Real honours are rare and few and so I was most delighted to receive an invitation from Pushkin, the cat in residence at the Birmingham Oratory, to the launch of his first book. 'Pushkin the Pontifical Puss: Tails of an Oratory Cat', chronicles his life and gives an insight into the hidden private thoughts of this famous feline. Prominent amongst this is an account of his meeting with the Pope or in cat, 'He-who-wears-white', which so captured the world's press.
Readers may remember that earlier this year I was privileged to be granted an exclusive interview with Pushkin for CHRISTVS REGNAT. Our encounter was an experience I enjoyed immensely and so I have been eagerly awaiting the chance to read his new work since a few months ago he confided in me about his intentions to write a book.
The exclusive launch took place this evening at the Birmingham Oratory for a select group of around a hundred guests. Guest of honour was Pushkin's close friend 'she-who-wears-diamonds', better known to the rest of us as HRH Princess Michael of Kent, who wrote the foreward. Other guests included close friends from both the clergy and laity, some local and others who had travelled some considerable distance to attend this very special event.
Under the watchful eyes of his human, Father Anton Guziel, who was always ready to leap into action to respond to his needs, Pushkin surveyed the guests, amber eyes taking in everything. Like any gracious host he found the time to bestow a few moments attention here and there, offering the opportunity to briefly pay homage with a stroke of his sleek black form for the most worthy.
The launch proved to be a most enjoyable evening and the book is already flying off the shelves. A special copy is even on its way to the Holy Father tied up in a piece of the ribbon that Pushkin was wearing at their meeting. I think there is a strong possibility that Pushkin may soon add 'best selling author' to his list of accolades. But despite all the attention of the launch and indeed as a result of his rise to fame as a result of his meeting with the Holy Father last year this stylish black Persian maintains a quiet dignity appropriate to his status as cat in residence at the Birmingham Oratory.
Proceeds from the book will go to fund much needed restoration work at the Oratory and to the Carmelite Nuns in Wolverhampton, who have beautifully illustrated it. It will make a lovely Christmas present and I snapped up a number of the first copies this evening so if you are on my Christmas gift list you may be lucky enough to get one! If not copies are available from St Paul's Publishing priced £6.50.
We don't know much about Blessed John Henry Newman's relationship with Pushkin's ancestors. However, I like to think that he would approve of this new author who stalks with such style in his footsteps through his elegant and hallowed halls and who, in his own inimitable way, is trying both to spread the word and to preserve Newman's legacy of the Oratory.
On that note I must end but to slightly misquote the last line of the book 'Pushkin', she said, I'll be back.'