From the Associate Rector - October Manifest
The Feast of St. Francis
The Blessing of the Animals in honor of the Feast of St. Francis is one of my favorite occasions. I have always been an “animal person,” and have had pets most of my life. In my fantasy, I’ll have an animal sanctuary someday, somewhere far off the grid, perhaps in retirement, if God grants me the years (and the resources!!)
In the past year, Chris and I lost 2 beloved cats, and also brought 3 new creatures of God into our home – a dear mini-schnauzer named Ciara, and a pair of kittens, bonded brothers, named Tommy and Dougal. Ciara is an older dog with multiple health issues, and she teaches me patience, grace, and persistence every day (she’s a tough old dame!) Tommy and Dougal are only 4 months old and on the other end of the spectrum – they are filled with energy and life and could play all day. They all joined our middle aged cat Bowie, the ultimate lap cat, who loves nothing more than to be with her people (and she mostly ignores the other animals). All of my dear animal pals remind me daily of God’s unconditional and abundant love – their trust and joy and dependence on me is truly amazing when I stop to think about it, and reminds me how dependent I am on God for all that I require.
God’s love of creation certainly extends to all creatures great and small – after all, we are told God saw what God had made, and God “saw that it was good.” St. Francis is celebrated for his love of animals. The "Fioretti" ("Little Flowers") is a collection of wonderful legends and folktales that tell of such stories as Francis preaching to birds. Another legend tells of a ferocious wolf that terrorized the city of Gubbio, and who devoured people and animals alike until Blessed Francis stepped in. He went off into the hills and found the wolf, made the Sign of the Cross, and said, “Come to me, Brother Wolf. In the name of Christ, I order you not to hurt anyone." And “at that moment the wolf lowered its head and lay down at Saint Francis' feet, meek as a lamb.” Francis led the wolf into town, and made a pact in which the townspeople would care for the wolf and provide it with food, and the wolf no longer preyed on any living thing. Finally, it is said that on his deathbed St. Francis thanked his donkey for carrying and assisting him throughout his life, and his donkey wept.
Francis’ life and ministry reminds us all to love and care for all of God’s creation, and to respect all living creatures with a spirit of peace.
For those of you with animal pals, I hope you will bring them to church this Sunday – we will offer the Blessing of the Animals at the 8:30 am and 10:30 am Eucharists, and then afterwards on the steps of the church from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm. Together we join with Francis, who invoked all animals of the air and earth to praise and love their God.
Ciara the Mini Schnauzer
Dougal and Tommy, after arriving home.