** The Abbess, far from cruel but wholly dedicated to her task of keeping Brede's sisters to their vow of poverty--and keeping their attention on heavenly things--even forbids them to keep the rapidly burgeoning family of cats that lives on the grounds. They may keep two, newly spayed; the kittens, initially condemned to drowning, are saved by the extern sisters, the affiliate nuns who go out into the world on errands, and who, in this case, rapidly find homes on local farms for all the kittens.
The medieval volume of guidance for enclosed orders Ancrene Wisse has some amusingly strident things to say about cats and other animals:
My dear sisters, unless need drives you and your director advises it, you must not have any animal except a cat. An anchoress who has animals seems more like a housewife than Martha was; she cannot easily be Mary, Martha's sister, with peace in her heart. For then she has to think of the cow's food, of the herdsman's hire; to flatter the bailiff, curse him when he impounds it, and pay the damages anyway. It is a hateful thing, Christ knows, when people in a town complain about an anchoress's animals. Now then, if anyone has to have one, see that it does not bother or harm anyone, and that her thought is in no way fastened on it. An anchoress ought to have nothing that draws her heart outward.Is it just me, or are there hints of Sei Shonagon's peremptiveness in that passage?