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  • By Kara Newcastle

Myth Monday: How the Cat Received the “M” Mark on Her Forehead (Christian Legend)

Myth Monday: How the Cat Received the “M” Mark on Her Forehead (Christian Legend)

Black Cat Appreciation Day is August 17th, so I thought I'd celebrate by recounting some great cat stories!

Young Tabby Cat from Portugal, Creative Commons

That night the Savior as born to a virgin woman. Mary, the woman blessed by God, had given birth to a son without having known a man. The child was the Son of God, and his adopted father, Joseph, named the child Jesus.

Mary felt no pain, had no difficulties during the birth, and while at first the infant Jesus was quiet and calm, as the hours passed he grew restless. Being half divine, Jesus could feel the suffering in the world, and it caused him great distress. He began to cry and wail, and nothing the worried Mary and Joseph did could calm the distraught infant.

Madonna with child and angels by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato

Since there had been no room for the family at a nearby inn, Mary and Joseph had been forced to rest in a stable filled with animals, where Mary had given birth. The animals—horses, donkeys, cows, sheep, goats, chickens—all felt the newborn Messiah’s grief, and each animal in turn did their best o comfort him. The horses and donkeys nuzzled him with their soft noses, the cows and goats offered milk, the chickens clucked and the sheep pressed their warm, fleecy bodies up against the manger where Jesus laid, but nothing could stop his wails.

Charlin the cat and her kittens by stephanb

In a far corner of the stable, a beautiful cat had given birth to a litter of

kittens at the same time Mary had given birth to Jesus. Hearing the infant’s heartbroken cries, the mother cat nestled her sleeping kittens together, then hurried to the manger. She stood up, placing two paws over the edge of the container to peer inside at the crying baby. Before Mary or Joseph could react, the mother cat leapt into the manager and stretched herself out alongside baby Jesus, nestling her soft head against his. She began to purr, the sound rumbling through her warm body. Jesus heard the purring, felt the cat’s warmth, and gradually, his sobbing faded. Calmed, he tilted his head towards the mother cat, closed his eyes, and fell asleep.

So grateful to see the child peacefully asleep, Mary gratefully extended her hand to the cat. “Thank you, cat, for helping my son rest,” she said. “I will always remember your kindness, and I will make it so the world remembers as well.”

Mary stroked the mother cat’s head, running her fingers over the feline’s brow. Where her fingers brushed the silky fur, the letter “M” for “Mary” appeared in the animal’s fur, and the mother cat passed this on to all of her offspring. That is why cats have the letter “M” on their brows.

Tabby cat brown creative commons

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