Preaching to Animals

Today marks the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi who once said, “Preach the Gospel and when necessary, use words.” It’s a powerful reminder about the power of actions and the limits of language. This became all the more apparent during our “Blessing of the Animals” prayer service today where children bring their pets to school running the gamut from stuffed animals and pictures to turtles and barking canines.

The beauty of this prayer service lies in its simplicity. Blessing and remembering animals reminds us of the unconditional love (“agape”) in our lives; in one way, it is the model prayer service par excellence. Other forms of love (physical “eros” and friendship “philia”), by definition, are conditional. They rely on a mutual exchange between individuals but are limited somewhat in their capacity to lose oneself in another. We can recall the words of St. Paul (also a reading from our wedding day), “Love is patient, love is kind…It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Animals are a window into this infinite rippling pool of relationships.

Since we “speak” with animals through behaviors, it makes sense that we are limited in how we communicate this love for them. The Latin phrase spectamur agendo translates as, “Let us be judged by our acts” and reminds us that our actions teach us more about loving others than words can. We are reminded of this in the way our world calls us into relationship through the abundance of life God has created: a beautiful day, a cool breeze, and the sights and sounds of creatures we live with. Let this feast day remind us about our relationship with the non-human world and how it should reflect the way we care for one another.

It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!

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