(Image via Pixabay.)
Once, I got a ride home from Mass on a cold day with a nice older lady. She was chatting with me about her cats. She had only two official pet cats, you see, but she kept taking in strays. This town is infested with beautiful, healthy stray cats, cats where most similar neighborhoods have rats; cats which sneak into the disused coal chutes or open windows and take ownership of your house. This woman was not content to simply leave a bowl of cat food out as an offering for the strays, as many do. This woman kept on taking strays in. She would feed and care for them, get them spayed at the vet, and then attempt to find them a forever home. She’d helped several strays in this way. There were two currently at her house awaiting a home. I would have taken them in a heartbeat, if my husband weren’t allergic.
And then this woman said something very strange. “I know it’s not the same as caring for humans. But God must love cats too, right?”
I was puzzled. Of course, God loves cats too. God invented cats. Every cat in this eccentric old town exists because God wills cats in general and that cat in particular. Why would a child of that same God feel the need to justify their shared love of cats?
I’ve found that a lot of Catholics, and Christians in general, feel the need to justify our loves. Earnest youths tell me a certain movie is “So Catholic, man,” and I have to sit through their explanation of why it’s okay for a Catholic to love that movie. There are many who seem unable to like a book without claiming they learned a Catholic lesson from that book. I can’t even count the times that The Lord of the Rings has been justified to me as really being an allegory for the Eucharist– as if it wouldn’t be worth reading if it weren’t. Someone once apologized for being enthusiastic about The Hunger Games by explaining that the story is “So pro-life. Every life in that story counted!”At the school I went to for undergraduate, there weren’t many eager young Catholics besides myself, but there were a lot of eager young Evangelical Protestants. One of them was explaining that she’d majored in equine science and was going to be a horse trainer. And then I got the embarrassed explanation complete with a blush and downcast eyes– she knew it wasn’t a very Christian job, not like being a nurse and caring for the sick or being a missionary overseas. The other Evangelical Protestants all told her not to be silly; she could use the horses for therapy animals or work at a horseback riding camp for underprivileged youth. I was doing the same thing. Somehow we all believed that the things we liked were suspect, unless we could draw a contrived line from them to God.
I was the worst of all. At that time in my life, I loved to write fantasy and science fiction stories, and I still do. But at that time my stories were horrible because I thought I had to make them literal allegories, improving stories to preach Jesus to the masses. They were insufferable kitsch. Whenever I come across a notebook with my old stories in it, I’m mortified. I nearly drowned my love trying to baptize it, to force it to lead to God when it already did.
I’ve learned differently, now.