Not recently, Carmine, a white and tan cat, woke especially early and spent the morning in prayer, punctuated by the occasional quick glance at where his tail should have been.
When he felt as prepared for his journey as any cat has ever felt, he slipped away from the barnyard and wandered down the dirt road toward the port.
He inquired of the other cats who lived on the docks and found a lateen-rigged boat that was sailing up the Sicilian coast from Siracusa to Catania to Messina and from there across to Reggio di Calabria in Italy. He kept out of sight, and he filled his belly and paid for his passage by hunting rats and mice.
When he set his four paws in Italy, he ventured northward, ever northward, a long distance, occasionally checking his directions and praying frequently. Carmine finally learned that he was only a day from his journey’s end, and he began a fast.
Late that night he reached his destination and huddled in the tall grass outside the fence. He awoke early and prayed to be worthy. He prayed for humility. He prayed that his faith had led him true. And when the sun was high in the sky, and he felt as prepared as any cat has ever felt, he walked under the fence and onto the farm that produced food for the table of His Holiness the Pope.
Carmine, a pilgrim, stepped into the pasture with the cattle and looked around, taking all due caution to avoid the lumps of excrement placed about with no particular care. After a short reconnaissance, he sighted the one whom he had come to see: the Papal Bull.
He swallowed hard and walked respectfully toward the bull, whom he had been told was Sire Basilo. The cat stopped at a respectful distance and cleared his throat to get the bovine’s attention just as Sire Basilo mounted one of his herd, Ricarda. Carmine quickly averted his eyes and was as embarrassed as any cat has ever felt.
The bull and the cow were also put off their stride. Basilo dismounted, whispering, “Give me a minute,” to his intended mate.
Basilo turned to Carmine. “Can I help you, cat?” the Papal Bull asked with a touch of asperity.
Carmine bowed his head and launched into his speech.
“I most humbly beg your pardon, Sire Basilo, for disturbing your … for disturbing you and your good lady. I am Carmine, and as you can see I have lost much of my tail to a door.
“It is said that if a lesser creature humbly begs the Papal Bull, the Papal Bull will gently scratch the sign of the cross on the lesser creature and through this small shedding of blood there shall be healing.
“I have come a great distance, by sea and by land. I have spent the past day fasting and the entire morning in prayer, asking for humility and to be worthy of my request of the Papal Bull. And so, I most humbly beg this of you, Sire.”
The large animal regarded the smaller one for a long moment. Then Basilo spoke solemnly to the cat. “Carmine, your faith is strong. Come closer.”
Carmine drew near to the Papal Bull. Sire Basilo lowered his head and with his sharp right horn he gently scratched the sign of the cross into Carmine’s right shoulder. The cat stood as still as ever a cat has stood during this blessing. The slightest outwelling of blood stained Carmine’s white fur, which Carmine noted.
Carmine took a deep breath as he looked into the eyes of the Papal Bull. Then he slowly turned to look behind him, and lo! his tail was whole and beautiful again. He chased it briefly, as a dog would, then fell to his forepaws and praised and glorified the names of God and the Papal Bull.
“Arise, my son,” said Sire Basilo. “Your faith has made you whole. Go and be slammed in doors no more.”
Carmine bounded back toward home with joy in his heart and his renewed tail in the air.
Ricarda looked at Basilo with great interest. “I had no idea you could do that, Basilo.”
“News to me, too. Now, where were we?”