In the Catholic tradition, St. Francis of Assisi (patron saint to animals, merchants and ecology) is well renowned for his prayer “make me an instrument of your peace.” I believe it captures the essence of cultivating harmony in relationships and gifts us with a way to develop the attitudes and behaviours for peaceful relationships.
St. Francis is equally known for how he interacted with animals, the four-legged and winged ones; the world of plants, water and trees. You might think of him as an environmentalist mystic who called all creatures his brothers and sisters, including the sun (brother) and the moon (sister). St. Francis is known to have communicated with the animals. On one occasion his communication with a wolf helped to bring peace between a village and this wolf where each creature was honoured and respected.
October 4th is known as the Feast of St. Francis, and today many Christian congregations have adopted this day as the time to ask for God’s blessing on animals – from pets to farm animals to wildlife. This special ceremony is called the Blessing of the Animals. Frequently, people bring their animal companions to church to participate in this special blessing and to celebrate the many ways they enrich our lives. It goes something like this:
“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.”
I am not Catholic nor have I participated in a faith community that has honoured or celebrated our animal brothers and sisters in such an intentional way, but I do feel that St. Francis’ message and way of being in this world is still relevant and serves to encourage and show us how to enhance and respect all our relations.
In the coming week I invite you to give a special blessing to your animal companion. Share a message with the bird outside your window. Imagine listening to their message back to you and imagine that you hear and understand it. Bless the tree that provides shelter and perhaps nourishment for that bird.
Honour and respect all your relations. And like St. Francis, see and treat your animal companions – indeed all of nature – as a mirror to the Sacred. We all belong to Creation! We all deserved to be blessed. Share a blessing and take yet another step in creating peaceful relationships.
Shirley Lynn Martin