I don’t know anyone who hasn’t heard that black cats are bad luck. Black cats are a popular symbol of Halloween – the night before All Saints’ Day when the spirits are supposed to be lurking. And black cats have been blamed for causing bad things to happen to folks when the black cat crosses their path. But! Did you know that the Black Plague is where that bad black cat reputation came from?

As I was looking back through some articles and research on the church’s role in other historical pandemics, I came across some fascinating black cat history.

“There is a reason why black cats are considered part of witchcraft, and it really all starts out several years before the outbreak of the Black Death in the mid-1300s.

“It all started sometime in 1232, 1233 or 1234 (the exact date is lost to us), when Pope Gregory IX issued a church document that proclaimed the black cat as an incarnation of Satan and issued a death warrant for every black cat in Christendom. For some unknown reason, this death sentence was spread to almost all cats at the time, and the cat population significantly declined.”

The drastic decline in the cat population led directly to a rise in the rat population. In effect, the ban that was mean to save them ended up doing more harm.

  • Now, fascinating as that is, the black cat history has little relevance to today’s pandemic. Yes, some research has found it can be transmitted to animals, and may have originally come from animals. But mostly, we humans are spreading it among ourselves. What isrelevant is that we have a tendency, as Christians, and as humans, to overlook our best resources. Like those folks who killed off cats that could have killed the germ-bearing rats, we may be overlooking some of what God has given us.

Panic is a great motivator. And as a parent of an immune compromised child, believe me when I say that I’m the first to start sewing masks and handing them out.

But God has already given us some great tools for avoiding and fighting infection: washing hands, eating right, exercising, and covering our mouths when we cough or sneeze. These aren’t specialized tools. They are common sense, practical things that we can each do every day. God has blessed us with abundant resources that we can, and should, take advantage of.

In Iowa, we have been blessed by God’s abundant care. We have better access to fresh foods than many places in the country and around the world. Let us remember that this is not only a blessing, but a tool to keep ourselves healthy. And, like the saying goes, “Wash your hands and say your prayers, ‘cause Jesus and germs are everywhere.”

1 https://historycollection.com/catholic-church-might-responsible-black-death/ retrieved 7.23.2020