Monday, October 12, 2009

Instruments of Peace

October 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), has gone by largely unnoticed by American Lutherans yet another year. Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that our Lutheran confessions explicitly recognize Francis as a "saint" (Ap 24:7), "holy man" (Ap 27:21) and "holy father" (Ap 4:211), our hymnals, service books, and prayer treasuries today largely ignore him.

Francis was a thorn in the side of the papacy and of the corrupt medieval church bureaucracy. In fact, some members of the religious order founded by Francis were the first to refer to the medieval papacy as "antichrist" - two centuries before Martin Luther began sparring with the Bishop of Rome. To this day, men and women in the Franciscan order - both within and without the Roman Catholic Church - are beggars for Christ, are interested in peace and serving the poor, and make it a priority to show compassion for all of God's creatures.

Artwork of St. Francis often depicts him surrounded by animals.

So, in memory of the gentle preaching of Deacon Francis, as a witness to his implementation of our Lord's call to compassion, as a tribute to the affection and respect shown to this "holy father" by our Lutheran confessions and the entire western church, here is something you can do on a daily basis as a small act of compassion to the creatures over which we have been given dominion:

You can visit The Animal Rescue Site every day and click on the purple button that says "click here to give, it's free." With each such click, the sponsors donate money. The organization donates 100% of ad revenues to their charitable work to feed animals in need. These are domesticated creatures that serve mankind, and they are our responsibility, we having been given dominion over them, and we having removed them from the wild. Clicking on the button costs nothing, and yet each click donates .6 of a bowl of food for animal shelters to feed these creatures pending their adoptions. You can even click on "get a daily reminder to click" and you'll get an automated e-mail every day with a link to click the button. It takes five seconds, and costs nothing.

Animals are an integral part of the Lord's creation. And before the Fall, man and animals had a peaceful, harmonious, non-predatory relationship. The gift and the blessing of domestic animals is a vestige, a little window looking back, a tiny glimpse of happier times in the garden of Eden, as well as a peek into eternity yet to come in which this pacific bestial harmony will be restored.

Until that time, we can only do what we can in this fallen world to alleviate suffering and strive to create an ethos of mercy for all of the Lord's creatures, as we pray in the words of the prayer attributed to Francis: "Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace."


Dixie said...

Thank you very much for this lovely tribute to St. Francis. Animals instinctively recognize gentleness and love in a person. If a person is loved by animals...that means much.

With that in is to my great annoyance that our cat, Renault, (French name because Mr. Dixie thinks she acts French...whatever that means.) absolutely adores my husband, jumps on his belly when he is in his recliner and purrs and they watch Formula-1 together. She completely ignores me...unless it is dinner time. It seems she knows who is the most loving and who is the most sensitive to an empty tummy!

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

Six years ago a small puppy decided that he was going home with if I wanted him to or not. At that time I didn't know that I wanted or needed a dog. However, his mind was made up.

As a Lutheran who works at a mostly Catholic book store, I have gained a more-then-passing knowledge of many of the saints that Lutherans have seemed to forget. St Francis, in particular.

By accident, I discovered a holy card of St Francis. This card contains a "Prayer for my Pet."

"In Your infinite wisdom, Lord God, when You created the Universe You blessed us with all living creatures. We especially thank You for giving us our pets who are our friends and who bring us so much joy in life. Their presence very often helps us got through trying times. Kindly bless my pet. May my pet continue giving me joy and remind me of Your power.

"May we realize that as our pets trust us to take care of them, so we should trust You to take care of us, and in taking care of them we share in Your love for all Your creatures. Enlighten our minds to preserve all endangeres species so that we may continue to appreciate all Your creations.

"Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen."

Another customer asked us to stock "For God's Creatures Great and Small." This is a small book of "Prayers for Our Pets and Other Animals." This book is by Judith A. Bauer. The ISBN is 0-88271-226-8. It is published by The Regina Press, 10 Hub Drive, Melville, NY 11747.

I recommend this book to anyone who is a pet owner or who cares for animals in general.

Past Elder said...

I'm all for animals, there's two that are members of the pack here, and endorse your suggestion about animal shelters, and also believe that the promise of making all things new means just that, all things, not just us.

However -- having been in Franciscan schools until I went to a Benedictine one for college -- I would say any resemblance between the OFM etc and actual mendicant friars is purely historical and in our times fanciful, to put it mildly, and we would do well not to engage in all the Fioretti legends and crap. Unless we want a religion mostly about legends, like Roman Catholicism.

Anonymous said...

These are domesticated creatures that serve mankind, and they are our responsibility, we having been given dominion over them, and we having removed them from the wild.

Delighted to see this posted. Myself, I am grateful for the life of Dr. Albert Schweitzer. I know his theology is suspect in many quarters but his compassion for human beings and animals is unquestionable.

It also gives me no joy to say it but St. Francis notwithstanding, Catholic cultures have a terrible record in the treatment of animals. When Pope Pius V tried to forbid the bullring (not out of any compassion for the bulls but because of the mark such a "sport" would leave on the human soul) there was such an uproar he had to rescind it. Dominican nuns made the darts that are used in the bullring to slowly weaken the bull by bleeding it.

Both my dogs came from rescue shelters and while I am dismayed beyond measure at the cruelty of God's highest creation which put them there I am grateful for the many other people who work so hard to help them heal.


Father Hollywood said...

I know many will dispute it, but animals do have the ability to be grateful. They are not merely acting out of instinct, but in many cases, express genuine thankfulness and gratitude for even small acts of kindness and mercy to them. They "get it."

You will not find a more loyal friend than a desperate domestic animal that you have provided with a home, food, shelter, and affection.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Father Hollywood, they do "get it."

They can put human beings to shame with their deep loyalty and courage.

You will not find a more loyal friend than a desperate domestic animal that you have provided with a home, food, shelter, and affection.

Beyond doubt. When I retire, God willing, I hope to volunteer at the shelter from which we adopted our female Beagle/Shar Pei mix. She shows her gratitude every single day despite some awful abuse in the past. Meantime, my husband who is already retired takes good care of her and our male Shar Pei during the day.


Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

Pets do not only show gratitude; they also display care and concern. When I came home from hospital, my Bear did not leave my side for four days. He slept on my bed and followed me everywhere I went in the house.

He was not a desperate domestic animal when we met. He was hardly old enough to leave his mother. He spotted me and decided that I needed a dog, even if I did not know it myself.

When you care for a stray that need your care, welcome them and provide for them. However, when an animal adopts you, this is a gift from God. They can have an ability to care for you in ways that you cannot possibly understand. Their loyalty is sure, their gratitude is expressed in the joy they find in being with you.

What more could you ask for?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Deacon:

Yes indeed! They do adopt us, for sure! But they are kind enough to let us think we're adopting them. ;-)

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

Fr. H.,

I agree with you, in part. When my guy decided that he was going to life with me, he would have followed me home and not just across the alley. He never left my side until I finally picked him up and fussed with him. He knows that he picked me. I don't even pretend to think I am the one who adopted him. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

CyberSis said...

Thank you, Fr. Hollywood, for this post. Yes, pets do indeed “get it.” As strange as it may seem to *some* folks, cats can be as loyal and as caring as dogs. :-) They’ve kept constant vigil during times of illness, for example. I've usually had two at a time and they've even comforted one another during *their* times of illness. I have on occasion prayed for a beloved animal but always felt a bit “funny” about it. Upon reading your remarks, as well as the others, that uneasiness is forever banished.

Past Elder said...

Well, I have as it were presided over three pet funerals and burials in the back yard, didn't feel the least bit funny about it (hoping FH isn't too upset about my lack of a call, that is).

Each boy offered a prayer of thanks to God for the time of companionship they gave us, after which I did the same, then spoke of the news heavens and new earth to come, and the words "Behold, I make all things new" in English and German, which just seemed to come out.

Anonymous said...

CyberSis and Past Elder,


And yes, cats are just as cool as dogs.

I've always loved Albert Schweitzer's prayer at night:

"Dear God, bless and protect all living things. Keep them from evil and let them sleep in peace."


Anonymous said...

Dcn. Muehlenbruch,

Many thanks also for your heartwarming account of the puppy that adopted you :)


If a person is loved by animals...that means much.

Very true. It is amazing how well animals pick up on the heart -- and character -- of people. They figure out very quickly who we are.


CyberSis said...


Regarding the prayer: I think I feel a cross-stitch project coming on! :-)

Past Elder said...

OK you want some freaky stuff -- as my wife's cancer tumours produced seizures, a minute or so before, if Zeke the cat were around her, Nancy said he would give her this strange look, as if to say "Cmon, don't you get it" and then the seizure would come.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the prayer: I think I feel a cross-stitch project coming on! :-)

Hey CyberSis, great idea! As a fellow cross-stitcher, that would make a great project, thanks for the suggestion.

Past Elder,

Yes, exactly! That phenomenon has been reported by others. Animals appear to be sensitive to seizures, etc. even before they happen. God has given them some gifts of the senses that we don't even have and we are blessed by them.