NEWS & FEATURES
Have you heard the woofest mews?
Have you heard the woofest mews?
A BOOK called “God's Broker” published in 1984 has an account of Pope John Paul II talking about a sad dream he had when he was still a Cardinal. The dream was about homeless cats and it happened in 1969 on the eve of his first trip to New York City.
The book, which culled about 200 hours of interviews with the Pope by the author, Anton Gronowicz, recounted how the Pope looked so sad after sharing his dream about the cats. It was the basis of a 2001 article of J.R. Hyland (The Pope of the Homeless Cats: John Paul II had a dream) which talked and analyzed in more detail how the sufferings and rejections endured by the cats in the dream made a profound impact on the Pope, who maintained a vivid memory of it though it brought him sadness even years after he had experienced dealing with far harder realities involving true human sufferings.
In the dream, he, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, was trudging through snow as he followed a brown mother cat and her six brown-and-white kittens who were searching for for food and shelter. The setting appeared to be streets of New York City covered in snow.
Hyland's article, using text from the “God's Broker”, detailed the Pope's narration of his dream as follows:
“The mother cat looked back from time to time to see if her babies were there, but her main concern was to reach the entrance door. I presumed she was trying to find warmth for herself and her children, but as soon as she reached the door, a man in a well-pressed uniform, jumped at her with a broom and chased them away. I followed this procession and prepared to deliver a speech to the doorman. I opened my mouth and tried to complain, 'Where is your proverbial American generosity? Where is your American good heart and fair play? Let them in. Let them in!!
"I tried to speak, but the words would not come out. Maybe I was afraid of the doorman with the broom. I started searching my cassock pockets for a piece of bread, found some crumbs and put them on my palms, calling: 'Kitty, kitty, kitty.' But the words would not come from my supposedly intelligent mouth. Instead, the wind blew the crumbs from my palm and I said, 'what can I do? I can't speak to the cats. I can't speak to the doorman. But there are many hungry birds. They might pick up the crumbs.'
"Again, I walked after the cats, now with a pain in my chest, feeling tremendous cold. On the left I saw a church building and thought, 'There we will find help.' I heard singing and again, the idea occurred to me that it must be a Catholic church. The music grew louder, as though trying to convince God that they were praying to Him.
“The mother cat jumped in front of me and climbed the stairs, followed by her kittens. I raised my head and saw a tall Jesuit priest chasing the cats off the steps. But as I was about to shout at the Jesuit 'I am a cardinal!' and give an order to accept the cats, the mother cat and her offspring ran behind the church, because from there came the appetizing aroma of food. Probably there was a kitchen there. But a second Jesuit appeared at the kitchen door and scared the cats away. They returned to the avenue and started walking north.
"They walked on the same side of the avenue as the Jesuit church and I followed. Then they reached an imposing red brick church. An Anglican bishop appeared and said to the cats, 'My dear animal children, please go immediately to the animal shelter. There is food for you there. We Anglican clergy donate lots of money to the animal shelter, every year, at Christmas time.'
"The mother cat and her kittens didn't even meow. They knew the authoritative voice of the Anglican bishop. They walked uptown and gradually the luxurious buildings disappeared, together with the doormen, and we saw drab dilapidated apartments.
"As they walked and the buildings grew shabbier and dirty, a door was opened, not by a doorman but by an old wrinkled woman in a cotton dress. [She saw the cats] and shouted 'Oh, little mother,' and when she opened her mouth I saw she had few teeth. She gently ushered the mother cat and kittens inside, who jumped happily about because the warmth of the house embraced them."
Hyland said that years later after having that dream, the well-loved Pope made a pilgrimage to Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis. “In the Message of Reconciliation he delivered there, the Pontiff spoke of the Saint's love for animal, as well as human, beings. And he likened that inclusive love to an anticipation of the Peaceable Kingdom, envisioned by the Prophet Isaiah; a world in which all God's creatures will live in peace with each other,” wrote Hyland.
Hyland added that “The Pope also said that the "solicitous care, not only towards men, but also towards animals and nature in general" which St. Francis demonstrated, is "a faithful echo of the love with which God in the beginning pronounced his 'fiat' which brought them into existence." And, the Pope added, "we, too, are called to a similar attitude."
By sharing his dream about the homeless cats and preaching how humans should also extend solicitous care towards animals, the Pope, Hyland said, is being true to the Gospel message in which Jesus also gave witness to the need for the solicitous care of all beings: "I tell you, whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me." (Matthew 25:45 TEV)