Friday, October 4, 2013

Happy St. Francis of Assisi Day!

“Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.”

There are a lot of saints in the Roman and Anglican calendars, but probably one of the most popular is St. Francis, who shunned his heritage as the son of a wealthy garment maker to live a life in poverty.  A short-life, at that; Francis died at age 44.  In his time, he was seen as an oddball; he kissed and treated the sores of lepers, refused money, and saw everything, including animals, as being part of the universal creation of God.  He preached the Gospel everywhere he went... "using words, when necessary."   Francis lived during a time of upheaval, conflict and corruption.  There was about to be a 5th Crusade, and Francis went to talk to a sultan who was a Muslim.  And while the two men apparently talked, they could not get past the issue of "I'm a Muslim; I'm a Christian."  Thankfully, that crusade didn't occur, either.

But the reason I love St. Francis is because he really lived a life at one with all that was around him, including animals.  He apparently would preach to animals because at least they would listen to him.  In some ways, that's how it is today for people with pets.  The beauty of having a four-legged, two-legged, and finned friends is that there is unconditional love in abundance from a pet to its owner.  For folks who are living alone, for the elderly, and even for youngsters, few things can bring a smile quicker to the face than to see your pet wiggle and jump with excitement to see you.

In a lot of ways, this is what I believe God is like at the sight of any of us, but especially those who, for whatever reason, have been away from God.  The discovery of the lost one brings enormous joy and happiness, and no questions asked: just delight that another lost one is found.

Although Francis died in poverty, the story passed down to us makes us realize that he wasn't "poor." His ability to be so at one with all that was around him, including animals and all of creation, and not be consumed with the need for money meant that his head and his heart could be set on Love.  I strive to get to this place of allowing Love to be so much the center of my life that I am not consumed by other "things."

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