Prayer attributed to St. Francis,
from the liturgy for the Blessing of the Animals
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
The photograph yesterday was of my mother’s cute Maltese/Yorkshire mix (apparently called a ‘Morkie’). It is the most recent in a line of small fluffy dogs that have been her companion and friend in work and retirement. The history of our family could be told through our pets: the black cocker spaniel named Charlie Brown; the black cat named Nellie Grey; the stray we brought home in 3rd grade who left his paw prints in the patio concrete. There was the escape artist dog whose name I can’t remember because his stay was so short – he climbed over a six foot fence when the path underneath was finally sealed. The yappy miniature poodle (Xanthippe, named after Socrates’ combative wife) who hid beneath the table and barked incessantly at my step-father didn’t last long either – though she went to live with my grandmother. There are tales of gerbils; the hamster who escaped and made a nest in the piano, stealing food from the bowl of nuts set out at Christmas (Mom filled out our Christmas stockings with whole walnuts, almonds and pecans); the rat who accidentally poked out his eyes; the bird I found on the roadside who recovered and flew away.
I can’t have an animal in my apartment – but I had a fish for a long while and it amazed me how quickly I started talking to “Fishy” when I came home each evening. Feeding that one little fish still gave me a sense of connection.
It is not just pets that are important to our lives; rural life reminds us of the rich complex community of animals from chickens to horses that are necessary to life. Yet even here there is a sense of relationship. I have a friend who is a large animal vet, and I have gone with him on calls and seen people’s attachments to their horses and milk cows. Part of what intuitively bothers us about “factory farms” is the sense that our relationship with animals should be personal.
We are enmeshed in a web of living creatures and, though most of us are far removed now from the farm, that sense of connection lingers in the animals we draw around us as pets, in the birds we feed in the back yard, or the wild animals that amaze us on the PBS show Nature.
The church’s annual rite of blessing of the animals on the first Sunday in October, nearest to the feast day of St. Francis on October 4, is not just about our pets. It is a reminder of the web of all life of which we are a part – our interdependence upon all things from honeybees to whales. It is a reminder of the author of life who is the source and goal of all things. It is a reminder of our calling to live as tenders of God’s garden. And it is a reminder that we, with all people, are part of that garden and tending it means caring for one another.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…