The image that flashed into my mind: a large cat, strolling tail up in through the flung open doors of the Temple.
Intrusive thoughts of cats have appeared at random moments since a cat moved into my home a month ago. (The cat came along with a man, but that is another story.) I have never lived with a cat, and am mildly allergic to them. While I have always understood dogs and given them much play and petting, cats have always perplexed me. They stare, they stalk, they do not seem to care whether or not you try to discipline them when they poo on the bath mat or on the hardwood floors behind a plant. Without warning they whirl into flight and run the entire length of the house as if possessed. Too many of them have claws that leave welts that quickly swell up on my skin unless I treat them with hydrogen peroxide right away.
Smoky P. Kitty (pictured above) has had her front claws removed on my behalf. I am not sure if she welcomes this sacrifice or not, though she doesn’t have to worry abpit keeping them filed down any more. She does like to play catch with my hands with her clawless paws as I trail my own hand-paws up and down the stairwell.
The way my prayer life seems to be getting used to the presence of a cat is through theseunexpected internal images of cats that pop up around the corner of my mind. Recently during lectio, I found myself thinking about pilgrimage. Then about whether or not cats could muster the sort of intentionality that would lead them to go on a pilgrimage. Then my internal eye suddenly witnessed a whole host of cats circling the Kaaba on pilgrimage to Mecca–a great feline hajj.
I do not know what sort of grace God might elect to let a cat bear, or what prayer in a cat might mean–though I do know Smoky P. Kitty purrs when I am praying, if she is near my side at the time.
The only thing I do know is that in early January, before I had coffee for the first time with the man who had rescued this cat from a shelter death this past fall, before I knew this man even had a cat, I awoke one morning from a dream unlike any I had had. It was a humorous dream, a New Year’s Dream. All I recall of it now was that in the dream I was waking up with a cat curled up sleeping around my head. And as I awoke from the dream of waking up with cat, I had a strong desire to live with a cat–something my conscious mind had never entertained.
So I am welcoming the gifts of the images of the cat when they come during prayer, as I have welcomed the unexpected arrival of Smoky P. Kitty, and of her human companion who is bringing me much joy even as he wrestles with how to discern his sense of next direction at this stage in his life.
I cannot know if Smoky practices lectio in her own feline way, watching the birds and the bugs and every sort of motion. But I sense that her presence is opening up my imagination in prayer, stretching it in some new way, to accommodate what I thought I might have refused.