The owl symbol and Roman Catholicism

How does the church look at the owl. Is it an appropriate symbol to put on a Catholic Church business card?

The owl symbolizes wisdom, but its not a Christian or Catholic symbol, to my knowledge. I don’t see why you should not put it on a business card, unless you are a priest or something. Then I guess id ask another priest!

What is a “Catholic Church business card”? Do you mean the private business card of a Catholic? If so, put an owl on if you like.

If it is the card of a formal representative of a juridic person in the Church, it may be more appropriate to use that institution’s approved insignia or arms. Which may or may not include an owl.

In Christian art and symbolism, the owl has various contradictory meanings – Satan/sinners or Christ – depending on how one looks at owls. :slight_smile:

From Signs & Symbols in Christian Art by George Ferguson (Oxford University Press, 1961):

"The owl, since it hides in darkness and fears the light, has come to symbolize Satan, the Prince of Darkness. As Satan deceives humanity, so the owl is said to trick other birds, causing them to fall into the snares set by hunters.

"The owl also symbolizes solitude and, in this sense, appears in scenes of hermits at prayer. It[s] most ancient gift, however, is that of wisdom, and, with this meaning, it is sometimes shown with St. Jerome.

“In another sense, the owl is an attribute of Christ, who sacrificed Himself to save mankind, ‘To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. . .’ (Luke 1:79). This explains the presence of the owl in scenes of the Crucifixion.”

Also see:

I hope these help.

That christiansymbols website is great! Even has chapters on angels. Thanks for the tip!

I see cats are not listed among Christian symbols – just as I suspected :smiley:

Cats were generally a Christian symbol of monks’ desire not to have mice all over the monastery. :slight_smile: You’ve probably read the old Irish Pangur Ban poem, about the monk and his cat both at work in the library? Cats show up a lot in the margins of illuminated manuscripts, too.

I think it was St. Gertrude who had a cat as one of her saintly attributes, because she was very fond of them. St. Jerome’s lion sometimes is reduced to cat size, if I recall correctly.

And of course, the prophet Baruch pointed out that cats are great at detecting and despising false idols. :slight_smile:

Even the most complete symbol website is not going to have everything.

Yup, St. Gertrude of Nivelles has a cat as an attribute. St. Ivo/Yves/Ives, a big patron saint of medieval justice and canon lawyers, also has a cat as an attribute and sometimes is jokingly drawn as a cat.

Found out something I didn’t know – that St. Agatha is also associated with cats. She’s the patron saint of bellmakers in that area (because of their molds having an Agatha-like breast shape), she’s from Catania, and her name (Agata) sounds like “Gato” in some Italian dialects. So apparently she got adopted as a patron of cats by catlovers because of this horrible pun. :slight_smile:

St. Gregory the Great had a cat, whom he sometimes petted and held while meditating. (Or vice versa.) St. Moling, being an Irish monk, of course had a cat around the place and there’s a funny story about him seeing a wren eat a fly and the cat eat the wren, and him demanding that they all disgorge each other because the fly was his pet, or it was a holy day, or any other funny reason you can think of.

There’ve been a lot of saints with cats! In fact, it’s been argued that a lot of the anti-cat prejudice during Protestant witchhunting times was based on hate of nuns and monks who kept cats. (Certainly it was stupid to be anti-cat in pre-industrial Europe, since cats and terriers and ferrets kept down the rats and mice, and thus saved crops and prevented disease.)

St. Martin de Porres is better known in Hispanic countries for his miracleworking and his love for animals than in this country. One of his attributes is a cat, a dog, a mouse, and a bird all eating from the same dish, because that’s exactly how he fed animals that came to him for help. (Sort of a peaceable kingdom.)

This website says that cats traditionally show up in a lot of Nativity scenes or at the feet of the Virgin Mary, because there’s a story that a cat had kittens in the stable at the same time as Mary. (And because a lot of housewives had cats, and scenes of the Holy Family often included normal household things.) Cats could also represent laziness or lust, which was another reason to show them at the feet of Mary or another saint (because it showed that such things had no power over Mary, or that saints had “domesticated” potential weaknesses and turned them into strengths). The lust thing probably really came from leopards, though, since that’s the usual traditional lust symbol.

Here’s an odd but cute picture: St. John the Baptist as a toddler holding a “Christological goldfinch” to tease the cat, and Baby Jesus nursing and looking on. Federigo Baroccio was known as a cat lover and cat painter, as well as a Catholic painter, so you might enjoy his stuff. His Annunciation also has a cat in the corner.

Another excellent Christian Symbol site:

Since the original post was regarding Roman Catholic symbolism, it should be noted that the sites I mention are not Catholic sources. Some symbols may have deeper meanings in the Catholic tradition especially in relation to the Church, the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother. Also, some Catholic symbols are missing, for example, the MR symbol which stands for “Maria Regina, Mary the Queen.”

Hey now. Tabby’s have the letter M on their heads. There is a myth that says the tabby got the M from Mary because a tabby cat warmed Jesus in the manger.

I’ve been coming across a lot of little owls lately so I was curious…

::reads the “Prince of Darkness” part:: :eek::signofcross:

::reads the solitude/hermitage/Christ parts:: Ah…indeed. :knight2::thumbsup:

God made owls, so I guess they’re okay. Leviticus says not to eat them. They are used as symbols of mystery:

Pic is creepy. I hope it didn’t eat your cat.


Come to think of it, pretty much everything can be both a symbol of Christ and Satan (the lion, the snake and the morning star for instance).

How about big cats? :wink:

My cats are so overweight I doubt that even the most powerful owl could achieve lift-off with one of them.

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