Cats and dogs are the epitome of opposites, and mutually opposed adversaries. Cats are the proverbial “loners”. They are self-sufficient, and can manage quite well by themselves, thank you. They don’t need someone to provide their food, shelter them or walk them. They are independent, and prefer to be alone. Though they can let out ear-piercing screams, as a rule they are extremely quiet; one never knows they are even around. They are not “groupies”. They tend to avoid fights, but can do it well if need be. Trent Lott, former Senator from Mississippi, and majority leader of the Republican party when they controlled congress, once remarked that trying to get the Republican Senators under his leadership to agree to anything among themselves was like trying to corral and marshal a bunch of cats. Cat owners readily acknowledge that this is not an easy task. Cats are not notably sociable.
Dogs, for their part, can be aggressive, especially regarding cats, as a rule, are “groupies”. Dogs usually like to be together, run together, play and rough-house together. They are largely helpless when it comes to self-care: they have to be fed, groomed, walked, housed. Unlike cats, dogs are noisy. They are dependent, and need to be walked outside. They are usually very noisy. They crave attention, and can be very noisy. Dogs can be trained to do many things, and take pride in it. Dogs are good students, and profit from going to obedience school.
Cat owners and dog owners argue among themselves on which animal is preferable to have, or, more briefly, which is the better animal to have around. Comparing cats and dogs is like comparing apples and oranges or pie and cake. This points up the diversity that is so paramount among us humans, and the observation that diversity seems to be at the root of so much of the divisiveness and rancor that characterizes human relationships.
We do note, however, that there are also differences in God. But they seem to coexist together in remarkable harmony, to the point where we can affirm that there is but one God, even while we acknowledge that there are three Persons in God: a remarkable combination of unity and diversity. And here may be the answer to our question. God has made us in His image and likeness, and so we display this paramount features of the Godhead: unity and diversity. We have in common that we are all human, even while we recognize how different we are from one another. And this leads to the common observation struggle about our human likeness to one another, even while we vigorously maintain our differences from each other. Like cats we treasure our privacy like dogs we like to group together.
That is to the fore in the foundational documents of our nation (the Bill of Rights and the Constitution) which embrace two fundamental values: freedom and equality. Freedom fosters our tendency to be ourselves and do our thing; equality motivates us to share and enjoy the same basic goods of life. Too much freedom hampers our common humanity; too much equality snuffs out our identity and uniqueness. Too much uniqueness separates us from one another. Too much similarity obliterates what makes us special. We try to capture this in affirming God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit: each is one and the same God, but in His own special way. And among ourselves we use the same family surname to note our likeness to each other: Smith, but we also have a different first name: Sam/Sarah, Phil/Phyllis, Bill/Betty (even the twins among us), to distinguish us: something in common to mark our equality, something unique to note our difference from each other. Cats like their individuality, dogs like their groupiness.
We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.
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Thanks for your post Fr. Sebby. Interesting reflection – I’ve always preferred dogs for our family pets, yet my daughters always got their own cats when they went off to college! Interesting eh!