Every evening at nine, Fitz kids and parents gather in the living room and talk to each other for an hour, and then we go to bed. It’s not a rule, it’s a thing that happens. There are usually two or three cats present, and always one dog.
The dog is not my dog, and I almost never provide any particular dog care.
So I was puzzled one evening a few years ago when I realized the dog was standing in front of me, paws firmly planted in a ready-for-action stance, gaze even, silent, still, waiting for my attention. I noticed her. She looked up at me, waiting.
Why is this dog coming to me for some thing? I am not the person who gives the dog bits of string cheese every evening. I am not the person who does food or water or walks or much of anything for this dog. She has a perfectly good boy for all those services and more.
But it was that time of night, so I asked her, “You need to go potty?”
She prances. Yep. That’s the thing she wants.
Then she glances over towards her boy, who is sitting right there with us in that room.
I tell him to let the dog out, and he does.
It was the first time I became aware of this habit of our dog’s and I’m not sure when it began. Of all the six people present in the room, I am the very least likely to get up and let the dog out. Our dog is extremely pack-aware, so she absolutely regards my husband as the Alpha of Alphas. Any human in the room, trying to advise the dog on whom she should see concerning the question of being let into the backyard, would have picked me last of all. Try one of the kids, or try the guy in charge.
But the dog knows that if she comes to me, I will make the thing happen. All she has to do is get my attention (politely), and I’ll figure out what she wants and tell the boy to take care of it.
My dog understands the way the world works better than the humans do. She understands the order of things.
Sometimes people describe Marian intercession as if God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were too stern or preoccupied to bother with your little problems, Mommy loves you and will help you when they won’t, or when you’re scared to go them, or something. I dunno. I always think that’s pretty stupid theology. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but Jesus didn’t die on the cross out of cranky slothful indifference for my good.
My dog and I, therefore, are no typological figures of Marian intercession, get that idea out of your head right now. Yes, Jesus would let the dog out if Mary told Him to. But no, Jesus isn’t too busy showing St. Joseph the Russian Priests with Cats Calendar that he fails to notice the dog needs to pee, that’s not what it’s about. There are other reasons asking Mary to intercede for you is a good, noble, worthwhile part of a healthy Christian lifestyle, and we’ll leave it at that for now.
The Immaculate Conception, which we commemorate today, is about this:
“We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”
The Immaculate Conceptions is about the order of things. It is about the re-ordering of broken humanity. For the new Adam we have a new Eve. Curiously, the new Eve isn’t the wife of the man about to fall, but the mother of God-made-man who’s going to save you from your fall.
Humans, fallen as we are, tend to overlook the order of things. We have a picture in our heads of how things stand, and when reality doesn’t match that picture, we tend to elbow aside reality and stick with our imaginary world, the one we made, not the one God made. The one we prefer, because we’re at the center of it, little gods with our little fake worlds.
The dog, in contrast, lives in no such imaginary world. She needs to be let out at night, so she has a pressing interest in understanding the real order of things.
- Catholic Answers on the scriptural basis for the Immaculate Conception
- Simcha Fisher on why it’s okay to “have” to go to Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation
Photo by Jen Fitz, all rights reserved.