When I found out that I was pregnant with my first child, I had a strange dream.
Now, you must understand that when I had this strange dream, this was very early on in the pregnancy. I had really just found out. I was nervous and excited and everything that you could be. I filled my phone with pregnancy trackers that showed me the day-by-day embryonic development of my child and wondered in awe at the amazement of how quickly the embryo turned into something quite human — do you know eight weeks after the baby is conceived, they have fingers?
But I did not know what my baby would look like. I did not even know the gender of my baby! All I knew was that the baby was there. The baby was there in my womb, growing. And all the discomforts that I felt were a continual reminder of that little baby growing in my womb.
And, during this time in the first trimester, in which my baby was only a mere embryo, I had a strange dream.
I was standing, looking out at something, with a little girl at my side. At first, I thought the little girl was one of my nieces. After all, the little girl was pale and had a thin, willowy frame. She had strawberry blond hair. Her skin was pale. And she wore bright pink — which, at the time of the dream, was one of my niece’s favorite colors.
But she looked up at me and smiled, and I knew instantly that this could not be my niece. My niece has freckles — this girl had absolutely no freckles. And not only that, but the girl’s face was not my niece’s. It was more like mine. And we just gazed at each other and I remember wondering who this little girl was, this little girl who seemed so, so familiar and yet at the same time seemed so unknown to me.
Now, let me tell you something about my first child now that she is a little girl, about the same age as that girl who was in my dream: she does not have freckles. She has a thin, willowy frame. Her skin is pale. She has strawberry blond hair. And yes, her favorite color is pink.
Coincidence? Perhaps. Yet, it reminded me of a story of another woman who had a strange dream when she was pregnant.
First, some backstory: this woman struggled with infertility for a long time. Finally, she went on a pilgrimage to a church to pray. Afterwards, she had an odd dream. She dreamt that she was pregnant and gave birth to a dog with a torch in his mouth. That dog leapt out of her and ran around, setting the entire world on fire. Soon after, she became pregnant with him.
Who was her child?
Now, St. Dominic was no arsonist. But his love for the gospel and his zeal set the world aflame for the Lord. He was the one to whom the Virgin appeared and handed him a rosary, instructing him to spread devotion to the Angelic Psalter, or what we know today as the Rosary, with its original three sets of mysteries.
He also started a religious order known as the Dominicans, named after St. Dominic, its founder. The Latin name for the Dominican order? Dominicanus. Which, if you have a heart for punnery and playing with words, sounds a bit like, “Domini canis” or, translated from Latin into English, “Dog of the Lord.”
Let it not be said that God does not have a sense of humor!
Because of both the dream and of his religious order, plus the fact that preachers were often called “watchdogs” of the Lord since the word “preach” is similar to “bark,” St. Dominic is often depicted with a dog holding a torch. For instance, take a look at this artwork!
St. Dominic is standing, one hand holding up a staff with a cross on it, as a kind of symbol of his preaching, while the other hand holds lilies and a book of scripture. He is wearing the standard clothes of the Dominican order, which he founded, with the rosary hanging from his belt.
Now, look at his feet! There is a very eager and happy doggy carrying a torch in his mouth. And, near the flame of the church is a globe, representing the Earth, with a gold cross on it, indicating Christ as the King of Kings. And it looks like the doggy is going to light the world on fire with the love of Christ!
Oh, and the reason why it’s that sort of dog? A Dominican visionary had a dream that it was a spotted hunting dog. And so that is the sort of dog that he is often portrayed with!
Oh dreams! How odd they can be! In the bible, they are often divine revelations that personally speak to us in some way and tell us some sort of divine message. In Genesis, Joseph’s trust in the Lord allowed him to understand and correctly read dreams. Later in the Gospels, an angel speaks to St. Joseph to tell him how to help the Holy Family. In St. Peter’s letters, he relates to dreams that he has which help define Christian tradition.
And yet dreams are so odd, especially pregnancy dreams! How is it that St. Dominic’s mother would have such an odd dream that was eerily prophetic in ways that she couldn’t have possibly even guess? How is it that I saw an image of my daughter when she was only a mere embryo with details that I couldn’t have possibly guessed?
And yet, if we contemplate God enough, perhaps it does make sense. Psalm 139, in particular, beautifully captures it:
1For the leader. A psalm of David.LORD, you have probed me, you know me:2you know when I sit and stand;you understand my thoughts from afar.3You sift through my travels and my rest;with all my ways you are familiar.4Even before a word is on my tongue,LORD, you know it all.5Behind and before you encircle meand rest your hand upon me.6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,far too lofty for me to reach.7Where can I go from your spirit?From your presence, where can I flee?8If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.9If I take the wings of dawnand dwell beyond the sea,10Even there your hand guides me,your right hand holds me fast.11If I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me,and night shall be my light”—12Darkness is not dark for you,and night shines as the day.Darkness and light are but one.13You formed my inmost being;you knit me in my mother’s womb.14I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;wonderful are your works!My very self you know.15My bones are not hidden from you,When I was being made in secret,fashioned in the depths of the earth.16Your eyes saw me unformed;in your book all are written down;my days were shaped, before one came to be.17How precious to me are your designs, O God;how vast the sum of them!18Were I to count them, they would outnumber the sands;when I complete them, still you are with me.19When you would destroy the wicked, O God,the bloodthirsty depart from me!20Your foes who conspire a plot against youare exalted in vain.21Do I not hate, LORD, those who hate you?Those who rise against you, do I not loathe?22With fierce hatred I hate them,enemies I count as my own.23Probe me, God, know my heart;try me, know my thoughts.24See if there is a wicked path in me;lead me along an ancient path.
God is Creator. Is it any wonder that He knows us, even before we are born?
And what does God desire from us?
The same thing that any of us may want: to love and to truly be loved.
May we love God and serve Him with all our hearts, just as He loves us! May we trust Him as Creator, even if sometimes we may not admittedly understand His ways, and strive to protect and preserve His Creation. And may He have mercy on us when we allow His Creation to be destroyed through our deliberate actions or our indifference.
In particular, on this National Day of Prayer, let us mourn and pray in a special way for all of those who are known and loved by God and yet are never born, for whatever reason. And we pray that one day we may all recognize their humanity and strive to serve them and their families.