My youngest niece, adopted just one year ago from China, now age 4, is afraid of dogs. She has seen my puppy, likes to look at her from a distance, and crawls up her dad’s leg and into his arms if Hattie gets too close. She wants to love Hattie, but that fear lurks.
Every time I see E, she asks, without fail, “Where is you little Hattie.” No, that is not a typo. That’s how she phrases the question. And my answer, every time, without fail, is, “She is at my house taking a nap in her box.” This dependable exchange always gets a smile from the older children.
This morning, she added this question, “Why you Hattie not go to church?” So I answered that church is for people, and Hattie goes once a year to get blessed.
Whoa. My middle nephew opened my eyes to the imagination of a child. It is always startling when this happens, and I am always left with wonder, and a bit of sadness that adults have lost this gift. M said, “What if there was dog church?”
So the kids began to imagine…a black doggie, with white at the neck, dressed in a purple sweater. (It is Lent, and that is the vestment color for the priests.) This would be the leader of the doggy church. What would that leader say?
I mentally began to fill in this image. He would tell his pack to come when called. He would tell them to love one another (and their neighbors), unconditionally. He would tell them of forgiveness and hope. Doesn’t every beloved dog forgive his human parents? Doesn’t every beloved dog love his family with unsurpassed loyalty? Doesn’t every cared for dog hopefully and frequently visit the food bowl on the chance that there might be something wonderful there at any time of day?
You draw your own conclusions from this metaphor, but as for me…I am reminded of the wisdom of children and the love of dogs, and how much we have to learn if we just pay attention. I wonder what the Mass times are for Dog Church. I bet it’s held at St. Bernard’s.