Praying Cat at San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church


This photograph I took in 2013 gets a lot of various reactions from people. It’s the cat that draws people to it. Then it’s the pose of the cat that makes most people go into an “awww” moment. After the last February 2017 First Friday Art Trail in Lubbock, Texas, I knew I had to write the story behind the image.

Story Behind the Photo

San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church in Rancho de Taos is one of the most famous churches in New Mexico built-in 1815. It was made famous by Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keeffe and others who were fascinated by its adobe contours and sculptural buttresses. The architecture at the back of the church is what photographers and artists are most drawn to. It became a national historic landmark in April 1970.

In October 2013 I was photographing Travelin’ Jack, a recognized Olde English Bulldog in front of the church. When we were done we walked to the car to pack and leave.

Then instinctively I turned around and looked back at the church. Right in front of me was this lone tabby cat wearing a pink collar sitting on the adobe wall.

I stood there for a few seconds to see if he’d move. He never did except for the slight nodding of his head every once in a while. When I raised my camera to photograph him, he barely opened his eyes. It appeared to me that he was praying outside this church. With every nod, I witnessed I imagined him saying the Rosary.

I thanked the kitty for his time, as I always do with every single animal I photograph. It’s my unique way of respecting animals. My friends can attest to this that’s been out with me.

The light started to wane as the evening was setting and the moon was already high and we left to go back to Taos.

Texas Connection

We went back the next day to the church and I took some additional photographs of Jack. I noticed a small Catholic store was open. We walked over with Jack. That’s when we ran into a gentleman who shared some of the histories of the church with us, along with the story of the Lady in Blue. After sharing where we were from, this man (whom I cannot recall his name) found out I was conducting research for the Catholic Church in Nazareth, Texas. Amazingly that’s when I found out that this massive church is replastered every year to preserve it. In 2012 a group of Tulia, Texas students volunteered to help with the replastering.

The annual project is called “The Enjarre,” or “the mudding” of the church. The church is the heart of the community and people from all over help preserve historical aspects of the church. They mix clay, sand, straw, and water into thick mud it is applied to the surface, layer upon layer, until the entire adobe structure, from top to bottom becomes resilient to the elements.

Parting Reflection

An elegant white statue of Saint Francis stands south of the entrance of this church. It is a welcome sign for all who are about to enter the church. It also silently welcomes all creatures, like the praying cat.

As we walked back to the car, I looked for the cat. It was there for only a little while the previous day, and I like to reflect it was saying its prayers. Prayers of safety, never having an empty food bowl, for its owner to always give him a home, a clean litter box, or maybe even for the taste of Ritz cracker, like my friend’s cat, Sam prays for. Whatever he was praying for I hope his prayers came true.

This image is available for purchase at my Etsy store:

Photograph – © Christena Stephens Photography