God’s care for each and everything small and big, animate or inanimate was evident in every age of human history starting from the beginning of creation. This care for the world and all that is within is seen continued in the Old Testament and then through the story of the great flood. We see Noah being asked to carefully pick a pair of every living being on earth to the Arc of the Covenant regardless of their nature or nurture. It was an incredible request by the creator to the creature making us aware for a lifetime of how important it is that we preserve God’s creation and we take them along with us in our journey to the kingdom.
Although this invitation to care for everything on earth was as old as the beginning of creation, it took a long time before it became part of our spiritual understanding and practice. This is how it all happened.
One morning, Francis Bernardone, a rich young man of Assisi woke up from his sick bed to the beautiful melody hidden in the chirping of little birds on the rooftop. His ailing body could not resist but to gently move to the window from where he heard the chirp that seem to have said to him, "praise be God for the day and night, praise be God for the sun and moon’. His ecstatic experience coupled with wonder at this beautiful creation and its melodious music brought healing and a new freedom that no one thought would ever come to Francis.
Whether the story is true or not, history says that Francis saw divine presence in everything that had life in them. Being a poor mendicant many times Francis was in the company and mercy of animals around him. There were times he had to take rest in the open field along with the birds and the cattle, take shelter in stables side by side with donkeys and lambs. The story of his life includes those of talking to wolves in the forest and birds in the air. Francis watched them and learned from them. He admonished his followers to learn from the hard work of the ants and prayed that they be free like the birds in the air. He freed the lamb from slaughter’s hands in exchange for the gold of the church. Stories can go on and on.
Blessing of Animals originated to honor this 13th century man, St. Francis Of Assisi, who saw God’s life moving and buzzing all around him. With these lively beings around him Francis never forgot the undying presence of God in his life. When there was one death there were thousands of lives that came forth and resurrection was all around. In all these creatures what Francis saw was God’s unending creativity, charming beauty and refreshing newness in many forms and shapes, sizes and smells and they all proclaimed the Glory of God.
Blessing of animals is a celebration therefore, of God’s love for the world evident even in those creatures that don’t look like us, talk like us, dress like us or walk like us but fully proclaim the Glory of God just like us and sometimes more eloquently than us. It is the celebration of the presence of God everywhere and in every moving life, big and small. This is a day of celebration of life in all its beauty and form that captures our hearts everyday of our life.
As Francis learned a lesson of preserving and caring for God’s creation in its fullness, he also taught that we all can praise and worship as one creation longing for the fullness in Christ. In this journey we are bound by duty as the children of God and call of creation to take along with us those lives that needs preservation and care.
The day of blessing of pets therefore is a response to God’s call to humanity to name every living being as was on the days of creation. It is also a response to the call of Noah in our lives to preserve, protect and care for God’s creations. This is a day for learning the significance of co-existence and co-preservation as was in the days of Aslan of Narnia. We can then reassure our children that their pets and their animals will also have a place along with them in the kingdom of heaven.
Copyright: Rev. Jos Tharakan