, Llangynnwr, Llanpumsaint, Bronwydd, Llanllawddog, Cynwyl Elfed, Cwmduad and Newchurch.”
“Gosh!” said Colin.
“Oh, it’s been on the cards for ages,” the church cat commented knowingly. “And it certainly has possibilities. Think of the variety of mice that will be available – mature well-fed mice in St Peter’s and plump little field mice in Llangynnwr, for example.”
“But what about me?” Colin the Corgi asked nervously.
“Not a mention,” Cosmo replied. “But then you’re not exactly a cat, are you? I’m sure they’ll find you something. Perhaps they’ll send you out to Cynwyl Elfed.”
“But that’s way out in the country,” Colin wailed, “and I’m a sophisticated town corgi. After all, I was brought up in Buckingham Palace, and if it hadn’t been for that business with Camilla’s hat I’d still be there. Cynwyl will be awful. There’ll be sheep dogs with sharp teeth…”
“There might even be a few wolves left up there…” Cosmo commented with a wicked grin.
“COSMO!” a familiar voice said sternly. “Stop teasing Colin.”
The church cat spun round and there was the patron saint standing in front of the altar.
“Er, good morning.” Cosmo was never quite sure how to address St David. ‘Dewi’ or ‘Dai’ seemed a bit too familiar, while ‘your holiness’ or ‘your saintliness’ would be distinctly over the top. So he compromised by not calling the saint anything at all.
“It’s not just church cats who are going to be part of LMAs,” St David said, “your Vicar is going to be part of one too.”
“But that’s absurd!” Cosmo protested. “He doesn’t even like mice. I gave him a nice large juicy specimen for his birthday a few years ago, and he said ‘Ych-a-fi!’ and nearly fainted. He’d be a complete waste of space in a Larger Mousing Area.”
“As far as people are concerned,” St David said, “an LMA is a Local Ministry Area.”
“That’s a bit dull,” Cosmo looked unimpressed.
“Dull but descriptive,” St David smiled. “In my day we called it a clas – a team of people, clergy and lay, men and women, working together to build up communities of loving-kindness, expressions of the kingdom of heaven, here in the heart of West Wales.”
A distant look came into his eyes as he remembered. “When Teilo and Padarn and I went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, we stopped off on the way at a place called Gaza. There was a wonderful man there named Dorotheos, someone who shone with God’s love. And he told us that a Christian community – like the members of our clas – should be like the spokes of a wheel with God at the centre. The nearer we get to each other, the nearer we get to God, and the nearer we get to God, the nearer we get to each other.”
“Is that why the Vicar has started going to pray with the other local clergy in St Peter’s on a Monday morning?” Colin asked. “Is he trying to be part of a what’cha’ma’ call it – a clas?”
“No,” Cosmo said cynically. “He goes for the coffee in the café afterwards. Ever since he read that caffeine is good for the heart muscles, he drinks it by the bucketful.”
“Grow up, Cosmo,” St David remarked firmly. “Tell your Vicar that he should tell his friends that only three things matter in any church – whether it’s town or country, large or small, high, middle or low, whatever services it uses, however the clergy dress themselves, however good or bad the singing is, only three things matter.”
“What are they?” Colin asked.
“Joy is the first one,” St David replied. “I know it’s difficult at times – but misery gets you nowhere. Always remember that you are loved – and if you want to jump and up down for joy, why not?
“Faith is the next thing. Trust in God, and keep on trusting, even though you find yourself shouting at him sometimes. And in the darkest times you’ll find Christ’s wounded hand, reaching out to grasp yours.
“And then there are the pethau bychain – the little things: the small acts of loving-kindness that often turn out to be the greatest things of all – that sometimes transform other people’s lives without our being aware of it…”
“That’s all very well,” Cosmo said, “but some churches – and some people – are really awful: grumpy, quarrelsome, bossy or unkind.”
“We’re none of us perfect,” St David gave Cosmo a telling look. “But one of my friends in heaven, St John of the Cross, says that we should ‘pour love in where no love is and we can draw love out.’ It’s worth a try. And now I’d better be going. Pass on my message to your Vicar, and give him my love and blessing.”
St David disappeared. A few minutes later the Vicar wandered in, looking even more vague than usual.
“Morning, Vicar,” Colin greeted him cheerily.
“He’s not a Vicar any more,” Cosmo said, “he’s an ALMAC – an Associate Local Ministry Area Cleric.”
And so he was.