Around the turn of the 13th century, a wealthy young man named Francis set off to war.
He lived the spirited life of a young soldier, enjoying drink and carousing and fighting, until, so the story goes, a vision drove him onto a pilgrimage to Rome where he served the poor, preached on the streets, lived with them and eventually attracted a strong following. By all accounts he was a peace-filled man, determined to be at one with all of God’s creatures. He was sainted 2 years after he died (1226) for numerous gifts he brought to the world, not the least of which was his sense that all of God’s creatures, not just humans, deserved the gospel preached to them, and should be valued as loved by God.
This next Sunday, May 21, after the tradition claimed to be instituted by St. Francis, we will hold our service outdoors, weather permitting, of course, to have a blessing of the animals. The first blessing of the animals happened like the photo above depicts: One warm afternoon early in his ministry, Francis, in the middle of throes of self-doubt, was praying to God. He caught sight of some birds by along his path and paused to speak to them as equals. He preached to them about God’s glories and all the reasons why both humans and birds should be grateful.
Well, we are grateful for the animals in our lives, and while I will not preach to the animals (I allow that the animals might better preach to us!) I will offer a blessing of gratitude for each of the critters that shows up.
So, at the usual time, come to church with your pets.