This was the first book I did in the Monastery. It is available on Amazon either as a Paperback or Kindle. All paperback sales go to support the monastery while the Sisters have graciously allowed Kindle sales to go to me.
The Cat Saved Our Marriage
by Jim d’Urfe Proctor, DMV Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada
Author: Sailing Beyond the Sea, ISBN:1-882972-86-4
One of the most curious experiences of my veterinary career happened through Diane…she of the prayer-cured cow from the experimental farm. Diane is friends with a semiretired priest from Comox, Father Joe. She asks Father Joe to bless everything that isn’t normal and healthy. This is a regular part of farming in Europe, but a forgotten practice in North America. Father, on the other hand, a shy and humble man who doesn’t appreciate publicity, is definitely not into miracles. Diane has a way of asking that makes it difficult to refuse, so Father Joe prays whenever she asks, even if it hurts. If the fruit trees aren’t bearing the way they should, then Father Joe is summoned to bring down the full force of God’s mercy.
At one point, the herd of cows at the experimental farm was beset with various complications to their health. Father Joe was sweet-talked into blessing the entire herd. Diane asked Carole, my mother, and me to be on hand to lend support. Apparently, Father felt that if the veterinarian were involved, it wouldn’t look quite so weird.
Father arranged the blessing for the noon hour to reduce the chance of “pagans” being present. The four of us then accompanied Father to the barnyard for the blessing. That blessing proceeded with great haste; some seventy cows were covered in a period just short of ten minutes. Diane reported that the herd’s health seemed to improve.
Sometime after this, I was in my office feverishly trying to revive a semicomatose Siamese cat. This cat was in serious condition from a disease known as feline urinary syndrome or FUS. This condition is essentially due to a plugged urinary bladder resulting in uremic poisoning. Once the animal becomes comatose, the prognosis is poor. If the condition is not relieved, usually within 24 hours of complete blockage, the cat proceeds to sustain irreversible damage to heart, kidney and other vital organs. This was the case with Elsie and Bob’s cat. It was comatose. I had managed to free the crystals from the uretha and was proceeding with intravenous fluids in an attempt to flush the cats system of the toxic chemicals in its body. With large volumes of intravenous fluid-flushing and rigorous therapy, some animals, even though comatose, will respond after a period of several days. At that moment, who should arrive on the scene but Diane and Father Joe, just popping in to say a hello. Diane is an animal husbandry major and ever curious of medical theory. After explaining to her the physiological basis of FUS, she hurried into the next room to collar Father Joe.
“You’ve got to come help Jim. He has a serious problem with a patient,” Diane pleaded. Poor Father Joe. You could see the agonized expression on his face that clearly betrayed his thoughts…“All those nurses present are probably nonbelievers; what will they think?”
If only there had been a video camera available to capture the moment. Father Joe glanced over both shoulders, hoping against hope that none of the unbelievers would notice. I watched as I witnessed what possibly may have been the smallest and speediest sign of the cross ever in the history of Christianity. Less than three seconds elapsed during the blessing of the recumbent cat. Father Joe then did an abrupt about face, marched quickly out of the door, retreated to the car, and sat waiting the return of Diane.
Diane sighed, “Well, I guess I better go,” and followed him to the car.
Now the strangest of all, the cat which lay flat out on his side, immediately rolled over on its chest, stood up, arched his back, stretched, and began to purr. He then meandered over to my side of the table and proceeded to bestow on me an affectionate rub. For my part, I just stood there rather dazed. What is going on here? Never had I witnessed anything quite like that. Then a perplexing question came to me. If this sort of thing is real, and if supernatural things do happen, why on Earth would God ever use one of his most humble priests to save the life of a cat?
The next day, the cat remained in a normal, healthy condition, eating and being a typical nose-in-the-air Siamese. I contacted Elsie, the owner, to inform her that her cat had recovered and could be discharged. I felt a little awkward after explaining earlier how serious the cat’s condition was, the guarded prognosis, and the long recovery expected. Elsie and her husband, Bob, came to retrieve the patient. Since she was a fellow parishioner at St. Patrick’s Church, I couldn’t help but let it all out; what had taken place. Bob managed to look off into space as if I weren’t talking. What I didn’t know then was that Bob didn’t believe in anything. Nor did I know that their marriage was in the process of coming apart at the seams with a permanent separation. For my part, I was exuberant over the cat’s remarkable recovery.
Diane giggled with delight when I explained the scenario to her over the phone and she relayed the story to Father Joe. He made it clear that he wanted to hear nothing more of the event. Curiosity, though, doesn’t only catch the cat; it sometimes catches up with the odd priest. Two month later, Father Joe phoned to inquire, “Did that cat really get well the way Diane described?” “Yes,” I said. “I have never seen anything like it. Would you mind coming to work full time in this office, Father Joe?” He laughed and good naturedly declined. “But I wouldn’t mind seeing that cat again,” he ventured, “just to relieve my curiosity.” “Okay,” I agreed. “I’ll line up a visit for you with the owners. They are extremely anxious to meet you.”
I contacted Elsie and arranged a meeting. The three of them enjoyed a long, friendly visit. They discovered that they had mutual acquaintances in Edmonton, Alberta, where Bob had formerly been in the oil drilling business. Father Joe had been a math teacher in Edmonton for several years. They struck up a lasting friendship and over time, Father was able to convince the couple that divorce was not a good or necessary answer to their problems. From then on, the marriage, with counseling, improved each day.
A few months passed and it was announced that a Marriage Encounter would be held in Campbell River. Now a Marriage Encounter is a weekend event which is a further development of the Cursillo. It is not meant for marriages in trouble, but is a movement to make good marriages better and to prevent future difficulties. One of the objectives is the development of communication between a couple. The lack of communication is often the start of the disastrous road to divorce.
Elsie intercepted me leaving Mass one morning, “Jim, you have made a Marriage Encounter before; could you come to our home and convince Bob to attend a Marriage Encounter with me?” “Sure, no problem,” I assured her with unbridled confidence. However, I quickly discovered Bob was no pushover. He was like my kids. One word about spiritual things and the door slams shut. To reduce the clumsiness of the visit, we switched the conversation to the more acceptable level of well drilling and Bob’s occupation of game fishing guide.
Having achieved a colossal failure, I rose to leave. Elsie groped in desperation, “Jim, didn’t you make a Marriage Encounter once?” With obvious uneasiness in my voice, all I could think to say was, “Yes. I did, but if you guys are thinking about it, be careful, you might fall in love all over again.”
I departed from their home depressed. I felt I had let Elsie down. The Marriage Encounter could have been a real boost to their recovering marriage. I had not yet discovered that prayer is the best solution to every problem. I prayed only at the brink of disaster or impending death. Directly without reasoning why, I went home and knelt down next to our bed. Dejected, I prayed for Elsie and Bob what could have been the most sincere pleading rosary of my career. Just as I finished the last Glory Be, the phone rang, Carole answered. It was Elsie, elated, calling to tell us Bob had invited her to attend the Marriage Encounter with him! I knew that cowboys shouldn’t cry, but this cowboy turned into mush.
Elsie and Bob enjoyed the next four years in marital bliss. Then suddenly, without warning, Bob suffered a heart attack during a playful moment at home. He was chasing Elsie around the patio when he slipped into eternity. On the surface it seemed tragic, but we realized everyone eventually dies. How sad it would have been had not that old Siamese cat led them to stumble into a loving reunion, and Bob had not discovered that true love surpasses any other kind of joy.
After Bob’s death, Elsie moved away. I received a letter from a veterinary hospital requesting their cat’s medical history. More out of mischief than from proper medical practice, I detailed the entire account, using medical jargon, of the blessing by Father Joe in my reply. I would imagine those veterinarians figured there are some pretty kooky veterinarians residing in British Columbia.
Elsie and the Siamese encountered another adventure before the move to Alberta.
She told of a day driving in downtown Campbell River when she thought, “Gee, people in Campbell River are certainly friendly; everyone is waving to me.” When the waving continued, she thought “some of those bystanders look pretty serious.” She decided to stop and see if the car had a problem. There on top of the car was the cat, spread-eagle with all four sets of claws dug securely into the roof of the hardtop convertible, hanging on for dear life. The cat’s name, by the way, is “Lucky.”