The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

October 9, 2013

October 9, 1609

Lucca is a city in Tuscany. Lucca is where the Catholic leader, later canonized as St. Giovanni Leonardi, was born in 1541 or 1542. Giovanni was born in an era in which the Catholic Church had undertaken great reforms, prompted partly by the shock of recent Protestant events. Leonardi was destined for business by his family, but he found himself drawn to an active life in the church. He formed a group of "secular priests". I have not figured out exactly what that means yet -- secular priests. One thing it meant though, for Leonardi, was working with the poor -- prisoners and hospitalized inmates, specifically, by the example he set. 

In 1583, the church recognised Leonardi's efforts and allowed him and those he worked with, to take vows and become a simple church organization. This threatened, somehow (not sure of the details) the power structure in Lucca and Leonardi was banished, never to return as an unfettered citizen. 

Leonardi had the support of many in the church, and that included Philip Neri, who provided the cityless priest with a place to live in Rome. In 1595 Leonardi's group was recognised by the church as an official "religious Congregation." October 9, is the feast day for St. Giovanni Leonardi since most, but not all, accounts have him dying on that day. He had contracted the plague while taking care of poor plague victims.

Multiple sources list another interesting detail. Neri provided Leonardi with a place to live, and a cat. This raises a variety of scenarios. Was Neri looking for a good home for an extra cat? Unlikely in those days, when cats could wander (no risk of traffic accidents). Was he wanting to provide a friend with a bit of luxury in a life of poverty they both willingly undertook? Was Neri making a religious sacrifice in giving up what was one of those rare angelic cats? Was Neri concerned that the lodgings he provided for his friend was infested with vermin? And why, oh why, is this detail included in the history of St. Giovanni Leonardi?

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