“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.” – St. Francis of Assisi
I ran across this quote from one of my favorite saints: St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals in the Catholic church. St. Francis of Assisi heard a calling from God as a young man born into a wealthy family and spent a significant amount of time seeking a closer relationship with God. In 1208 during a mass, St. Francis sensed a calling as he listened to the words of Christ giving instructions to his disciples. St. Francis started to live a simple lifestyle and soon his fellowship spread to a much larger group of men called the Franciscan order. Today, they are still an active order of the church, serving the poor throughout the world.
I believe St. Francis realized what many of us have forgotten. We are creatures. St. Francis saw animals as his brothers and sisters because they were loved as God’s creatures, just like people. He prayed God would work through him to help animals and people. He stated of animals: “Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission – to be of service to them wherever they require it.”
This is a unique perspective in our contemporary Christian journey. But consider the animals in our homes and how much comfort and love they have poured out upon us over this time of being quarantined. Consider the joy wild bunnies have offered us as reminders of new life this springtime. Consider how the abundance of human biome (that is bugs) even in our gut offer microbes to keep our immune systems functional! The mystery of God’s creatures and the love and life they give us is something for which we can be grateful daily!
During this sermon series, we have been considering how we live in harmony with creation. Part of our Christian responsibility is to care for all of the animals. This kind of perspective keeps us mindful of our dominion as a beautiful responsibility of faith. So this week, let us give thanks for the many creatures of which the Psalms proclaim:
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your judgments are like the great deep;
you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
~ Psalm 36:5-7